From Romance to Roommates…and Back Again!

“What happened to us. We use to talk all the time, have fun together, send each other love notes, and be up for anything. And now it’s like we’re just roommates!”

I hear this a lot in my counseling office. And if you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably said some of the same things, or at least thought them. How does this happen?


We all want to feel like we did early in our relationship. Those were times of great communication, good fun, and intense sex. But no one can keep up that intensity of relational focus, attention, and effort forever. Life starts to get in the way. There are jobs to focus on, kids to tend to, and a host of other things that demand attention.

Feeling like you’ve moved from romance to roommates is a common occurrence in marriage. Some of it is simply maturing and getting comfortable in your relationship, and some of it comes from trying to manage the ever increasing onslaught of responsibilities. So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve slipped into roommate status.

But no one wants to stay in roommate status forever. If left unaddressed, roommate status will slowly suck the life out of your marriage.

If you want to turn around the “just roommates” feel of your marriage, you need to start by understanding how you got there.


Remember when you first became interested in this person you now call your spouse? Though I don’t know you personally, I know that when you became interested in your spouse, two things happened:

  • You found yourself thinking about them more and more. They were increasingly on your mind. When you went to a new restaurant without them, you wondered if they would like it. You waited to seeing that new movie, because you didn’t want to see it without them. When out with friends, you found yourself wishing they were there too. They just began to occupy more and more of your thoughts.
  • You worked hard to win them. You began to do whatever you could to capture their attention and affection. You would go to movies that didn’t interest you. Talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. Take them to their favorite restaurant…even though it wasn’t your favorite. You did whatever you could to draw them to yourself.

In short, the more you thought about them, the more your affection for them grew. And the more you affection for them grew, the harder you worked to earn their attention and affection.

But then, the two of you said, “I do,” the honeymoon phase ended, and things gradually started to change. And here’s why:

  • When dating, you only had to be on your best behavior until the date was over. But now the date’s never over! You’re with each other all the time.
  • You start to see each other’s less than flattering side and their less than attractive habits.
  • You try to get each other to be like you remember, but this is met with bruised egos and defensiveness.

We start off working hard to earn the other’s attention and affection, but as the years pass, we shift to just expecting the other’s attention and affection. It’s this shift from earning to expecting that changes the marriage from romance to roommates.


If your marriage seems to be stuck in roommate status, are you destined to live the rest of your life quietly staring out the restaurant window and substituting one-word answers for conversation? No!

If you’re in a roommate marriage, it doesn’t have to be a terminal diagnosis.

To find your way back from roommates to romance, you have to reverse the process that got you there. You have to quit expecting attention and affection and instead, start earning it again. How?

Think about them throughout your day.

If you’ve been in roommate status for a while, you may not find daydreaming about your spouse that appealing, so start by thinking about when you were dating or first married. Think about the reasons you married them in the first place. Think about your favorite memories with them. Go back through old photos to jump start those thoughts.

You’ll be surprised how this simple exercise will begin to warm your heart toward your spouse and rekindle a desire for them.

Then, take it to the next level and do something with those thoughts.

Get back in the habit of working to win them.

Think about how hard you worked in the beginning to get them to be interested in you. If you want to be more than roommates, you have to take on that same mentality and work like you did when you were dating:

  • Show interest in the things that interest them.
  • Look them in the eyes and listen closely when they talk.
  • Find ways to have fun and laugh together.
  • Leave them sweet notes and texts.
  • Meet their needs, even if they’re not your needs.
  • Spend more of your free time together than separate.

You may be thinking, “It was easy to do these things early in our relationship, because we were so in love. But now those feeling aren’t there. Doing those things now would seem contrived and hypocritical.”

But, you’re just in a different stage of your relationship now. Before, your feelings drove your actions. Now your actions must drive your feelings. And eventually, your feelings will kick in and take a bigger roll in driving your actions. It’s a loop. Feelings fuel actions and actions fuel feelings.

This is how you get out of roommate status.


So, I know that In the beginning, romance seemed easy, but it’s actually because we put a lot of work into it. Then, we stop working and we gradually slide from romance to roommates. Moving back to romance will also take work. But the difference is…now we’re not working to get them. We’re working to keep them!

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve not always been the best at this. I’m highly driven by my emotions, and when those loving emotions aren’t there I tend to withdraw rather than move closer with loving actions. (Just ask my wife.) So as I write these words, I’m preaching to myself first and foremost. And now that I’ve put this out there in public, my wife will be watching to see if I step up my game.

So, here’s hoping we all keep finding our way back from roommates to romance, because we’re all in this together.

A Heartbreaking Anniversary

What follows is a different type of post than I usually write. It’s less professional and more personal, so please forgive me if I take off my counseling hat for a moment and bare my soul.

The Anniversary

Last week my wife and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. Let me clarify upfront…that’s not the heartbreaking part! We’ve been together a total of 45 years and she’s still my best friend. I wouldn’t want to do life with anyone else, and hopefully, we’ll be chasing each other around the nursing home someday.

The Heartbreak

So what made it so heartbreaking? Was it the health issues we currently face? Was it the personal family things we’re currently walking through?

None of these led to my heartbreak. Though they’re not fun, they’re just a part of life, and the further down the road you travel, the more apt you are to hit some rough roads.

What broke my heart was that at the same time as our upcoming anniversary, I received word of four different marriages that were headed for divorce.

