How can my spouse and I overcome growing feelings of estrangement and regain the closeness we had in the early days of our marriage? We both lead extremely busy lives. My husband's workload should ease up soon, but in the meantime I sense that he's becoming increasingly distant from me emotionally. What can I do to reverse the trend?
It's not easy to respond to an inquiry like this. The various emotional, relational, and scriptural pieces of the puzzle are so complex, so multi-layered, and so densely interwoven with a tangle of unknown factors that we simply can't give you a definitive reply. We can only attempt to shed some light on a few of the most important details of the scenario you've described.
Let's begin with the biblical side of the question. It's common knowledge that Jesus cites "fornication" or "sexual immorality" - Greek porneia - as the one and only legitimate reason for dissolving a marriage: "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery … " (Matthew 19:9). In light of this statement, it seems that what you're really asking is, "Does emotional attachment amount to 'fornication' or 'sexual immorality'"? At first glance, the answer would appear to be an obvious no; as your husband himself would probably point out, "We didn't do anything! There was no sex involved!" But upon further reflection, the problem appears to be more complicated.
A great deal depends on definitions and motives. And in a situation like this, the two can be deceptively intertwin
We suggest you take the direct, honest approach. Look for an opportunity to discuss the situation with your husband in a relaxed setting. It might be a good idea to suggest that the two of you spend a day engaging in some kind of shared activity that you both enjoy. Then, when you're both having a good time, tell him you've got something on your mind and ask him if he wouldn't mind talking about it.
If for some reason you're uncomfortable broaching the subject with him face-to-face, you might want to put your concerns into a letter. This can be beneficial in at least three ways. First, writing involves careful thought and deliberation and helps us avoid the communication ruts we tend to fall into when talking with our spouses. Second, it gives the other party time to think about his response. Third, it provides both of you with a written record of the thoughts that have been communicated. That can be helpful a week from now when memories of verbal conversations have begun to fade.
Naturally, you'll want to do all this in a caring, non-threatening way. Resist the temptation to tell your spouse what you think is wrong with your relationship. Without lecturing or interrogating, ask him how he's been feeling about life lately and how he views your marriage. Then let him know - in a positive way - how crucial it is for you to get your feelings out in the open. Begin with something like, "I'm afraid that if I don't address this situation, I'm going to become resentful, and I don't want to do that." Then say, "How can I voice my concerns in a way that you are able to hear and respond to even if you disagree with me?"
At that point, he has a choice: 1) He can be unreasonable and say, "I don't want to hear about your concerns;" or 2) He can suggest ways in which you can confront him constructively. If he takes the second option, you've made an important first step in the right direction. If he's unwilling to cooperate, you might ask him if he'd be open to talking with someone you both respect, like a pastor or a mature Christian friend. You may even want to make an appointment with a professional marriage counselor. Our counseling staff can give you a brief over-the-phone consultation and provide you with a list of referrals to qualified professionals in your area.
If your husband won't go along with any of these possibilities, you can still see a counselor on your own. That will give you an opportunity to make some important decisions. You'll have a chance to think about the changes you need to make and how you need to handle your side of the relationship. This could be a very important part of the solution to your problem. That's especially true if the two of you are as busy as you claim to be. The Bible tells us clearly how believers are supposed to order their lives: God first, spouse second, children third, and then our work, education, hobbies, etc. At some point both you and your husband will have to adjust your priorities if you want your marriage to thrive.
In this iQuestions video from Focus on the Family, Gary and Barb Rosberg discuss what to do when your marriage is suffering from "attention deficit disorder."
Husband Too Busy for Family