Lukewarm marriages

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“Why am I here?”

Following up on the idea that Not divorcing is not enough, not fighting is not enough either. Marriage is not supposed to be lukewarm, and when it is it tends to die. A fair number of divorces occur not because anything is horribly wrong, but because the couple has become little more than room-mates. In the church, many such couples stay together, or last longer, but they are hardly the example of Christ and His bride that God called us to be. Aside from that failure, the couple is cheating each other out of a lot of good things, and they are setting a very bad example for their children and others around them.

Dr. Paul Amato, a sociologist at Penn State University, says that more than half of divorces happen “in low-conflict marriages”; marriages, which he says, are “good enough” to be saved. Pamela Haag, author of Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, & Rebel Couples says that two thirds of the divorces in the United States are among “so-so” couples. She says many of these couples actually choose “semi-happy” out of a desire to have safe and stable marriages. Unfortunately, that is not enough to make a marriage strong, and a weak marriage is far more susceptible to divorce. Hagg also suggests that too much focus on children is a big part of the problem in many of these marriages.

A common way this plays out, in my experience, is like this. A couple gets married. She wants stability, and she avoids things that would create passion and deep connection to focus on safe and stable. She is not trying for boring, but it’s the result. He finds other places to be connected and to feel needed, appreciated, and important. His work and hobbies become too much of his life, with his marriage being too little. He’s not thrilled, and it’s not really his choice, but he makes the best of it. Then they have kids, and this just intensifies all of the above, especially if mom makes the kids too much of her life. Eventually the kids get old enough that the wife can no longer fill her entire day, every day, with the kids. Suddenly she is lonely and bored. She looks to her husband, but he has developed patterns, and is not really interested in change. She makes a few poor efforts to let him know what she wants, and he misses it. So, she starts to looks for other places to be connected and to feel needed, appreciated,, and important. Somewhere along the line one of them, usually the wife says, “Why am I here? This is not a marriage, and it’s not doing anything but holding me back.” At that point the couple is years beyond fixing the problem. I’m not saying it can’t be fixed at that point, but it’s way late in the game for the needed turn around, and odds are one of them is already gone in all but body.

Okay guys, here’s what you need to know: Lukewarm, so-so, semi-happy marriages don’t cut it. Even if your bride nudged, or pushed, for such a marriage, she will eventually grow tired of it. She may or may not leave the marriage, but her heart and mind will leave the marriage. If your marriage is semi-happy, you have a problem. You may not see the problem for years, but there is a problem, and by the time you do see it, it may be too late to do anything about it. Start fighting for a better marriage now, while there is still time to change things. Be ready to push even if she does not want it, and be ready to sacrifice to move forward.

The good news is that you can have a much better marriage if you are willing to work at it. If you are not too far down the lukewarm marriage path, you can turn it around. Let your bride know you want a better marriage for both of you, and for your kids. Let her know you are ready to fight and sacrifice to have a better marriage, and as lovingly as possible, don’t take no for an answer.

By the way, the Monday guest post on The Generous Wife is applicable to this topic: Happiness is a Choice 

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8 Comments on “Lukewarm marriages

  1. “He finds other places to be connected and to feel needed, appropriated, and important.”

    Do you mean “appreciated”? You used “appropriated” twice in the post, but I don’t think that means what you mean. :)

  2. Once again you hit the bull’s eye. I see so many couples who have waited years for things to get better but without really doing anything different. I offer hope if they will put in the effort. It would be so much easier if couples wouldn’t wait. Divorce isn’t the only remedy (and often isn’t the best one). The other requires they get clear about who they are, what they need, AND what they are willing to put into the marriage. This is scary and requires being vulnerable. It’s also the only way I know to have the kind of marriage most people say they want.

  3. One of the most accurate and poignant posts I have read. Well said.
    In Revelations 3:16 we must be cold or hot or we will be spewed out. This imagry is the same in our marriages…if we are cold the deficiencies in our marriages become obvious, and likewise when hot our marriages look and feel great…but lukewarm, just ‘good enough’ is the most dangerous place to be.
    When was the last time you queried yourself on how your marriage is doing? Then asked you wife the same question? Don’t ask these questions unless: you are willing to be honest, willing to listen, and willing to change yourself.
    Of course if your not willing to do those things you might already be lukewarm.

  4. Sounds just like where we have been for too many years; like 25 or 30! I gave up years ago; guess I don’t have any idea how to push her off the cliff, so to speak.

  5. “Start fighting for a better marriage now, while there is still time to change things. Be ready to push even if she does not want it, and be ready to sacrifice to move forward.”
    “Let her know you are ready to fight and sacrifice to have a better marriage, and as lovingly as possible, don’t take no for an answer.”
    What might this look like in action? I know each marriage is different, but what would be some examples to start me off thinking? I’m the wife, by the way.

    • Pursing your spouse needs to be your highest priority behind pursuing Christ!
      Date Nights at least once a month. It’s a start, eventually working towards weekly dates. I’m not talking about dinner and a movie. Movies are great for entertainment, but you need to entertain each other. If possible revisit the places you went to, when it all started and don’t forget to reminisce!
      ( guys: Affection…affection…affection and ladies: respect…respect…respect)
      It is about body language and small talk (big talk too: conversations not about your day), spending time face-to-face (try making it the first 15-30 minutes when they get home from work). Show genuine interest in your spouse. A great resource to better understand what your spouse needs from you is the 5-Love Languages from Dr. Gary Chapman.
      My wife needs to know I have her best-interests at heart and I know she has mine. The bible says Jesus is interceding on our behalf to the Father…what should we be doing then for our spouses? We need to be praying for them.
      What hobbies is your spouse interested in? Can you get interested in them too? Sharing hobbies together is an excellent way to get to know them (again). Hopefully your spouse will see your interest in them and will reciprocate with more interest in your hobbies.

      Finally if you have kids and are home-age, make sure they do not take precedence to your spouse. Remember those 15-30 minutes? Don’t allow them to interrupt. It is just as important for them to see you preferring your spouse to them getting “attention”. This may be considered controversial however make sure your kids see your affection for your spouse.


  6. I was in one of those lukewarm marriages for too many years, and was just going along, figuring that’s what happened as marriage progressed. This post hit the nail on the head. We can settle for “as is” or push for excellence. Making the break was not easy, and there was a lot of resistance, even still today on some issues. Expressing how things should change took courage and was a challenge, but overall was worth it. There were many hard discussions, disagreements and frustrations that had to be worked out based on how things had gone and how we expected the other to act. But, if the choice is comfort in complacency, or discomfort in growth, I’ll take the discomfort any day.

    Paul, this has to be one of your best posts yet!

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