These were not rookie couples. They were couples with kids who had been married for over 10 years. They were couples who appeared to have promise and hope. They were couples with whom I had some sort of connection. And they were couples who were capable of rising above their issues and going on to have a great marriage together. But, for some reason, one or both spouses decided the marriage needed to end.

The Reality

I don’t want to minimize or trivialize the struggles they were facing. When you’re in the midst of such struggles, it’s easy to feel that things are insurmountable. Nor do I want to minimize or trivialize the efforts of those spouses who did everything they could do to keep their marriage together. Some of these spouses worked incredibly hard to save their marriage. But, as I’ve said before, marriage is a dance between two people. And sometimes you just can’t make your dance partner want to dance.

You might be thinking, “You’ve done marriage counseling for close to 30 years. You should be used to this by now.” But I’ve never been able to get used to divorce. (And I hope I never do.) No one dreams of being divorced. So to watch a couple who once vowed “till death do we part” wind up dividing property and kids because they believe they can’t make it work still breaks my heart.

Divorces will happen. We live in a complicated and messy world with complicated and messy people. Sometimes…

  • The hurt is too deep.
  • The personalities are too fixed and rigid.
  • The issues have been left unattended for too long.
  • The trust is too damaged.

I still want to believe that every hurting marriage can be restored. But sometimes divorce is just going to happen, no matter how hard you try.

The Plea

So, out of my heartbreak, I want to plead with you. Whether you‘ve been married for 2 or 42 years…

  • Don’t sweep things under the rug. Talk about them sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t ignore your spouse’s needs. If you can, meet those needs more often than not.
  • Don’t let yourselves drift apart, even in the hard seasons of marriage. Fight against that.
  • Don’t let legitimate responsibilities take priority over your most important responsibility…your spouse.
  • Don’t compare your marriage with others. Instead, focus on being the best couple you can be.
  • Don’t take things too personally. Not everything is about you. Sometimes it’s about them.
  • Don’t die on every hill. Some hills are just too small to die on.
  • Don’t let pride or embarrassment keep you from getting help when you need it. A happy marriage is worth anything.

Will these things insure that you’ll never go through a divorce? No. These things are investments, and occasionally the investment may not pay off. But doing these things will greatly improve the probability of avoiding divorce and of making the most out of your life together.

And to my wife: Thank you for sticking it out with me for the last 42 years…and not smothering me in my sleep! I owe you!

Are You Asking the Wrong Questions?

I had a daughter who taught me the importance of asking the right questions. When she was a teen, If I asked how she did on an exam, she would say, “Good.” But if I asked her what grade she made on the exam…that was another story! It was important for me to ask the right questions.

It’s true in parenting, but it’s especially true in marriage. If you ask the wrong questions you’ll wind up looking in the wrong places and getting the wrong answers.

What are the Wrong Questions

So often, in marriage counseling, I find that couples are stuck because spouses are asking the wrong questions. Here are some examples of the wrong questions spouses ask:

  • Why can’t you see what I need you to do?
  • What keeps you from doing what I need you to do?
  • Why are you acting that way?
  • What’s it going to take to get you to see?
  • When are you going to let it go?
  • Why can’t you put things where they belong?
  • Why are you doing it that way?
  • What’s wrong with you?

Why Are These Questions Wrong?

These questions are not wrong in and of themselves. They can be excellent questions when you and your spouse both feel loved and appreciated. But typically we ask questions like these when we’re upset with our spouse.

If you’ll notice, the questions have one thing in common…the word “you.” These questions are all aimed like arrows at the heart and character of your spouse. And they’re usually delivered with a bit of a bite, frustration, or anger. These questions back your spouse into a corner, leaving them with only two options: fight back or knuckle under. And neither of these responses is good for your marriage.

What Are Some Better Questions?

If you’ve been asking the wrong questions, I want to encourage you to start asking better questions. Rather than focusing your questions on your spouse, focus them on yourself by asking yourself things like:

  • Why can’t I see what my spouse needs me to do?
  • What keeps me from doing what I need to do for my spouse?
  • Why am I acting this way?
  • What’s it going to take for me to see what I need to see?
  • When am I going to let some things go?
  • Why do I need things to be where I think they belong?
  • Why am I doing things a certain way?
  • What are the things that are wrong with me?

Why are These Questions Better?

Before we go any further, let me say, I don’t believe you’re the main problem in your marriage. Nor do I think your spouse is the main problem in your marriage. When there’s a problem in marriage, both spouses usually contribute to the problem. It may not be a 50/50 split. Sometimes it may be 60/40 or 80/20. But however it shakes out, you still have some contribution. And your contribution is the only thing you have any direct control over.

I can hear someone thinking, “That’s not fair! They get to keep doing what they’re doing while I’m the one who has to make all the changes?”

Not necessarily. First of all, “fair” is not always a realistic approach to things. I use to tell my children things like, “the world’s not fair,” and “fair is that place with Ferris wheels and cotton candy.” Sometimes in life, to get where you want to be, you have to focus on doing what you need to do, even when things don’t seem fair.

Secondly, when you change yourself, it can indirectly and positively affect your spouse. Maybe in doing what you should do, even when it’s not fair, your spouse will feel more loved, more appreciated, more seen, or more heard. And as a result, it will be easier for them to feel safe, let down their guard, and love your back.

A Final Word…

When you stop asking the wrong questions and start asking the right questions, it can be life-changing for your marriage. Can I guarantee that doing this will turn your marriage around? No. Marriage is a dance between two people, and sometimes your dance partner is too set in their hurtful ways to change. But, if asking the wrong questions is not getting you anywhere, It won’t hurt to try asking better questions.


