When my husband, Jeff, and I were juggling life with four teenagers, two jobs and all the regular maintenance of living, it was easy to ignore our marriage relationship.
There were times when I asked myself, Who is this guy? Sure, he gets the oil changed in the cars, picks up the kids from extracurricular activities and makes waffles on weekends. But what happened to us?
Decades of marriage and a full family life can extinguish the fire that helps couples first connect and become close. But our relationship with God offers a template for rekindling a relationship. We don’t have to be the victims of time and busyness. If we’re intentional in a few ways, we can reconnect with our spouse instead of drifting apart.
Examining my heart is one thing I do to stay close to Jesus. When I do that and confess my sins, God not only forgives me, He gives me “times of refreshing.” (“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19-20). Zechariah 1:3 says, “Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you.” When I humbly repent, I grow closer to God.
As spouses, we’re definitely not in the deity category, but we can follow that pattern of acknowledging our sins to refresh or rekindle our relationship. There’s nothing wrong with buying new lingerie, but it probably won’t help me get closer to my husband if my sin issue is in the way. To rekindle true intimacy in my relationship, I should first humble myself, examine my faults and ask for any needed forgiveness.
How often have I done that so I can grow closer to my husband? Not often enough! I need to ask myself, What’s my role in this “blah” time in our relationship? Have I been doing anything that pushes us apart? Have I been complaining too much? (I’ve done that.) Taking my husband for granted? (Done that, too.) Thinking of him just as the guy who needs to complete his chore list? (Ditto on this transgression).
To grow closer to your spouse, ask God to reveal any sin you’re not seeing.
Spend quality time together
In certain phases of marriage, scheduling “alone time” with your spouse can be challenging. And even without children around, you may drift into separate routines and pursue separate interests.
Spending time with God can be challenging, too. That’s probably why the Bible continually reminds us to seek God and draw near to Him (James 4:8). God wants us to read His Word and pray so we know Him (John 17:3). He wants us to follow His commandments so He can make His home with us (John 14:23).
When I first became a Christian, I read the Bible voraciously and sought God. And because I did that, I grew closer to Him. Jesus’ relationship with His Father also models this needed time together: Mark 1:35 says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
At the beginning of my relationship with Jeff, we spent every available moment together. When we couldn’t be together physically, we talked on the phone or wrote letters. I thought about him constantly. That state of infatuation doesn’t last forever, of course, but the fact remains that we need to spend time together if we’re going to rekindle a relationship.
When we had four teenagers in the house, we decided to make a daily walk together part of our routine. That time was for us, not our kids. Date nights, babysitters, short trips and those walks helped us stay connected through the years. We still walk together almost every day, even though we have an empty nest now.
A couple we know was having the same problem finding time away from their teens. They weren’t sure how to reconnect with each other until they discovered a free spot in their day. To work on assignments for a marriage enrichment class, the couple started meeting at lunchtime while their kids were in school. Their discovery was so exciting that they decided to stick with this regular rendezvous after finishing the course.
When you spend time together, be sure to share “heart talk”— what’s happening in your inner world.
Have adventures together
Research shows that sharing new experiences can rekindle a relationship. In Psychology Today, Gary Lewandowski, Jr., explains that “the key is to do activities that are New, Interesting, Challenging and Exciting (N.I.C.E.), because they promote greater relationship quality (i.e., more satisfaction, commitment, and love).” That makes sense, since doing something out of the ordinary can help us learn about each other and deepen our bond.
It’s worked that way in my relationship with God. Jesus has led me on many adventures (talking to other people about God, taking a job in a new state, adopting children from Russia, writing a book), and those adventures have deepened my relationship with Him.
What novel activity can you and your spouse do? Travel somewhere new? Take a course? Invite people you don’t know very well to dinner? Learn pickle ball? Serve in a ministry together?
Jeff and I rekindled our relationship during the COVID-19 lockdown by throwing out our 20-year-old CD player. We rediscovered music with a new sound system and Spotify. Soon we were dancing in our living room and listening to beautiful songs instead of watching Netflix. My husband twirling me around to an upbeat song was definitely something novel for us. Last year, we said yes to leading a small group for our church’s marriage ministry. As introverts, that was a scary adventure for both of us, but we did it together.
What adventure can help you reconnect with your spouse?
Serve your spouse
Because I love God, I naturally want to serve Him. And when I do, I learn more about Him and grow closer to Him. Serving us is why Jesus came (Mark 10:45). So, if I want to rekindle my love for my spouse, why don’t I try serving him?
You might be thinking, I’m upset with my spouse right now and don’t much feel like serving that person. Or maybe you’re resistant because you think you’ve “lost those loving feelings.” I thought I lost them at one point in my marriage, but guess what? I found them again. And so can you, because love is more than a feeling; it’s an action.
In a Psychology Today article, clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone writes, “Research has shown that taking more loving actions actually makes you feel more in love.”
That’s the beautiful thing about the act of serving my spouse and praying for him — my attitude changes as God’s love miraculously shows up in my heart and mind.
One day I was folding laundry and was annoyed about how Jeff’s T-shirts were always turned inside out, basically because I’m a selfish person who doesn’t particularly like folding clothes. I was wondering if I should even bother fixing the T-shirts. Maybe I’ll just fold them as they are, I thought. But then I decided to add an attitude of love to the task. If I took time to turn them right side out, he wouldn’t have to. Folding every T-shirt became an act of love and created loving feelings in me for my husband. I’m not so sure my husband even cared about this, but it did rekindle those loving feelings in me.
Ask your spouse how you can serve him or her — you might be surprised by their answer. Jeff’s answer was that he needs a bit of silence after we both get home from work. This gives him some transition time before our end-of-the-day conversation. As I try to serve him in this way, I’m gaining some needed verbal self-control and a less-stressed husband.
Keep rekindling your relationship
As Christians, we know that having a personal relationship with the God of the universe requires time and effort. So why do we think we can take our spouse for granted?
Don’t let your marriage relationship become cold. Examine yourself, schedule quality time together, plan an adventure and find a way to serve your spouse. Using this kindling just might ignite a fire of love in your home.