It is natural for us to fall into routines, it’s a natural way for our brains to organize complex actions into repeatable patterns. But when we allow routines to govern our lives, complacency sets in. If you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, where you’re going or what you want to say you are in dangerous territory. Many couples equate complacency with lack of growth. The reality is the opposite. No marriage stays constant. It’s either growing stronger or degrading. Complacency is simply a smoke screen hiding the fact that a marriage is going downhill.
It’s not easy to break out of complacency. It typically takes an outside force to make this happen. Imagine this, you are bored with your spouse, potentially even aggravated with them. Conversation is minimal, intimacy – non-existent. Then one day you are sitting at home and get a phone call, your spouse has been in an accident and has been admitted to a local hospital. Suddenly, complacency is gone, as is your anger and frustration. You rush to the hospital to see them, and pray passionately for their immediate recovery. That’s an extreme example of an outside force, but one you can probably identify with.
In a similar vein, have you ever noticed that most dead people are regarded as perfect? Once someone has been suddenly taken from your life, it is only their good traits that you remember and talk about. Why do we wait for someone to pass before we appreciate the blessings they provide?
I focus on marriage, and taking marriages to a Shocking Level of happiness and satisfaction. But I am human and fall into the same traps that others do. This Covid quarantine found my wife Tara and I falling into a rut. Routine, boredom, call it what you will – we certainly weren’t seeing the best side of each other. Little quirks were beginning to irritate and meaningful conversations were diminishing. We found ourselves sitting in front of the television each evening, phones in hand, living parallel lives. Topping things off, there were areas of frustration within each of us (unrealized goals, unfulfilled dreams) that we were not dealing with. These were all areas that could easily be addressed, but complacency has a way of paralyzing action.
The good news is, I have a fantastic wife that won’t settle for status quo over an extended period of time. Tara suggested the two of us get away for a couple of nights to refocus. We drove ninety minutes to a neighboring city and got an inexpensive hotel room. We divided out time over the next couple of days very intentionally. We spent time praying together (which we had fallen out of the habit of doing). At each meal and a couple of break times during the day, we focused on specific topics. We focused on me, then we focused on her, then we focused on us then on the family. We agreed to be active listeners, drop any defensiveness and truly hear the other’s perspective.
By our final breakfast, we compiled a list of actions each of us would commit to once we returned home, based on our discussions the previous couple of days. That was just the external force that we needed! It was not an exotic, expensive vacation. It was simply a change of scenery and a break in our routines. Complacency Buster! This simple action allowed us to take the time to both express our appreciation of one another as well as our frustrations (both personal and marriage). Most importantly, it allowed us the chance to recommit to supporting one another in achieving our personal goals.
If you find yourself struggling with complacency in your own marriage, take a proactive step to break the routine and regain the spark that you once had. Stop the downward slide and turn things around for the better. You’ll find there’s an incredible return on that investment.
My book “Rules of Engagement” can provide you with tools to keep your marriage alive and vibrant. If you are interested, you can purchase the book directly from Amazon at this link.