In my opinion, infidelity is one of the most destructive blows that can be delivered to a marriage.

It’s even worse than the death of a spouse because when a spouse dies, it’s not intentional or desired. But with infidelity, a spouse…someone who has promised to be faithful…consciously engages in an act that breaks that faith. When a spouse dies, it’s a loss, but it’s not a betrayal. And when a spouse dies, you don’t have to continually see that spouse.

Infidelity can put a marriage on the critical list. Some marriages end. Some never really recover. And some actually go on to be much better than they ever were.

So let’s take a look at infidelity: What causes infidelity, what does infidelity do to a marriage, and what you can do when infidelity comes to light.


When we hear the word “infidelity” we typically think of a spouse who has a sexual encounter outside of their marriage and with someone other than their spouse. And this is certainly the height of infidelity.

But at its core, infidelity refers to being unfaithful to a partner.

I believe that when a spouse turns to someone else for the close emotional and relational connection they should only receive from their spouse, they are being unfaithful. This is often referred to as an “emotional affair.” An emotional affair can be just as devastating to a marriage as a sexual affair. And left unchecked, these emotional affairs often morph into sexual affairs.

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to be focusing on sexual infidelity. But the principles will relate to other types of infidelity as well.


People give many reasons for their infidelity…

  • There was alcohol involved.
  • The other person aggressively initiated it.
  • They didn’t intend to do it, it just happened.

There are lots of reasons given for infidelity, but they usually fit into one of two broad reasons…

An unplanned, impulsive decision.

There can be those times when a spouse wasn’t planning to be unfaithful, but acted impulsively, without thinking. These can be fueled by alcohol or other substances, or a spouse can wind up submitting to a strong sexual aggressor.

I personally believe that unplanned and impulsive unfaithfulness is a quite small percentage of infidelities. I believe that most infidelity falls into the second category…

An ongoing drift in the marriage.

This is a slower and more subtle approach. In this case, there has been a slow and progressive drift and distancing in the marriage…long before the infidelity becomes a reality.

The grind of work, kids, and life start taking their toll on the marriage. Spouses begin to take each other for granted and they stop meeting each other’s needs. Consequently, the gap between them grows larger and the connection between them grows weaker. And eventually, the atmosphere for infidelity is set.

So, then a spouse crosses paths with someone who takes an interest in them. Maybe they take an interest in the spouse’s work, their hobbies, or their personality. And it all may be innocent at first, but then they gradually start spending more time together. Then they start looking for ways to connect. As the connection/attraction between them grows stronger, the connection/attraction in the marriage grows weaker. And eventually, they’ve crossed so many lines that it becomes a small step to cross the last line.

But whether the infidelity was an unplanned and impulsive decision, or it was the result of an ongoing drift in the marriage, the infidelity will have destructive consequences on a marriage.


Just what exactly does infidelity do to a marriage?

Infidelity can affect couples in many little ways, but at its core, infidelity destroys the safety of marriage. Marriage is meant to be a haven of safety in the midst of a threatening and hurtful world.

But infidelity destroys that safety by destroying the three elements that promote safety in marriage…truth, trust, and commitment.

Think of a triangle. Triangles are used in construction because they give strength and stability to the structure. But if one side of a triangle is bent or taken away, it loses its strength and collapses.

Think of a marriage as a triangle. the first side is truth, the second side is trust, and the third side is commitment. If any of these is damaged, the marriage becomes weak, compromised, and in danger of collapsing. Infidelity deals a destructive blow to all three sides of marriage…truth, trust, and commitment.

This is why infidelity is so crippling to a marriage, and why so many marriages never recover from the infidelity.


So if infidelity deals such a crushing blow to marriage, what can you do when you discover a spouse’s infidelity.

When infidelity is revealed in a marriage, there are three basic options:

1. End the marriage.

For some marriages, the breaking of truth, trust, and commitment is too much for the hurt spouse to overcome. The infidelity is just too overwhelming and they just can’t conceive of continuing in the marriage.

If the betrayed spouse is a Christian, they may fall back on Jesus’ allowance of divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness, and end the marriage.

Infidelity will end many marriages, but others will turn to the second option…

2. Try to just put it in the past and move forward.

In this option, the betrayed spouse doesn’t feel the freedom to end the marriage, but facing infidelity seems too daunting. So much to the relief of the spouse who was unfaithful, the betrayed spouse concedes to try to put the infidelity behind them and focus on moving forward.

Though this may sound good, and even gracious, to avoid dealing with infidelity is a lot like ignoring a cancer diagnosis. It often destroys the marriage slowly from the inside out.

This brings us to the third option, and the one that I believe holds the most promise…

3. Commit to seeing a counselor and doing the hard work of repair.

Let me say upfront, this is the hardest of the 3 options. It can feel brutal because it forces you to face the infidelity in great detail when you would rather just try to forget it and move on.

But if your marriage is going to heal and grow stronger, the terrible wound of infidelity must be opened up and cleaned out before it can be stitched up and healed.

