When a bride and groom look at each other on their wedding day, it’s easy for them to imagine that this blissful moment will be the way they feel for the rest of their life. The possibility that they would ever disconnect from each other seems remote.
Yet as a pastor, I have had a front-row seat to watch what happens to many marriages after their magical wedding day. Time and again, the man and woman who wept as they pledged lifelong devotion to one another end up so disconnected that they aren’t sure how they can live together anymore. That’s when they land in my office asking for help.
Most of the time, these couples have no idea what happened to them. But with the help of a few well-chosen questions, they eventually realize the truth. Somewhere along the way, they chose to turn their love off. Somewhere along the way, they used something–a disagreement, hurt, unmet need, or differing priority–as an excuse to move away from one another and create disconnection in their relationship.
Whenever we choose disconnection, we invite fear to fill the space between us and the other person. Fear and love are enemies–they are at war with one another. The moment we begin operating in fear, we create an environment that’s hostile to love, an environment that feeds disconnection, conflict, and offense.
Fear, and its goal of disconnection, will destroy a marriage. The only way to build, repair, and sustain a healthy marriage is to turn your love on, keep it on, and pursue the goal of love at all costs: connection.
Connection–the ability to transfer love back and forth in a relationship–drives away the fear, and brings out the best in us.
When two people have been operating in disconnection for a while, the goal of connection might feel difficult, but here are 3 declarations to move toward a loving connection and turn your love back on in your marriage:
1. I will forgive you for past mistakes.
When you and your spouse have disconnected, and the feeling of love seems lost, it can be easy to replay the wrongs over and over. Thinking about what has hurt you will not help to solve the disconnect. Forgiveness is the first step to showing love and respect for one another again. Forgiveness is not a free pass to allow abusive or unhealthy behaviors to continue; it is simply the key that unlocks our hearts to experience freedom and love again.
2. I will choose to move toward you, even though we are disconnected.
Fear drives us to disconnect as a means of self-protection. When we think we need to protect ourselves from being hurt or rejected by our spouse, the goal of our relationship becomes creating a safe distance. The goal of marriage is not to create a safe distance, but to have a loving, intimate connection. This requires two people to stop protecting themselves and start choosing to trust one another to protect each other’s hearts and their connection. Making this choice in the face of hurt and disconnection requires both people to be powerful, but putting your connection before yourself is essential to every lasting marriage.
3. I will take responsibility for how I treat you.
Fear brings out the worst in us. Classically, when our spouse shows us their worst, we tend to return the favor. We end up reacting in fear and acting powerless by blaming the other person for the way we feel and making them responsible for our choice to move away from them. We then defend our powerless choice by looking for evidence that reinforces the idea that the other person is the “bad guy.” This dynamic always destroys connection. Instead of reacting in fear, we must respond in love. When we take responsibility (response-ability) and show the other person our best by choosing love, we are not only being powerful–we are doing the only thing that invites the other person to shift out of fear-mode and into love, responsibility, being powerful, and fighting for connection.
It is so vital to reinforce and protect our connections, even at times when we feel disconnection. Getting our connection back is what sets us up to send messages of love back and forth, driving away the anxiety and fear, so that we can operate from the very best of us, even in disagreement.
PS) For 14 days leading up to Valentine’s Day, we will send a daily video with a perspective point & a”challenge” for spouses to take on together in our “Keep Your Marriage On” series! Learn more & sign-up for FREE here!