I know most of these reasons could be said about why any marriage slowly dies, but as a Christian, I particularly thought about it from that angle.
For our purposes today, I am not writing in context of abusive marriages that are plagued by narcissism, abuse, adultery or other betrayal. That’s an entirely different issue altogether.
I am writing today about marriages that from the outside probably look like fairly solid marriages, but inside they are slowly dying, mostly because of what I call relational drift.
Usually, one or both spouses have become lackadaisical about investing in the relationship. There is a real sense of “auto pilot” going on. They love each other and are committed, but there is no genuine depth and connection between them that makes life together fulfilling. Often, one spouse is oblivious to this and the other spouse is sad, and this dynamic further contributes to the growing chasm between them.
As a Christian who has a heart for encouraging others in their marriages, as well as a woman who is married, I see 10 reasons Christian marriages slowly die.
Below I give the 10 reasons and after each one, I offer a suggestion and/or question to hopefully give you insight on moving toward a healthier dynamic in your marriage. And before I get too much pushback, let me say I know that marriage is incredibly messy and each marriage is unique.
And no surprise here, but preventing a marriage from falling into relational abyss takes effort. Real effort. But it’s worth it. Husbands and wives who work on their marriage do build a marriage that is strong, intimate and connected.
As always, I simply encourage you to read the below and glean any lightbulb moments God is revealing to YOU about your marriage and where you can grow. Maybe you and your spouse each read this article and then use it as a springboard into a conversation about the two of you—not in an accusatory way, but in an effort to grow. Even if your spouse won’t read this post, I encourage you to read it.
I’ve listed the below in no particular order.
10 Reasons Christian Marriages Slowly Die (and What You Can Do About It)
1. Lack of intentional time together
Yes, life does get busy. I get that. But when all is said and done, if a husband and wife are not carving out some dedicated time for each other on a somewhat regular (maybe even daily) basis, then it is no surprise the relationship starts to feel quite surfacey.
This isn’t just about date night (although those are great!). It’s also about resisting the habit to plop down in front of the TV silently together every night. Or ignoring opportunities to go on a brief walk together or sit on the deck and have coffee or a drink together.
SUGGESTION: Together identify a few specific ways you could build more intentional time into your week. Block this time on the calendar until it becomes such a healthy habit that you don’t need the calendar reminder. Maybe start small with even 15 minutes of uninterrupted time together every day or every other day, and then work up to larger blocks of time.
2. Conversations revolve almost entirely around logistics
If all you ever talk about are the calendar, schedules, home details, errands, and what’s going on with the kids, that’s a problem. Yes, the logistics have to get done, but there’s more to your life together than coordinating baseball practice and remembering to change the furnace filter.
SUGGESTION: Consider getting a pack of “covernsation starter” cards or find a list on the internet. Seek to better know each other in a deeper way by intentionally asking deeper questions.
3. Little or no non-sexual affection
I’m a firm believer that genuine affection and touch does wonders for a marriage. I love to see husbands and wives who hold hands, hug and enjoy being close to each other. Sure, sexual playfulness can be built into this, but in a broader sense, what I’m talking about is affection between two people that reaffirms their fondness of each other.
They don’t just want any touch. It’s the touch of their spouse that is especially encouraging.
Often, couples find this easier early in their relationship, but then let it fall by the wayside further into marriage. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Do you see this dynamic in your marriage? Have the two of you stopped being affectionate with each other?
SUGGESTION: Reach for each other’s hands either when out in public or when driving in the car. Don’t wait for the other person to do it, but instead take the initiative. Start giving each other hugs for no other reason than to show you love the person. If you are watching a show together, sit close to each other if possible, so you can be cuddling at the same time.
If all of that sounds way out of character for both of you, then have a discussion about it first.
4. Little or no sexual intimacy
Okay, now let’s talk about sex. When a husband and wife stop being lovers, their marriage tends to lose some of its depth. I’m not just talking about intercourse, because I know aging, weight gain, and health issues all can affect a couple’s ability to have intercourse. Even so, there is a lot to be said for passionate kissing, being naked with each other, and arousing each other in other ways.
SUGGESTION: Be clear about your sexual desires. Don’t assume your spouse knows. If you are the one not interested in sexual intimacy, be committed to figuring out why and addressing those struggles. Consider (individually and together) how nurturing sex and mutually enjoying sexual connection honors God and deepens your relationship.
5 Minimal or no time praying together or studying God’s Word together
In many regards, I think this goes by the wayside the same way intentional time together goes by the wayside. It takes effort to focus on our individual spiritual growth, as well as our spiritual connectedness as a couple. But that is something that sets marriage apart. It is a covenant, and God meant it to be a place where a husband and wife would grow more spiritually connected. It’s all part of that one flesh design.
SUGGESTION: Commit to praying together first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, depending on what works best for your schedule. Build the healthy habit of asking each other, “How can I pray for you?” Also, each of you pick a Bible study, and then subsequently work through them together. If your church offers small groups, consider becoming involved in one.
6. Disappearance of sweet gestures
Even after several years of marriage, the couples who are still doing kind gestures for each other tend to hedge against relational drift. These are gestures such as leaving love notes, putting a favorite candy bar in a lunch box, forwarding an article you know the other person would like, going out of your way to pick up their favorite coffee, bringing home a small trinket that would mean something to them, etc.