Counselors differ in their approach to helping marriages recover from infidelity, but here is the general approach I take when trying to help a couple recover from an affair…

  • There’s an initial meeting with both spouses. This is to get the story and a feel for each spouse’s desire and investment.
  • Next, there’s an individual session with each spouse. This is not for the purpose of keeping secrets from each other, but rather to help each spouse be a little freer without worrying about how their words might hurt the other.
  • Session four is a disclosure session. At this session, the betrayed spouse can ask the betraying spouse any and all questions that are important to them. The questions can range from “Did you tell them you loved them?” to “Where and how did you have sex.” The purpose of the session is not about being voyeuristic, but rather to start rebuilding truth in the marriage. As you can imagine, this is a difficult session.
  • The remaining sessions focus on rebuilding the marriage and addressing anything that contributed to the marital drift. This is where we address the things that contributed to getting them to this point.

As you can tell, this is not a quick and easy process. And issues from the infidelity can continue to crop up long after the fact. But it is a process that will give the marriage the biggest chance of not just surviving but of thriving.

Does every marriage survive infidelity? No. Some don’t survive because the offender won’t submit to doing whatever is necessary to re-instill trust in their spouse. Others don’t survive because no matter how hard the betrayer works to repair things, the offended spouse just can’t (or won’t) let go of the offense so they can move on.

So, when it comes to counseling, there are no guarantees, but there are some strong possibilities.


Infidelity can ravage a marriage, and its effects can continue to pop up long after the fact. But with a lot of hard work and rebuilding of truth and trust, safety can be restored and a couple can build a marriage that’s stronger after the infidelity than before. I know, cause I’ve seen it.

The List – Don’t Accept Your Spouse


Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage, and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records and watching marriage fail.

Maybe you know the pain of not feeling accepted by someone. Nothing feels quite as lonely or demeaning as not feeling accepted by a person or a group of people.

Acceptance is not one of those things we typically talk about when it comes to marriage, but if your spouse doesn’t feel accepted by you, it can lead to the demise of the marriage.


When I was a kid, I was not very good at sports. In fact, I was lousy at sports. I wasn’t very coordinated, I wasn’t very competitive, and I wasn’t very interested. I was more into art and music.

So, when they were choosing up sides for a game, I was always the last to be picked. And in all honesty, I wasn’t really picked. Some team just wound up being stuck with me.

To this day, I still remember the hurt and the embarrassment of not really being accepted.

Maybe you can think of a time when you didn’t feel accepted. Maybe…

  • You were the new kid in school.
  • You weren’t interested in the same things as everyone else.
  • You looked or dressed differently.
  • You didn’t speak the same language.
  • You didn’t get the place or position you wanted.

No matter your age, you probably know the sting of not feeling accepted, and so you know why it’s so important to help others feel accepted…especially if that someone is your spouse.

You may be thinking, “My spouse feels accepted. I married them didn’t I?!” But there’s more to feeling accepted than just having someone on your team. Remember, as a kid, I wound up on a team, but I sure didn’t feel accepted.


Let me give you a simple definition of what it means to feel accepted. Acceptance is helping someone feel welcomed and wanted.

If someone doesn’t feel welcomed and wanted, they’re not going to feel accepted. And I can guarantee you that there are spouses out there that don’t feel that welcomed or wanted by their spouse. You may be one of them. Your spouse may be one of them.


It really is more simple than you think to help someone feel welcomed and wanted…to feel accepted. You can start with these three simple steps:

Greet Them Well.

If I come home from a hard day at work, and my wife grunts out “Oh, hey” and barely looks up from what she’s doing, it doesn’t do much for my mood or self-esteem. But if I come through the door after a long hard day and she looks up, breaks out a smile, and says, “I’m so glad you’re home!” My attitude takes an upswing for the rest of the night.

That’s the power of a simple greeting!

Do you greet your spouse as if they’re just another face in a sea of faces, or do you greet them as if you’re really glad to see them?

Treat Them Well.

This is the second way you can help your spouse feel accepted.

One reason your spouse was attracted to you in the first place is that you went out of your way to treat them well. You put them first, you deferred to the things they liked to do, you carefully watched your words and your attitude, you surprised them with things…in short, you treated them well.

Are you still treating them like that, or have you let those things slip? Are you still showing them how much you want them, or are you just taking them for granted?

Never stop treating them well, and they will never stop feeling appreciated.

Trust Them When Things Don’t Go Well.

This third step is so important because things will not always go well in your relationship. There will be times when you disagree and butt heads. There will be times of misinterpretation and missed expectations. And when these things happen, it’s really easy to convince yourself that the other person is intentionally being hurtful and malicious, and take it personally.

But just because you disagree and your emotions rise, it doesn’t mean that they’re out to get you or that they don’t want you. It just means you’re both fallible humans.

So give them the benefit of the doubt. Trust that despite the disagreement and emotions, they still love you and want you. It will make it easier for you both to continue to feel welcomed and wanted…even in the midst of difficult times.


I know this is a simple concept, but sometimes when something is that simple we just fail to think about it or do it.

Just because two people are married doesn’t mean they feel accepted. So work hard in your marriage (and your other relationships) to make sure people feel welcomed and wanted.

Because, if you do, not only will they feel accepted, they will reflect that acceptance back toward you.

And, if you don’t, it could eventually cause you to lose your marriage. Remember…IT’S ON THE LIST!

The List – Don’t Accept Your Spouse

Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records and watching marriage fail.

Ok. Let’s jump right into this. One of the ways you can lose your spouse is to not accept them.

You may be thinking, “I married them, didn’t I? What do you mean not accept them?”


Too many marriages fail because spouses have trouble accepting each other for who they are.

Now let me say at the outset, I’m not suggesting that you should accept abuse, adultery, addictions, or abandonment. These are things that are destructive to both you and to the marriage and should never be accepted as being ok.

