"We’ve been married for 12 years and I feel as if we’re drifting apart. The worst thing is that I don’t think my husband has really noticed. I don’t doubt that he still loves me, but I feel taken for granted. I have tried talking to him, but it doesn’t really seem to have made any difference. We aren’t that old, and I find it hard to look ahead to a lifetime together if this is what it means."
You are right to set high standards for your love and not settle for mediocrity. Since you have tried the reasonable ‘talk it out’ approach, it is time to kick up a fuss so he has to notice. Sometimes we can be nicer than God. Let him know loud and clear that you are unhappy, and what you are looking for. Sometimes clean anger clears the air like a thunderstorm. Then build on it with some practical measures that you both agree to, such as a weekly date night, or a daily ‘check in’ time to hear about each other’s days. This could be a quick walk together after work, a cup of tea in the kitchen, breakfast in bed or whatever else suits. Do you know what it is exactly that you wish he would do? Get clear in yourself what your love languages are and what would make you feel closer and appreciated. Then explain this to him in non-loaded, simple and direct language. Take the emotion out of your communication so that he has space to respond to the requests, not the emotions. When you have explained what you are looking for, check what he has understood you to have said, so you can be sure you have communicated well. Thank him for listening, and let him know how much it will help you for these things to start happening. This is a humbling process for us to go through, as we wish our partners would get a ‘word of knowledge’ in regards to our every desire. Sadly, real life is seldom like this, and our partners are usually only as good as we, their teachers. To start with, their response might feel hollow because you know you have told them what to do – but accept it graciously until enough time has passed for you both to have forgotten that you told them what to say and do. Remember, too, if he is missing your love language, it probably means you are also missing his. The likelihood is that you are giving him what you would love to get (when you are in a good mood), and he is giving you what he would love to have. This might explain why he doesn’t seem to notice you ‘making an effort’ because maybe you are doing this in areas that he is blind to. Open your eyes to see what he is giving you. Ask him what makes him feel loved and special, and do that for him. I would thoroughly recommend you do the Holy Trinity Brompton marriage course, too, for an all-round MOT. If you go on their website – htb.org.uk – you can find where the nearest course to you is running. It is very accessible for Christians and non-Christians alike, providing down-to-earth teaching on the major ‘pillar’ issues in a marriage, giving you structured time to talk through privately, as a couple, your own thoughts and feelings on each topic. Also, take responsibility for the fact that because you are seeing your relationship through the lens of being taken for granted, you will notice every little example that confirms this, strengthening the negative colour of your lens. While what you are seeing is true, it is not the whole truth. Reality is our perception of it, which is created through our filters of deleting, distorting and generalising what is ‘out there’. Physicist Fritjof Capra describes how 3 billion pieces of information hit our brains every second, yet we can only take in 60. The rest we delete, distort or generalise in order to protect us from insanity. Stop and notice what you are deleting in regards to how your husband behaves towards you. Be curious about what you might be distorting or generalising. While we are all ultimately accountable for our own behaviour, there is also partial truth that we call out behaviours in others by the way we interact with them. Be responsible for what else you could call out in him.