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The Relationship Café

Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

This was a typical week. I had a full schedule of clients to see in my two offices, conducted a psychological evaluation, practiced my piano lesson and wrote the first chapter of my next book. I squeezed in several workouts at the gym to stave off the “love handles” and made it to church on Sunday--barely.

My wife, Christie, a busy Interior Designer, and I went out for pizza tonight as we watched our struggling Seattle Seahawks lose to the New Orleans Saints. That was our night out, and it was eked from a busy day of writing and home care.

Sound familiar? From the letters and emails I receive, too many couples are allowing their marriage to take a second or third place to other activities and responsibilities. Many couples are involved in “good” things, and so justify being busy. After all, what are you going to do about the kids being in soccer practice, and you singing in the choir while both you and your mate hold down full time jobs?

But, if you let up, even for a moment, on focus and intention regarding your marriage—you’re in trouble. Don’t believe me? Listen to this story from a young man who wrote to me.

Dear Dr. David. My wife came to me recently and told me she no longer felt attracted to me. She said she ‘loved me, but wasn’t in love with me.’ I hated hearing those words. When I think about it, I didn’t really see it coming, but can understand it given how busy we are. We’re raising two little girls and both my wife and I are professionals who work full time plus. My wife has complained about being tired and irritable, and I can look back and see that we haven’t been making time for each other. I know it’s a crummy excuse, but we’ve just been too busy raising a family and creating a career to take care of each other. Is there anything I can do now?

Who can’t relate to this story? We’re a nation of people who are underslept, over-worked, tired, cranky and walk in the door at night with bad moods. Then we wonder why our marriages and families fall apart.

While there are no simple answers, I think it’s time we became more intentional and focused regarding our marriages. Let me offer an example.

I’ve recently taken up playing the piano after a fifty year hiatus. My teacher, ten years younger than me, repeatedly tells me that if I want to get better on the piano, which I do, I’ll have to practice. Practice. Sounds simple enough, but not if I want to keep my career, my house and my wife. I’ve discovered, by way of more than one disastrous lesson, that I have to make time for the piano. Looking at it doesn’t help. Touching it isn’t useful, and thinking about it hasn’t worked at all. I must be intentional about my desire to play the piano, and that requires that I make time for it, letting go of other things that can drain away my time.

To answer this man’s plea for help, we must ask what can be done to save your marriage? First, you’ve heard the alarm, and now it’s time to respond to it. Take necessary time to prayerfully consider your situation. This may involve making some sacrifices you hadn’t thought of making. For example, maybe we’re trying to cram too much into our days, leaving little energy and enthusiasm for our mate. Spend time really listening to her. Consider making some changes in your life so you can date your mate. Think back on what used to make her interested in you. Why did she fall in love with you? Get hold of those actions and do them again.

While your wife doesn’t have the same affection for you as in the past, she’s not telling you it’s over, suggesting there may still be a chance to revive it. Ask her if she’d go to counseling with you, being ready and willing to make necessary changes to bring the “juice” back into your marriage. Be careful, however, with your expectations. As you “plant seeds and pull weeds,” it will take some time for the garden of your marriage to bloom again. With a little work, focus and intention, however, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how things can change.

What problems are others having in making time for love? How are you coping with busy schedules, challenges of raising children, and keeping the love fires burning? I’d like to hear your ideas on this subject. Have you found some creative ways to date your mate while coping with the normal complications of family life? Share them with us.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2007 2:43 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

My husband and I have 6 children (3 are in our home). Molly, age 13 has brain damage from a childhood vaccine. However, despite busy lifestyles and many challenges - we do make time for each other and make our relationship a priority. Dating is essential. We have found that carving out time for "us" benefits the whole family. We do things we enjoyed prior to marriage - when we were dating. We treat each other with respect and focus on pleasing each other as opposed to trying to please ourselves.
Left by mb071663 on Oct 24, 2007 2:22 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

