Are you going through a time of disaffection in your marriage? For clarity, here’s a definition that Dr Tim Clinton gives:
“Disaffection refers to the negative transformation of marital love and commitment. It’s the process by which love grows cold and the desire to leave the marriage or hurt one’s spouse replaces their former love for each other.”
Sometimes disaffection happens because of a traumatic event, or a break in trust. You keep your affections at bay, believing you need to protect yourself. (And sometimes you do.) But in most marriages disaffection and emotional disconnection hits you in other unexpected, unsuspected ways. (We’ll touch on this below.) Most often, however, it sneaks up on you. This can be termed as “creeping separateness.”
Have you and your spouse been there? We have… many times. We’d be going along great—feeling all “lovey-dovey” towards each other. But then the next thing we knew, we’d feel emotionally distant—almost like we’re detached. It actually happened over a course of time. We just didn’t notice it. The disaffection and emotional distancing crept in because we got too caught up in everyday living. We forgot to be intentional in making sure we stayed emotionally connected.
How we pray we will not neglect staying on the alert! We pray for you too. The devil wants to divide us and uses everyday events and busyness to accomplish this. We must not let it happen!
Sometimes disaffection is short-lived. One or both spouses feel the distancing in their relationship and they do what it takes to make sure they are connected again. If that’s the case, it doesn’t take much effort to experience warmth in the relationship again.
But other times disaffection happens for other more complicated reasons. That’s when it takes even more effort to reconnect. Whatever you do, don’t believe the lie of the enemy of our faith, that just because you don’t feel love and connection at this point in your marriage, it will always be this way. It doesn’t have to be. We’ve seen (and have experienced) some great turn arounds. Marrying our will to God’s is an important first step in making that happen.
How Disaffection Starts
We want to share a section of something that Dr Tim and Julie Clinton wrote a number of years ago for Moody Magazine. (Unfortunately, this magazine is no longer being published.) The article was titled, “How Disaffection Starts.” Sadly, their article is just as relevant today as it was when it was first featured. We’re also going to add a few things that we’ve learned on these same concepts. We pray you find them helpful as you read and glean through what is written. To begin with, Tim and Julie wrote something we should all note:
All marriages go through periods of disaffection, times when love feels distant, cold. What happens during these times will often set the course for the rest of the marriage. Unfortunately, disaffection often wins out and couples who get to the point of divorce never know God’s desire for their marriage. And many who stay in their marriages live unhappily behind closed doors.
But how does disaffection start? It actually begins with everyday life, with the pressures we all face daily. The first is:
We’re pulled in every direction, busy and going nowhere fast, having to do more with less time. Before long, tempers flare, stomachs ache, and hearts break. Hurried decisions can become bad decisions. And bad decisions make people hurt.
That’s when marriage becomes a perpetual uphill climb. And our hurt makes us irritable, discouraged, and very difficult to live with. Some have just flat-out been overwhelmed by life, wayward kids, financial pressures, loss, health problems, and demanding work schedules. Take an inventory. What stresses have been tearing at your relationship since you married?
We’ve had to do this a number of times in our marriage. And we’re sure we will have to do it many more times in the future. That’s because married life is not stagnant. There are ups and downs, backs and forth’s, and crazy, upsetting changes that continually hit up against you. Unfortunately, that’s a “normal” part of living on this side of heaven. If we think otherwise, we’re going to be caught off guard when times get tough.
Caught Off Guard?
It’s important NOT to allow stress to sabotage our relationship. We encourage you to lean in and work it through together, rather than individually. And don’t allow busyness to steer you away from each other either. We agree with something that Debi Walter (from The Romantic Vineyard) wrote:
We can waste time on things that don’t matter and neglect those that do. [We can also say, ‘yes’ to too many good things, so that we have to say, ‘no’ to more important relationship matters.] This is why we shouldn’t be surprised if our marriage isn’t what we had hoped it would be years down the road. If you haven’t made time together a priority, your marriage will be affected. Sadly, some couples don’t realize this until the kids grow up and move on with their lives.
Don’t let this happen to you. Put each other into the position of being your highest human priority from this day forward. Ask God to show you what you can let go of, so you free up the time you need to make this happen. We’ve seen that God is very good about letting us know what activities we should drop. He may not tell us what we want to hear, but it ends up being the best solution if we do what He says.
If you’re in a difficult season in your marriage and you start to think, ‘How can I take another ten or twenty or thirty years of this?’ you’re headed for trouble. You’re asking God to give you the grace for something that hasn’t happened. Instead, break it down to a single unit—a single day. Just focus on this: ‘Can I love my husband [or wife] for this day?’ Don’t think about ten years down the road, or even ten months! (Gary Thomas)
That’s such great advice!
Here’s another pressure Tim and Julie point to, that can cause disaffection:
Satan is the great confuser and the ultimate liar. He magnifies our weaknesses and fears and uses them as wedges that come between us. Peter described the evil one as a ‘roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). And he’s out to take as big a bite as he can out of your marriage.
Here are a few important points to prayerfully consider as it pertains to evil invading your marriage:
• “Don’t underestimate the enemy and his tactics. When your marriage seems in peril, it’s easy to start focusing on the ways your spouse is letting you down or you are falling short. Remember that God has put the two of you on the same team, and it’s Satan that wants to pull you apart. …If it feels like your marriage is being devoured, recognize you’re under attack and run to God for help and deliverance.” (Suzanne Gosselin)
• “Know that there is an adversary, and it’s not your mate. …Remember that you’re on the same team. If you look for evidence that your spouse is your enemy, you’ll find it. However, if you want to see your marriage as a team, then look for evidence that it could be and don’t minimize what you find.” (Brett Sparks)
• “Fight FOR your marriage like it’s under attack from the powers of hell… because it is.” (Adivineencounter.com)
That doesn’t mean that every argument that rises up between us is caused by the enemy of our faith. Many of them are just a matter of working out our differences so we can better walk together in love. However, there are times when we can fall into the place of being influenced by demonic forces that cause division between us. It’s important to ‘be on the alert’ to this fact so we are not tripped up and entertain the enemy. We are to continually work on our unity, even when we disagree with each other.
