Five signs of settling and some conversations starters to move your marriage forward again.
Have you settled? I mean, in your marriage, have you settled for less than what you know is possible, less than all God desires for you and your husband or wife?
Sometimes it seems easier to settle and just accept your marriage for “the way things are.” Making your marriage better requires work. It requires attention, intention and consistent effort.
Once you begin to settle, it’s easy to slip into autopilot and just let things glide by. The problem is that there is no such thing as status quo in marriage. Your marriage is organic – a living thing. It’s either growing or it’s dying.
I strongly believe that no matter how great or terrible your marriage is, there is always more. Your marriage can always be moving forward, growing stronger and more intimate. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are on what I call The Path of Intimacy or The Path of Separation (you are on one or the other), here are some clues that you are on the wrong path, and some ideas on how to reverse course.
1. You have stopped reaching into the divide
When couples first start on the Path of Separation, it’s tempting to wait for your spouse to be the first one to reach out and reconnect. Maybe you even tried to move closer but were rejected. As the gulf grows wider, bitterness and resentment settle in, making it even harder to re-establish your connection. And so the cycle goes, with an ever deepening divide. Sometimes we just settle for managing the degree of separation.
It’s never too late to get your marriage back on the Path of Intimacy. It starts with a desire to do so, followed up with some deliberate actions. Sometimes small steps, little acts of love and kindness are all it takes to begin to draw you toward each other. Sometimes it takes some hard conversations about why you’ve drifted apart in the first place. Let your spouse know you miss them and miss your connection. Tell him or her that you want to stop the drift and work toward more intimacy.
Ask, “What would it take to bring us closer?”
2. You don’t have date nights anymore
One sign post of settling is that you stop prioritizing alone time together. Regular date nights out aren’t possible in every stage of marriage or for every budget, but every marriage needs one-to-one time that isn’t just functional in nature.
If you’ve never made a habit of having date nights, talk about why not and come up with a plan. If you have stopped dating, let your spouse know you miss it and want to start scheduling them again. Don’t stress yourselves by thinking it needs to be a big weekly production. Keeping it simple means it will be more likely to happen. In addition to having regular dates, work toward allocating 10-15 minutes a day just to sit close to each other and talk.
Ask, “What changes can we make in our lives so we can have regular one-to-one time?”
3. You blame all your marriage problems on your spouse
Couples who have settled often reach a stalemate in the blame game. Each blames the other for the problems in the marriage, and more often than not they have given up trying to get their spouse to change.
The thing is, by working so hard to change your spouse, you have set yourself up for disappointment. You can’t change him or her, you can only change you. I recently saw a quote that I really like, “Trying to change your spouse is an act of aggression, working on changing yourself is an act of love.” Commit to working on your stuff.
Ask your spouse, “What’s one thing I can do today that would make you feel more loved?”
4. You no longer dream together
Have you lost sight of your dreams? It can happen when you settle. Perhaps you no longer believe in each other or in each other’s dreams. Perhaps you have just forgotten about those things you once longed for. Maybe you’ve stopped talking to each other about your hopes, dreams, and ambitions because they just seem out of reach.
Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to dream together again.
Reignite your dreams with some conversation starters.
- “If money was no issue, what would you want to do for the next ten years?”
- “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what risk would you take that you have always wanted to?”
- “Describe what you want our marriage to be like in five years (or ten years or when we retire).
5. You have stopped initiating sex
Have you settled for a less than fulfilling sex life? Do you no longer initiate sex because you are tired of being rejected or the lack of sexual engagement from your spouse? Have you settled for limited sexual intimacy? Are you afraid to ask for what you really want in the bedroom for fear of judgment or rejection?
From what I’ve observed, sex is the one area where couples seem to settle more than any other. I get it that sex is a huge vulnerability. I get that past wounds are hard to shake. But settling in your sex life is the most common on ramp to the Path of Separation. If you’ve given up on your sex life, apologize to your spouse and commit to working on that area of intimacy in your marriage. It is the one type of intimacy you can only share with each other, and sex needs to be seen for the wonderful privilege that it is.
Ask, “What baby steps can we take this month toward growing in sexual intimacy?”
Do you know in your heart that there is more for your marriage than what you are currently experiencing? Do any of these signs of settling ring true? Take steps this week to move from the Path of Separation to the Path of Intimacy.
2 thoughts on “5 Signs You May Have Settled”
Great post Scott! I enjoy your articles discussing the Path of Intimacy vs the Path of Separation. We have also mentioned this concept in our couples group. Until now, I never looked at it from the ‘settled perspective’ which you described so well in this post. I will not only incorporate some of these thoughts into our marriage, but will share it with our group and others.
I have a side comment related to your second sign. As retirees and empty nesters, we have encountered a new phenomenon. One on one time remains important and we don’t disagree with the date night concept, but there are occasions where we almost seem to spend ‘too much’ time together. It presents some unique challenges that we are adjusting to through conversation and prayer. We respect each other’s differences and have individual interests/activities which helps. Perhaps our best discovery has been doing more outside our marriage – having a mission, if you will. We have become more ‘active believers’, started a couples group and are exploring marriage ministry within our church.
I bring this up not to laud our accomplishments (God deserves all the glory) but for the following two reasons. First, to provide insight on what may happen as couples enter the ‘legacy phase’ of their lives – or dreaming of retirement as you noted in #4 above. Second, to encourage ‘settled’ couples, regardless of their age, to consider finding a mission. I am not talking about going abroad, though that certainly counts, but “Kingdom work” that serves the Lord. Invariably, He richly blesses us in doing so without ever seeking a reward. Many couples will testify how mission work actually draws them both closer to God as well as each other. It’s not a new concept, but one which we have personally experienced and embraced.
Fred – Thanks for your comment and your suggestion that couples find something to engage in together like missions. I know my wife and I love ministering together.
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