I am very impressed with this latest post, where "despite busy lifestyles," which we can all relate to, she insists on dating each other. More important, they remember the things they enjoyed prior to marriage--it's easy to forget what brought us joy--and being intentional about pleasing one another. Incredible! Keep up the good work. How are others keeping the focus?
--Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Oct 25, 2007 1:24 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

We have a new baby and can't seem to get on the same page. I know he wants romance but most of the time I'm too tired. I know it sounds crazy but it's almost like he resents the changes in our lives. I don't know what to do.
Left by graceadkins on Oct 25, 2007 3:41 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

My husband works a few hours later than I do each day, but we capture time together by postponing dinner until he gets home so we can eat together. We also go to bed at different times (he is a night owl and I'm not), so I'm usually asleep already when he comes to bed. But we make sure we spend time cuddling and talking each night before I go to sleep. It really helps us stay connected and end the day of a positive note.
Left by write2buffy on Oct 25, 2007 3:54 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

My husband and I just married in June 2007. He is spending the first year of our marriage in Iraq. Email and video-talk has been our key forms of bonding. It allows us to talk, flirt, and keep some form of intimacy in our relationship. We can also make online dates when the kids are asleep.
Left by micailah on Oct 26, 2007 12:39 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

I've got one more impression I want to leave with you before moving to a new topic. Here's the question: What are you like to live with? I was impressed by the woman who said she ends her day with her husband on a positive note. We have the power to choose what we will be like with our mate. Do we bring life and vitality to our marriage, or possibly discouragement and criticism? Will we focus on the small irritants that inevitably exist in our marriage, or will we savor precious time together? What kind of attitude do you bring to your marriage? Again, what would your mate say you are like to be with, day in and day out? Give us your thoughts--if you dare.
Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Oct 29, 2007 11:59 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

My husband and I have only been married for a few months, but we have made it a priority to continue having date nights every couple of weekends. Usually we just do dinner and a movie, but other times we participate in an activity together like roller-blading at or even a short weekend trip. We are also reading through parts of the OT together at night and praying for each other.
Left by fallintograce on Oct 30, 2007 4:38 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

We don't have kids but we still live busy lives... plus the "Army" life... In 2 years we've physically only been together a few months due to constant deployments... but when he's not deployed and is home, even though we both work full-time jobs, we have a set routine in which we go to the gym every night together. Sometimes we're dead tired, other times it's almost like a date night. Either way, it's quality time together. Even though it's just the two of us, we made a point of getting into the habit early on marriage to have dinner together every night. We pray together and try to have as much quality time as possible given our hectic schedules and chaotic lifestyle with the deployments. During deployments, we webcam & instant message as much as possible.
Left by bravogrl28 on Oct 30, 2007 10:28 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

When you think about it, the opposite of distraction is focus. We focus--give our attention to--what is important to us. We make time for it, we value it, we anticipate it. In short, we obsess about it, in a positive way. Are you doing that with your marriage/ mate? Do you think about him/ her? Do you anticipate being together? Do you plan special times? Are you focused? If not, you'll become distracted, and trouble will occur. If you're focused, and paying attention, you'll likely make good choices. What do you think about positive focus and intention in relationships?
Dr.David
Left by DrDavidHawkins on Oct 31, 2007 3:01 PM

# RE: Distracted from an Intentional Marriage

This issue of trustworthiness and reliability are fundamental. If I cannot trust you or you cannot trust me, we do not have a genuine relationship--I don't have you and you don't have me--and many hidden things come between us (bitter or sarcastic thoughts, negative emotions, ill motives, fears, defensiveness, ...). For a relationship is defined by its agreements--what is given and what is taken. All of the scriptures embody the trustworthiness of God and the insufficiency of man of meet and satisfy God in such holiness. Still, how lovely is our God who would so intimately love and honor those whose heart it was to please Him in their integrity. Thank you. ALL of us know what it's like to be on either side of unfaithful communication. You inspire me today to commit to living a life of complete faithfulness to all my word--just the same way I expect of God and others. Peace.
Left by HilareMoniz on Nov 05, 2007 9:21 AM