I hear it all the times. “Our marriage is fine…” This response is usually coupled with an expression like those seen in the photo above. While neither partner may be excited about their relationship, they’re not overtly dissatisfied either. They live in a state of complacency.
Why do so many couples find themselves in this situation? I think it happens for a couple of different reasons. The first is a lack of prioritization. Couples are fighting a lot of fires in their lives. Their marriage is not erupting, so it takes on a lower priority. Life throws a lot of challenges at you, many of which demand immediate attention. Often your kids demand (and receive) the bulk of your attention. You want the very best for them, so you invest an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to meet their every need. By the time you get done helping them with their homework, completing class projects and driving them to and from their various activities, you’re exhausted. When you finally settle in for the evening, you fall asleep in front of the television. For others, it’s work. There’s always deadlines, emails to respond to or phone calls that have to be made. You come home late in an exhausted state, and try to catch up on your laptop once there. For these couples, there’s always something more pressing than focusing on the relationship. The assumption is they’ll get to that at some point in the future.
The second cause of complacency is excessive comfort in the relationship. Comfort in marriage is important, even critical. But once that comfort extends to the point of taking your spouse for granted, or becoming completely predictable it becomes a problem. If it’s Tuesday and you know you’re going to have tacos for dinner, that’s predictable. If you only have sex on Saturday night (and it’s routine at that), that’s monotony. You are living your marriage in a state of constant assumptions. As a result, these marriages are on “auto-pilot”; hours turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months and months into years with minimal focus or attention.Life is not a theatrical performance with the same lines and actions taken every night, but for many marriages it would appear otherwise.
Regardless of the reason, many marriages go untended. While people may say that their relationship is fine, in reality it is slowly degrading. The biggest effect that results from complacency is boredom. Whether aware of it or not, humans naturally seek a certain level of stimulation and excitement in their lives. When it is not found in marriage, they begin to find it elsewhere. They may not actively seek it, but they will instinctively respond to it when it is in front of them. This excitement could come either from some thing or someone, but either way, it takes further focus and attention away from the marriage, and the relationship erodes further. Without correction, marriages devolve into one of two situations; divorce or room-mate status. Neither of these aligns with God’s original design.
So, how do you prevent this from happening in your marriage? You need to consciously fight complacency by focusing on the root causes. First, make your marriage high priority (if not your top priority). Of course there will be situations and seasons where issues arise and must be tended to. But making a decision to keep your marriage a high priority will relegate these to temporary instead of permanent status. Yes your kids are important, but letting them know your spouse is of great importance too is a tremendous lesson. Leaving work on time to get home for dinner might not land you that promotion, but it will build a true partnership at home. Which is more important in the long run?
If you find yourself in a stated of excessive comfort, then mix things up! Don’t wait for your spouse, do something unpredictable. Break out of auto-pilot status and be more intentional about the things you do and say. Shock your spouse with meatloaf on Tuesday instead of tacos. Have sex on a Thursday morning before work in addition to Saturday night. One of my favorite suggestions is to periodically change sides of the bed with your spouse. It’s like sleeping with a new partner, with none of the associated sin!
These changes may be simple, but they’re not easy. It will take ongoing focus and effort to make a difference. But if you persist, you will find that your relationship goes from being “fine” to being “great”. As that happens you will find that you discover a renewed interest in your spouse, which will typically generate passion that seemed lost. As these things occur, you will come to discover that you want to drive for continuous improvement in your marriage as opposed to sliding back into complacency.
Don’t settle for “fine”. Fight complacency! Evolve your relationship into a truly Shocking Marriage!