What I’m talking about is accepting your spouse for the unique person they are…even if they’re different from you. (And they are!) Believe it or not, one of the things that attracted you to each other was your differences.

But after we’re married, we start trying to change those differences and make our spouses more like ourselves. This comes across as a lack of acceptance, and it feels not only disrespectful but also hurtful.

Most everyone has felt the sting of not being accepted at one time or another. Maybe…

  • You were the new kid in class.
  • You moved and had trouble making friends.
  • You looked different than others.
  • You spoke a different language.
  • You didn’t get the job or position you wanted.
  • You weren’t interested in the same things as others.

Whatever it was/is, you probably know what it feels like to not be accepted.

To not feel accepted in your marriage is soul-crushing. No one is perfect, but we all need to feel accepted…especially by our spouse. So, you need to help your spouse feel accepted in marriage.


Acceptance is one of those things that you know when you feel it, but it’s hard to define and put into words. So let me give you a simple definition of acceptance. Acceptance is simply…

Helping someone feel welcomed and wanted.

When you feel welcomed and wanted, you feel accepted. When you were dating, you worked hard to make each other feel welcomed and wanted. But the longer you’re married, the easier it is to not feel as accepted, because…

  • We stop trying so hard to accept each other once we’re married.
  • We let common courtesies fall by the wayside.
  • We get frustrated when married life doesn’t live up to our expectations.
  • We start focusing more on what we don’t like about our spouse than on what we do.

Many a spouse is hurt and withering in marriage because they feel unaccepted as a person.


I know this sounds like a big broad topic to get your hands around, but you can help your spouse (or anyone else for that matter) feel accepted…welcomed, and wanted…in 3 really simple ways:

Greet them well.

When I come home from work, if my wife grunts out a “hey” and barely looks up from what she’s doing, it sets the whole tone for my evening. But if she smiles at me, gives me a big “Hey, I’m so glad you’re home” it puts me in a completely different and better mood. If she comes and gives me a hug and a kiss, that’s even better.

It’s funny how a simple greeting can change a spouse’s attitude…all because they feel welcomed and wanted.

Treat them well.

Now granted, they may not deserve to be treated well. Maybe they’ve been grumpy, or ugly, or hard to get along with. But haven’t there been times when you were the same way, and you still wanted to be treated well?

So whether they deserve it or not, consistently try to:

  • Do nice things for them.
  • Think about what they might like.
  • Put them first.
  • Speak well of them.
  • Etc.

Again, you may not feel like it and they might not deserve it. But when you treat them well, they will feel welcomed and wanted. They will feel accepted. This boosts anyone’s spirits and tends to make them want to respond in kind.

Trust when things aren’t going well.

Just because you greet them well and treat them well, doesn’t mean things will always be well between the two of you. There will still be difficulties and conflicts between you that you will have to work out. But when that happens, don’t withdraw. Keep greeting them well and treating them well. Then:

  • Trust that they truly love you and will eventually be changed through your actions.
  • Trust God (if you’re a person of faith) that He will work to improve things between the two of you.


Here are two disclaimers to all of this…

  1. Acceptance is not a cure-all. It is not a magic tactic that fixes anything and everything.
  2. Nor should a spouse accept things like abuse, adultery, addictions, or abandonment. These must be corrected (usually with the help of a counselor or others) for the marriage to work.

But acceptance can be a powerful tool that can strengthen your marriage and draw you closer together. And the lack of accepting your spouse for who they are can eventually cause you to lose your marriage. And so…it’s on the list.

The List – Put Your Kids Ahead of Your Spouse

Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage, and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records.

When I have a couple in my office whose marriage is not doing well, I always ask them when things started to go south. More often than not, the answer relates to when they became parents.



You have a lot more resources prior to having kids. You have more…

  • Sleep.
  • Free Time.
  • Personal Time.
  • Social Time.
  • Flexibility.
  • Sex.
  • Spontaneity.
  • Privacy.
  • Money.

But after you have kids, these things become more scarce, and it puts more stress on spouses.


But there’s another dynamic that happens after we have kids, and that has to do with our changing roles.

Before children, we were just husband and wife. We were playmates; focused on one another. But when kids come along, we’re no longer just husband and wife. We’re also mom and dad. And this changes the dynamic of the relationship.

Wives shift into the mom role, and everything about them is centered on the child. If they carried the child in pregnancy, the child has already effected everything about them…including their body. Moms become very focused on the care and nurturing of children.

Husbands are different. Husbands tend to be a little slower to make the shift to dad role. Maybe it’s because dads don’t carrying the child for nine months. Or maybe it’s because husbands are just wired differently. Whatever the reason, husbands are not as centered on the child at first. All they know is they see their wife changing into a mom and they feel like they’re losing their playmate.

The Result.

So husbands will try to get their playmate back. This can be a bit annoying for wives, who often see their husband’s attempts as either a sign of selfishness or immaturity. So a wife will communicate to her husband that he’s an adult who can take care of himself, but this child needs her.

Eventually, a husband will quit trying to get his playmate back and succumb to the fact that he now has a mom in her place. Then, he will shift into a dad roll by working hard at his job to provide well for his family.

And thus begins the marital drift. Though there can be some flips in gender and wage-earner roles, by and large wives focus on kids and husbands focus on work. When kids become older and more self-sufficient, a wife feels a little more freedom to turn back toward her husband and reconnect. The problem is, the husband is now accustomed to his role as a hard-working provider and doesn’t easily make the shift back. And so distance and dissatisfaction begin to set in like concrete.


