When you get caught up in the business of marriage, the marriage starts to run more like a business or organization where two employees run side by side rather than enjoy an intimate, loving relationship with any depth. A “business marriage” becomes flat, stale, mechanical and unfulfilling, and it usually happens over time. “We’ve become roommates,” is also another complaint that I hear from couples who have experienced this phase in their relationship. Although it can happen gradually, it’s effects can be disastrous.
It’s certainly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day mechanics of your relationship roles, especially if you have kids and both of you have full-time jobs. There are schedules to plan, meals to prepare, activities to organize, and at the end of the day, it’s hard enough just to find five or 10 minutes for yourself, let alone with each other. What’s a struggling couple to do to rekindle or reconnect and prioritize their relationship or marriage?
So, what characterizes the “business” of the relationship?
- Issues concerning kids: appointments, activities, school, etc.
- Financial issues, like bills, taxes, investments, house issues (mortgage/rent), debt, purchases
- Family issues, either your own or yours or your wife’s family
- House projects, maintenance, remodeling and other plans for your home
- Plans, such as vacations, trips, weekend plans, plans for the future
- Other partnerships or roles that you both share that aren’t actually romantic or interpersonal connections
- Feeling flat, uninspired, unfulfilled, bored or generally on satisfied by your partner or by your marriage
- Checking out, whether emotionally, daydreaming you were somewhere else, or even having extramarital affairs or communication with other people
- Things that don’t “connect” you or allow you to get to know each other, see each other as people, and allow you to drop the roles you play in your marriage (e.g. parent, domestic person, breadwinner, etc.)
I think the immediate first thing to do with a problem like this is just to both acknowledge that you have fallen into this trap, and commit to turning it around. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, diagnosing it may be fairly difficult. Just being able to label it as such and both agree that that is what’s happening is a huge step forward towards rebuilding your marriage or relationship.
A lot of couples try to remedy this with more date nights. Date nights are fine and good, but what you do with date night is important: merely scheduling it out and following through with it isn’t enough. Date night can become just as scheduled as everything else in your routine, so what good is it if it’s hyper-planned and boring? What fun will you get from it if you’re not actually connecting with your spouse or partner while you’re on it?
I think planning chunks of time in which to work on the “business” of marriage or a relationship is important, so that you can prioritize those business elements of your relationship, and clearly differentiate it from the romantic or interpersonal part of your relationship. It’s important that you draw the line in the sand, or else the romantic part of the relationship can get overrun with the demands of the business side of the relationship. Taking a regular chunk of time weekly, or monthly, to work on the business matters will allow you to get all of the logistics out of the way, so that you can establish priority to the romantic or intimate part.
Ultimately, you may choose to seek out professional counseling to help work through the issues that have created your business marriage, and look at some of the origins or unexpressed negative emotions that you both may be harboring towards each other. It may be essential to look at the past, as much as you and or your spouse may not want to. Identifying and working through those issues may help you prevent them from returning and creating the same scenario you have today.
Sometimes, we use items that make up the business marriage to avoid dealing with the real problems in the marriage. It becomes easy to hide behind the business of the marriage or the logistics rather than actually turn and face the sometimes monumental issues having faced you as a couple for a very long time. The kids, plans, responsibilities, jobs and the like then become tools of avoidance and distance from your mate and the marital problems.
Avoiding your marital problems by using the “business” end of your relationship will only create problems in the end, especially if there are kids. When the kids grow up and leave the house, you won’t have any connection with your mate if you’ve been only good business partners, or have sought to avoid any marital issues by focusing on the business of the marriage, including the kids. Those roles can only take you so far.
Like most issues, prevention is the key. Taking the steps to ensure that your marriage does not have to go down the road of a business marriage is a wise investment if you want to enjoy a loving, intimate marriage that is mutually fulfilling years to come. You may not always share this type of connection, because life demands that you share some kind of business relationship together, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve balance somewhere in between.