Marriage: Use It Or Lose It

Buzz, Love

Your marriage is your most valuable asset but if you don't use it, you'll lose it.

After seven years of what appeared to be a loving marriage, Heidi Klum has filed for divorce from Seal following a three month separation. The couple issued a joint statement:

"While we have enjoyed seven very loving, loyal and happy years of marriage, after much soul-searching we have decided to separate. We have had the deepest respect for one another throughout our relationship and continue to love each other very much, but we have grown apart."

Really? How can a marriage that is loving, loyal, and happy between two people who deeply respect and very much love each other end on such a note? Yes, I know. It’s the standard excuse celebrity couples give until the truth of the matter eventually finds its way into the headlines. Nevertheless, here’s my two cents on the we’ve-grown-apart excuse:

I don’t deny that couples can grow apart. After all, life is dynamic. People change and sometimes that change makes them incompatible. For the most part, however, couples don’t “grow apart.” They “drift apart” because they stop talking to each other, stop spending time together, and stop sharing their lives. In a fast-paced world where face-to-face communication has been largely replaced by digital communication and couples, like Heidi and Seal, have demanding careers, the intimacy of one-on-one interaction is lost and when that happens the relationship begins to crumble.

What defines a marriage is what’s shared within that relationship. When you stop sharing, you stop being in relationship. Sharing takes time, time too few couples take. But, it’s not just sharing an experience that gives a relationship value. If it were, then the stranger who sat next to you on the roller coaster ride that scared the daylights out of you would have become a valued friend. What gives a relationship value is the ability to emotionally share an experience—not just the good feelings, but the freedom to express all your feelings about that experience, feeling safe enough to say how scared you were, how much it hurt, how badly you wanted it, how embarrassed you were, how you regret what you did or said, all without fear of judgment or loss of affection. To do that means you have to actually talk to each other. If you want your marriage to stay close, you must take that time.

The old use-it-or-lose-it adage is apt here. It's the sharing—physically and emotionally—that forges a marriage and keeps you close. Failing to do so allows you to drift apart. Carve out time and make a 100% commitment to spend that time in intimate togetherness. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Set aside fifteen minutes a day by, for example, waking up earlier or turning off the TV earlier.
  • Prepare and have dinner together. Don’t answer the phone and turn off all electronic devices.
  • Take an evening walk together.
  • Create and observe rituals, e.g., Thursday night date night, showering together when it rains.
  • Do errands together rather than “dividing and conquering.” Driving, strolling down the grocery store aisle, and other “mindless” tasks provide great opportunities for talking.
  • Every evening, just before turning out the lights, share with each other the best part of your day.
  • Schedule regular getaway weekends and vacations.
  • Be creative and, most importantly, be consistent.

    Your marriage is (or certainly can be) your most valued relationship. Use it or lose it.