So, if putting your kids ahead of your spouse is one way to lose your marriage, then the remedy for this is to put your partnering back in front of your parenting. To be husband and wife first and dad and mom second.

So here are some things that will help you put your partnering in front of your parenting. You won’t be perfect at these things, but you don’t have to be. You just have to be better at them.

Make Time Together a Priority.

Caring for children carries big demands that often leave spouses with little time or energy at the end of a long day.

I’m not saying you should neglect you children. I’m just saying you should make sure you and your spouse get a cut of the time you have.

Spend daily time together. 

  • Maybe you can spend a few minutes together after you get home from work.
  • Maybe you can start putting your kids to bed 30 minutes earlier in order to get 30 minutes together before you go to bed.
  • Maybe you can find a few minutes together at the dinner table, after the kids have left the table.

Whatever works for you, find some time each day to connect. Then, you need to move on to…

Spend weekly time together.

Have a weekly date night. If you can’t go weekly, then go out every other week. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It just needs to be intentional. You were in love when you used to date, so continuing to date will help to rekindle some of that.

Some things won’t get done if you do these things. But, maybe spending a few minutes together is more important. Think of it not as a loss, but as a trade.

Make Financing Your Relationship Together a Priority.

Even if you have to eat Ramen Noodles one night a week or skip a trip or two to Sartbucks, make sure you budget money for date nights, baby sitters, movies, or whatever you want to do together. Spending time together is worth the sacrifice somewhere else. And you will eventually get to the place where you can afford it without the sacrifice.

Make Sex Together a Priority.

Studies show that there is a correlation between marriage satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. When sexual satisfaction increase, so does marriage satisfaction. Even 1 Corinthians 7:5 says we are to not forsake the sexual relationship in marriage, but rather to regularly come together for sex.

I know spouses often disagree on how often they should be having sex, but sit down, reach an agreement, and then stick to it. On those nights you’re going to have sex, help one another out with kids and chores around the house, in order to make time and energy for sex. You may also need to let some things go on those evenings, for the sake of having time for sex.

But you’ll be surprised how regularly enjoying sex together will strengthen the bond between the two of you and keep your marriage a priority.

Make Laughing Together a Priority.

If you’re not having fun with someone, why would you want to spend time them?

So find things that will make each other laugh.  Watch funny movies together. Tell each other jokes. Flirt. Recall funny moments. Do whatever you need to do to laugh together. Because when you don’t laugh together, it makes it harder to live together.

Make Goals and Dreams Together a Priority.

It’s easy to talk about your goals and dreams for your kids. But…don’t take this the wrong way…your kids are sort of temporary. They’re going to grow up, move away, and start marriages and families of their own.

So make goals and dreams for just the two of you. It’s a good way of reminding you that ultimately, the two of you are the priority. Even if you don’t reach every goal or dream you set, you’ve still had the fun and bonding of doing it together.

These are just a few of the things you can do to keep from putting your kids ahead of your spouse and losing your marriage. And now…


To some, putting your spouse ahead of your kids may seem wrong…or at least more idealistic than realistic. They may think, “I could never do this. You just don’t know how it is at my house! You don’t know how hard it is! If we do all of this, there won’t be enough time to get everything done!” And those that think that would be right!

I know it’s demanding at your house, and I know it’s hard. I’ve had to raise kids and maintain a marriage and family while going to grad school and working two jobs. And you’re right…there won’t be enough time for everything. But if you’re so busy that you have to put your marriage on the back burner to get it all done, then you have too many “priorities.” Not everything can be a priority, and how can you expect to have a rich marriage “later” if you’re not making the proper investments now?

So, keep your partnering ahead of your parenting, because putting your kids ahead of your spouse is one of the ways to lose your marriage. It’s on the List!

The List – Stop Spending Time Together

Some time ago, I spent a few days thinning out over 20 years of counseling files. As I went through each individual file, it was like a trip down memory lane. With each file, I could see their faces and remember their issues.

While doing this, I was struck by how many married couples I had worked with. I celebrated those couples who had turned things around and went on to have great marriages. But I also grieved over those marriages that ended in divorce.

Burdened by those marriages that ended in divorce, I began keeping a list of issues that contributed to those divorces. I discovered that, despite the uniqueness of each couple, there were some common and reoccurring issues that led to these divorces.  And with the exception of three or four “big” things,  most of the issues were smaller, more normal things that were left unattended for too long.

So, I compiled my notes into a list I called, “Ways to Lose Your Marriage” or just “The List” for short. And in the weeks to come, I’m going to be sharing this list with you. Each week, in no particular order, we will cover one way to lose your marriage.

So, here’s the first one.

One way to lose your marriage is to …


When we are dating, we try to spend as much time as possible together. Even if we have nothing to do or nothing to say, we still want to spend all the time we can together because we were in love.

But after we get married, and after the honeymoon time begins to wane, we gradually spend less and less time together. We get busy building a home, building a career, and building a family, and we forget to keep building our marriage. Then, one day, we wonder why we’re not as close as we use to be. The spark seems to have evaporated. The relationship is more routine…more business-like. It’s not like it used to be.

So as time goes on, you begin to drift apart. Oh, you’re still raising kids, paying the mortgage, cleaning the house, and mowing the yard. But you’re just not as connected anymore. And it all started because you gradually stopped spending time together. You didn’t intend to. It wasn’t personal. Life just kept taking more and more of your time, and your spouse started getting less and less of it.

