Last weekend, my computer succumbed to a nasty virus picked up at a rogue recipe web site. (That’s what I get for baking.) When the fake security pop-up appeared, I immediately knew I was in trouble, but it was too late. The more I tried to rid myself of it, the worse the problem became, as the virus duplicated itself and became more entrenched. I disconnected the tower and gave it to a professional, because winning the war against the evil virus developers (and they are evil) wasn’t as critical as preserving what was important to me.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we received blatant pop-ups in our lives every time our marriage faced risk? Sometimes one or both partners is sadly unaware of the drifting that is going on in a marriage. One of them is surprised months or years later to be served with divorce papers. The fact is, if we’re not working to improve our marriages, we are all drifting southward.
It might help if warning lights blared over our heads when we were in trouble; for example:
- When we haven’t made time for a date night in six months, and one or both partners is feeling bored in the marriage.
- If a wife meets an attractive new coworker for lunch, then doesn’t even share that with her spouse because she felt a spark and doesn’t want her husband to be jealous.
- When a husband feels neglected because his wife focuses all his or her attention on the children.
- You argue regularly about money, or the decision-making power that money represents.
- If one or both partners is feeling sexually dissatisfied, but isn’t willing to discuss the issues honestly, because they doubt things can be improved.
- A spouse doesn’t feel loved or respected in the marriage (even if the partner thinks he or she is showing love/respect).
- One partner believes the other isn’t trustworthy. It’s just a feeling.
- A wife daydreams about an ex, then connects with him on Facebook.
- Someone your spouse says is “just a friend” seems to be overly friendly to your mate—and not to you.
- A husband invests all his energy at work then is too tired to engage with his wife.
- Either partner wonders, “What if I had made another choice?”
If warning signs were going off, would you understand the urgency to disconnect and focus on the problem? Would you turn to a professional if the problem was just getting worse instead of better? Would you be able to communicate the urgency to your partner?
We have to rely on our own instincts (until someone develops an app for identifying marital risk). It seems when things start going south, problems often gain momentum. Maybe one partner starts complaining to family or coworkers. He or she spends more time with friends outside the marriage or on the Internet looking for escape. The spouses go to bed at different times, avoiding even the chance of intimacy. They pour themselves into work or the kids. It’s the virus duplicating itself, becoming more entrenched in the marriage. If you don’t give it your full attention, it can eradicate even the good parts of the marriage.
The best defense is a good offense. Do the regular virus checks, in the form of very open communication. Make time daily to connect with your spouse about topics other than children, chores and errands. Speak up if there’s someone you aren’t comfortable being around your partner or family. Respect your spouse’s feelings on perceived risks, because s/he is your life partner. Invest in having fun and building memories and experiences together—because you have to build something worth protecting.
What are the biggest marital viruses you see? Do you ever see any warning signs? Is it easier to see the warning signs in other people’s marriages?
Photo credit: ©Aloysius Patrimonio/PhotoXpress.com