Keep praying and working with God:
• “When the enemy can get us off our knees, he is helping us to cut off our only source of help and hope. When couples refuse to pray individually and together, the devil can get a foothold in their marriage. The times when prayer seems the most difficult are the very times we need prayer the most. When a couple is under spiritual attack, the enemy can make us feel too busy to pray. It all looks as if it’s too hopeless to pray, and too pointless to pray. So a weakening of a couple’s prayer life could be a sign of their being under spiritual attack.” (Pastor Jack Wellman)
An Important Disaffection Point:
• “I’ve seen a constant formula at work: the less I receive from God, the more I demand from my spouse. The more I receive from God, the more I give to my spouse. That’s why the best thing you can do for your marriage is to fill your soul with God. Define disappointment with your spouse as spiritual hunger, a call to worship. Marriage is a wonderful institution, but it’s limited. It can’t replace God. Don’t ask it to.” (Gary Thomas)
And then, as far as pressures that cause disaffection, there are:
• FALSE EXPECTATIONS
Here are a few of the most common:
- Marriage will complete me.
- Life will be easy now.
- My spouse won’t hurt me.
- Love will keep us together.
However, marriage brings together two people who have many human frailties that are at first magnified. Then hopefully, in Christ, they are strengthened into godly traits. But it takes a lot of humility, grace, and constant work at understanding what’s reasonable for you and your spouse to expect from each other.
Again, there is a lot we can say about this issue. However, we talk a lot about it in our book (featured below). Plus, we have a lot that is posted on this web site to help you. Just look around.
However, below are two important points to consider. First:
• “It’s good to have expectations—to set the bar high—to be a person who knows what he/she wants. But your expectations are based on your upbringing, your experiences, your personality, your likes/dislikes. If we put expectations on our spouses that are not based on who THEY are, our marriage will eventually implode. We have to make room for flexibility and grace.” (Lori Byerly)
Plus, it’s important to note:
• “Having unrealistic expectations about marriage will ultimately make you miserable. We can’t afford to think of marriage as the magic bullet that solves all our problems and keeps us blissfully happy for the rest of our lives. Instead, accept that you’re both humans with flaws. It takes both of you, flaws and all, to create that fulfilling, lifelong bond you’re longing for.” (Drs Les and Leslie Parrott)
Also, concerning disaffection, Tim and Julie Clinton point out that this can lead to it:
In our marriage we don’t really want to hurt each other. But we do. We fail each other. We say hurtful words. Marriage was designed to be a team effort, one of loving and giving, of making a commitment to our mate. But selfishness, so rampant in our culture, creates an ‘island of me,’ when we should be sharing the ‘island of we.’
So to combat this, here are a few important points to consider:
“Selfishness seeps into our marriage in a myriad of ways. I (Leslie) am the first to admit I can whine and complain to Les about his busy schedule without considering adjusting my own calendar for the sake of his. Or I might spend extravagantly on a luncheon with a friend. But later, I’ll snipe at Les for buying a gadget he ‘doesn’t need.’ Let’s face it: in big and small ways we all squirrel away money, energy, and time to our own advantage. We don’t even realize that we are squandering countless acts of potential kindness and generosity that are sure to bring us to a deeper level of intimacy and connectedness with our partners.
“When we rationalize our selfishness, we are missing the point of partnership. Selfishness is guaranteed to leave every married couple feeling more like roommates than soul mates. Worse than that, it also brings conflict. God will ‘pour out anger and wrath,’ the Scripture says, ‘on those who live for themselves.‘” (Dr Leslie Parrott – “The One Year Love Talk Devotional for Couples”)
Selfishness and Disaffection
Selfishness can definitely be an affection killer in our marriage relationship. God warns us not to go there in our thoughts or our actions. The scripture that immediately comes to mind is found in Philippians 2:3-4.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.“
As you look at that scripture (and there are many others) it’s no wonder that selfishness leads to disaffection in marriage! When we are self-centered, it’s difficult to be “other” centered. And it’s impossible to be God-centered.
Here’s something that Gary Thomas says about this matter:
“The key question is: Will we approach marriage from a God-centered view or a man-centered view? In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts, desires, and expectations are met. In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.”
To further explain this matter, the following is a link to a short, but impactful You Tube clip that we encourage you to view where Paul Tripp explains:
Additional Disaffection Points
Tim and Julie Clinton give a few more touch points in their article on the pressures that cause disaffection in marriage. But we want to stop with the list at this point. The main point is how to stop this creeping virus (or a fast train) that leads to disconnection in our marriage. We’ve given you several good tips above to help you. Plus, we have more in our book featured below, and tips and related articles that are posted on this web site.
But in this Marriage insight we want to close by pointing you to a fact sheet that Dr Tim Clinton makes available. We highly recommend that you look at it. He gives “5 Steps for Transforming Your Marriage” plus additional tips that we believe will help you as you read:
Lastly, Dr Tim Clinton says (and we agree):
“Since harmful patterns are predictable, couples can work to stop them and save their marriage. More than just keeping their marriage afloat, they can reverse the process and breathe new life into their relationship.”
Please know that God can breathe new life into us and into our marriages in amazing ways if we just allow Him to. We have; and we pray you will.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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