When you stop spending time together, you set your marriage on a gradual course of dissatisfaction and (if not corrected) divorce.

When I talk about spending time together, I’m not necessarily talking about hours of uninterrupted time, staring into each other’s eyes, and talking about the secrets of your hearts. It’s more simple and less threatening than that. Think of it as intentional time together and unintentional time together.

Intentional Time Together.

Intentional time together is planned and/or scheduled time together. It could be a simple as a dinner or movie date, or as elaborate as a weekend getaway or a second honeymoon. And the act of scheduling and planning the time is almost as important as the time itself because it communicates to your spouse that you care enough about them to put some effort into it.

Unintentional Time Together.

Unintentional time is more casual, spur-of-the-moment time with your spouse. Things like: sitting together, running errands together, taking a walk together, etc. Believe it or not, these times are just as important as the intentional times together, because they can happen more frequently and can become a part of the daily routine of your life.


Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, but spending time together when we were dating was easier because we were in love and didn’t have as many things getting in the way. But I want to challenge that thinking. Maybe it wasn’t being in love that caused you to spend so much time together when you were dating. Maybe you were in love because you spent so much time together. And you still had demands and constraints on your time when you were dating. You had school, parents, work, friends, and the fact that the two of you weren’t living together. Yet you still found a way to work around those constraints. If you could do it then, you can do it now.

I know this may be difficult at first, especially if you’re at a place where you don’t want to spend time with your spouse. You may be hurt, angry, or wounded, and spending time with them is the last thing you want to do. But let me encourage you. Don’t put it off or avoid it for long. Because not spending time with your spouse is one of the ways to lose your marriage. It’s on the list.

Some Things About Growing Old Together…


When people (particularly young people) are getting married, they post things on social media like…

  • “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”
  • “You will always be my forever friend.”
  • “I look forward to growing old with you.”

And I’ll admit that in weddings I officiate, I often challenge a couple to love each other in a way that will take them from their first home to the nursing home.


But, if growing old together is such a romantic idea, why do we work so hard against growing old. We move from one diet to another, one workout to another, and one fad to another. All in a desperate attempt to…flatten our stomach, whiten our teeth, darken our hair, increase our stamina, and reclaim our fading youth.

When you’re starting out in marriage, growing old together may seem romantic. But, if you talk to people who have been married fifty, sixty, and even seventy years, you don’t hear them talk that much about romance. What they talk about is the difficulties they had to face:

  • Making ends meet.
  • Dealing with each other’s quirks and habits.
  • Making a home.
  • Raising kids.
  • Illnesses.
  • Uncertainties.

Oh, they will talk about the benefits of being married, but usually, it’s after they’ve talked about the difficulties of being married.


So let me inject a little realism into the romanticism of growing old together. Here are some things about growing old together you need to know…

  • You will both lose your looks, but you’ll gain a deeper love.
  • Life will gradually get more boring, but it will be more full.
  • Some big dreams will fade, but they’ll be replaced with better ones.
  • There will always be aggravation, but much of it will give way to appreciation.
  • At times, you’ll envy what younger couples have, but you still wouldn’t trade what you have.
  • You’ll be called to sacrifice much, but you’ll get more than you give.
  • Some of the frustrating things about your spouse won’t go away, but by then they won’t have to.
  • Your marriage will not be everything you hoped for, but it will be everything you need.

This may not be the romantic picture you would like, but it’s much more satisfying than resisting your old age and chasing after your fleeting youth.


I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Browning…

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life,
For which the first was made.
Our times are in his hand
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half;
Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”
(Robert Browning)

Listen to the theme here:

  • The best is yet to come.
  • The first was made for the last.
  • Youth is but a half.

If we will embrace these truths, then growing old together will get sweeter and truly worth our spent youth.

4 Simple Things That Will Improve Sex in Marriage

Maybe you’re in one of those rare marriages where sex is not a problem. Maybe you both agree on the when, where, and how of sex. If so, count yourself as fortunate. But most married couples wrestle with sex. (Pun intended!)


You’d think that something as fundamental to our nature as sex would be simple and easy. But it’s not. In fact, sex in marriage is often fraught with disagreements, misunderstandings, wounded egos, and fighting. There are at least three reasons for this…

1. Sex is very personal.

I know that’s an understatement, but it’s true. Sex is personal because it involves…

  • How we see ourselves.
  • Our self-confidence.
  • How we feel about ourselves.
  • Our self-esteem.
  • Our fear of rejection.

2. Gender Differences.

When it comes to sex, we tend to act like our spouse should think as we think and want what we want. Yet, we are different…

  • Anatomically. – The anatomical differences that attract us, also make it difficult to understand each other’s experiences and desires.
  • Hormonally. – We are driven by predominantly different hormones. It’s as difficult for wives to understand testosterone drives as it is for husbands to understand estrogen drives.

3. Social Messages.

Despite our society’s push to create gender-neutral environments, males and females are different. They are raised differently and given different messages about their gender. For example, if males act out sexually, people say things like, “Boys will be boys.” But if females act out sexually, they are considered loose and immoral. We then carry these cultural messages into marriage, complicating a sexual relationship that should be free and open between spouses.


You and your spouse don’t have to resign yourselves to lives of frustration and misunderstanding when it comes to sex. There are 4 simple things that will improve any married couple’s sex life.


It always amazes me how spouses can get naked in front of one another, and go through the various acts and positions of sex…yet have trouble talking about it!