SUGGESTION: Decide on a few gestures you could do for your spouse this week, and then do them. Do it out of genuine love and not out of an expectation for them to reciprocate. If your spouse does sweet gestures for you, tell them how much these mean to you. Use specifics, such as, “When you leave notes for me, it makes me feel so loved and honored.”
7. Growing resentment toward each other
Marriage expert Dr. John Gottman dubbed these the 4 horsemen of apocolypse in a relationship: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. They are incredibly pervasive and can easily become our knee-jerk reaction when tension and conflict arises in marriage.
SUGGESTION: Carve out time for a conversation that is far removed from the “heat of the moment” argument or tension. Admit that criticism, contempt, defensiveness and/or stonewalling are happening between the two of you and take ownership for it. Even better, do this holding hands and looking at each other.
Also, take the time to dig into God’s word to find specific verses that challenge you each to mature in those specific areas of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Ask for forgiveness where you need to take accountability for the ways you have damaged the relationship.
8. Lack of fun together
When was the last time you and your spouse had genuine fun together? I know I keep circling back to intentional time together, but this one falls under that, too! Fun doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be exploring a new part of the city, cooking a meal together, finding a hobby you can do together, or enjoying a new experience.
SUGGESTION: Each of you come up with a list of 2-3 ideas for fun together, and then take turns planning those. Again, it’s about being intentional.
9. Different visions for life together
What do you want life to look like? A husband and wife may assume they knew what the other person wanted, only to discover at some point they seem to be devoted to different priorities. They don’t have a shared vision for their life together. This can be challenging, but often, a couple can find middle ground that not only honors each of them, but also strengthens their bond at the same time.
SUGGESTION: Ask your spouse, “What vision do you have for our life now? What vision do you have for our life in the future?” Share your answers to those questions as well. Genuinely share specifics with each other. Then start to dig into if the way the two of you spend your time, money and heart effort reflect the vision for your life together.
10. Not esteeming each other
As Christians, God should be first in our lives. After that, if we are married, our spouse should be the most important person in our life. This can become quite skewed, as one or both spouses put other people in the place meant for their spouse. It could be children, extended family members, friends, or co-workers.
SUGGESTION: Ask God to reveal to you if indeed you have made your spouse a priority. If not, confess this and take intentional steps toward aligning your priorities.
If you are reading this post, I believe it’s because you genuinely don’t want your marriage to slowly die. You are looking for the insights that spark genuine growth and change in this relationship that is so important to God and to you.
While there are no guarantees, I do believe when we take steps toward getting healthy ourselves, as well as steps toward improving our marriage, we do see fruit from those efforts. Blogs, counseling, books and retreats, and of course God’s Word, all are tools God uses to redeem individuals and marriages. I have multiple posts you may find helpful under my RESOURCES tab.
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4 thoughts on “10 Reasons Christian Marriages Slowly Die (And What You Can Do About It)”
One more teach eachother how to laugh at ourselves because everyone of us is a little weird. The world does not turn because we are tops the best the nicest the cutest or the wisest. No the world turns and God knows his children and they are for keeps. AMEN
Please send me more suggestions. Loved what I read and have already started using some of these suggestions listed above..
It’s so weird because some things on this list apply to us and some don’t. For example we have fun together but we are not super affectionate toward each other (although he is more than me). You would think that having fun together would spill into being affectionate, but they don’t for us. It makes no sense. Why was affection so easy before we were married? I guess maybe because we didn’t see each other every day before. Now I feel like I’m going out of my comfort zone if I touch his hand while on the couch or something. It’s probably mostly my fault. Sometimes I feel more like he’s my friend than my lover. I hate feeling that way. I do love him. I don’t know how I got here. I’m too young for this and we’ve only been married 5 years. I need to start making an effort but I feel like I’ll look weird if I do and maybe it’ll seem forced. I can’t stand being embarrassed and put on the spot. Maybe that is my problem. It holds me back in life. We fought about all this today and I’m upset, but maybe God intended this to happen. Wish me luck please and say a prayer because I’m going to try and change. Starting with apologizing today. Thanks for reading
Thanks for your blog as it is very helpful. My wife and I (both Christians with 5 kids) have been married for 30 years abd have seen these struggles in our own marriage, but have learned much of what you have talked about in your blog over the years. When I think back over the years about what has taken our marriage to near death and what has taken our marriage to its’ heights, I agree that your list makes up much of those reasons. For me personally, it has been about creating a space for my wife to feel heard without condemnation or criticism in every situation and that I’m not afraid or feel so empowered that I can’t take correction. Non sexual touch has also helped our progress toward more intimate times as it has taught both of us (me especially) that there are other ways to speak to the heart than intercourse, which in turn has created open discussions about what pleases the other. This has helped my wife to understand that I want to understand how to address her emotional needs.
Yes, marriage is a dance where the steps aren’t always the same. But this list gives a few of the golden rules to help us to slow down and respond to the changes instead of reacting.
Thanks for the post.
P.S. marriage does indeed get better!!