Yes, talking about sex is personal. It requires vulnerability to talk about your likes and desires regarding sex. And your spouse may not have the same sexual wants and desires as you.

But with all the gender differences, and personality differences, and up-bringing differences between you and your spouse…there’s no way to make things better apart from talking about sex. Sex is like finances, raising kids, or any other part of marriage…for it to get better you need to talk about it.

Too many spouses try to hint about sex…when they want it and how they want it. But this is a recipe for frustration and hurt feelings. Let me give you an example…

One night, I was feeling a little amorous and wanted some sexual time with my wife. But instead of telling her what I wanted, I did the following:

I said, “Tonight, don’t worry about the kids. I’m going to give them their baths and put them to be a little early.” My wife said, “That’s great!” And I thought to myself, “Yes! she got the hint!”

After the kids were in bed asleep, I yelled down the stairs to my wife, “The kids are asleep. I’m going to go take my shower.” She said, “Great. I’ll be up in a minute.” So I took a shower, fully expecting to come out of the bathroom and find my wife naked on the bed. But when I opened the bathroom door, she was nowhere to be found. The bed wasn’t even turned down!

A little miffed by this, I yelled downstairs, “I’m out of the shower now!” And she yelled back, “Ok. I’ll be up in a minute.” So I climbed in bed naked, and I waited…and I waited..and I waited…getting madder by the minute!

Finally, I did the cowardly thing. I snuck down the stairs and peeked around the corner, only to find my wife kicked back in the recliner, newspaper in one hand, snacks in the other, and watching TV.

I went back upstairs furious. “How could she stand me up like that?! How could she reject me?!”

After a few days of pouting, I finally told her how upset I was. And her reply was, “If that’s what you wanted, why didn’t you say so!”

She was so right. I wish I could tell you I learned my lesson then, but I still fall into that hinting trap from time to time.

Hinting is not a good idea when it comes to sex, so talk about what you want and when you want it. Talk about what really works for you, as well as what doesn’t. Talk about things you would like to try. And talk about how you might like to change things up.

It may be awkward at first, but this one habit will improve things greatly in your sex life.


Timing involves two different things…

The “when of sex.

This refers to the time and place sex can occur during the day.

Is it always at night or can it be during the day? Can you have sex in the morning, or is that not a good time? Is sex something that can be spontaneous, or does it need to be planned? Can it happen when the mood strikes, or does everyone need to be freshly showered? Is the bedroom the only place for sex, or can it occur in other rooms and places?

The “how often” of sex.

The second part of timing refers to how frequently the couple should have sex.

It’s rare that a husband and wife agree on how frequently they should have sex. Husbands usually want sex more frequently than wives, but there are times when that gender stereotype is flipped and it’s the wife who wants sex more than her husband.

As a side note…if a husband is experiencing a low sex drive, I always encourage seeing their doctor and having their testosterone levels checked. If there are no testosterone or medication issues, then there may be something going on between the couple that needs to be addressed in counseling.

What should you do if you and your spouse have different ideas about sexual frequency? I encourage each spouse to say how often they would like to have sex. Then I have them target the number in the middle. It’s not a perfect solution. It will be more often than one would like, and not as often as the other would like. But it’s a good place to start.


Trust is an absolute necessity for good sex in marriage. Your spouse must fully trust you in the bedroom in order to relax, let go, and totally enjoy the experience. And this is especially true for wives.

But this kind of trust must be earned long before the bedroom. This kind of trust is earned daily by:

  • Showing you care more about your spouse than yourself.
  • Keeping your word…even in little things, like taking out the trash or being on time.
  • Not making fun of your spouse or treating them sarcastically.
  • Speaking well of them, in front of others, as well as when it’s just the two of you.
  • Caring about the things they care about.

When your spouse can trust you with the small things, then they can trust you with the big things…like sharing their bodies.

But trust is also built in the bedroom by never pressuring your spouse to do something they’re uncomfortable doing…even if you see nothing wrong with it. This will definitely wreck your trust with your spouse…both in the bedroom and out of the bedroom.


When it comes to sex, trying means 2 things…

Continuing to working on your sex life. Contrary to popular opinion, sex does not come naturally. It requires work, effort, and practice. And just when you think you’ve got it, then things change. Stage of life changes. Demands change. Heath changes. Body shapes change. The relationship changes. And on and on it goes. So you must continually work on your sexual relationship.

Keeping things fresh. This is the other part of trying. Like any other part of life, sex can easily fall into a rut or routine. We wind up having sex the same way, at the same time, and in the same place. No one wants to have the exact same meal over and over again, and the same is true for sex.

So change things up occasionally. Surprise one another. Try a different location, a different time of the day, or a different position. Use candles or music to set a mood. If your spouse is typically the aggressor, you take that role for a change. Extend the foreplay. Throw in an unexpected quickie occasionally.

I know it’s harder to find the time and privacy you need when you have kids in the house. So you’ll have to set aside money for sitters, arrange for your kids to sleep-over with friends, plan some quick get-aways, and even invest in a good sound screen and a good lock on your door.

Do what you have to, but don’t let your sex life grow routine and predictable from a lack of effort and planning. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.


These four things (talking, timing, trust, and trying) are great ways to breathe some new life into sex and make sex better for you and your spouse. And even if your spouse doesn’t seem interested in putting effort into these things, you put the effort into the things you can do. I guarantee it will still make a difference in your sex life and your marriage.