Five Ways to Build Bridges When There is Distance in Your Marriage
Recently, my husband and I were running some errands in downtown Honolulu. It was just the two of us, and we were enjoying a little time away from our rowdy boys. But we were both distracted: Dave was getting many calls from the hospital, and thinking about the work waiting for him there…I was going over my mental to-do list, and calculating where and when I needed to pick up our boys.
Suddenly, just as we neared a corner where we waited to cross the street, the scene brought me back in time. I had a little flashback. I suddenly saw a much younger Monica and Dave, on a similar street corner, 17 years ago. It was dark, and we were on the streets of Portland, Oregon. We had been dating a short time, and Dave had just recently came to the conclusion that I was the woman for him. In our brief season of dating, he had determined that he wanted to be with me for the rest of his life.
Nearing that corner in downtown Portland, Dave did something completely out of character–something unlike anything he had ever done before, or has ever done since. Something that, if you know Dave, you may not believe could be true. In a moment of wild abandon, Dave stopped, turned to me, and waved his arms as if trying to get everyone’s attention, and yelled in a loud voice: “See this girl! I’m in love with her! I love Monica!” Though I think the streets were pretty empty, he was ready and willing to tell the world.
I blushed and giggled, loving every single second of this public display of adoration. It was one of those moments that will be etched in my romantic head forever.
Fast forward to Dave and Monica, running errands last week. That flashback hit me, and I’d be a liar if I said that it didn’t affect me. In a brief moment of temptation I had a few thoughts race through my head: “Wow things have sure changed,” and “I’d be happy if he just held my hand at this point.” I wasn’t expecting any public proclamation of his love for me, but maybe just a little affection.
Instead he checked his pager, made another call, and walked across the street, a few feet ahead of me.
To be fair, Dave is often quite good at showing affection. He has actually grown to be more thoughtful over the years. But as time seemed to freeze for that moment, I pondered all of this, and what I ought to do with the whole thing. And I do believe that there is a message in it. For all of us.
TO THE MEN: Whether you’ve been with your girl for 7 months, 17 years, or longer, she will ALWAYS love some attention, and adoration. It is a rare woman that doesn’t eat that stuff up until the day she dies. So do it. Don’t waste a day. Be romantic, and spontaneous, and be every bit the gentleman you were when you met. (and then some.)
TO THE WOMEN: If you sense a distance between you and your man, don’t let it grow into a gulf. Do not let some space cause you to move even further away from your husband. When you sense a lack of emotional and physical intimacy, please, do something about it! I know it is hard. Sometimes it is the last thing you feel like doing. I also understand if you are sick and tired of being the only one to initiate conversation, or plan dates, or put effort into your relationship. We women crave attention, and affection, and I’m 100% a woman as far as all of that goes.
But please listen, and write this down if you must: Our men need us just as much as we need them. Sometimes–whether it is their personality, or the season that they are in, our men just don’t have it in them to reach out. They carry a heavy burden, and often they are as worn and weary as….(dare I say,) as we think we are. And sometimes even more.
Sometimes, our men need us to reach out to them. To bridge the gulf. To make the first move.
When I make that first move to reach out to Dave, he is quick to respond. He appreciates my attention, and he in turn draws near to me. Once a connection is made, it opens the way for communication, and everything seems to improve.
Maybe some people don’t go through this kind of thing at all, but if you relate, and could use some tips, I’ve got a few to share. Here are some of the ways I have reached out to my husband when a little distance creeps in… I hope a few of these might be useful to you too.
Five Ways to Build Bridges in Your Marriage.
1. Touch him. Literally, walk across the room, put your arms around his neck and hug him. Get over yourself, and initiate touch. It might feel mechanical at first, but that connection can work wonders between the two of you. Touch his arm as you speak.
And remember flirting? It still works.
2. Compliment him. Did you know that men need to be built up at least as much as we women do? Compliment him physically–our guys need to hear that they are attractive to us. Notice his muscles, his smile, tell him he looks strong. Even if you feel silly doing it, I bet you’ll see him check himself out in the mirror soon after. (and don’t laugh when he does!)
3. Tell him you think about him when he isn’t with you. Let him know that you think about how hard he works, or how you look forward to time together, or maybe something more…personal. Set the tone and he’ll most likely reciprocate. Even if it takes time!
4. PLAN something for the two of you. If he isn’t the romantic type, it’s really OK. What you see in Hollywood is not actually the norm, believe it or not. So: You be the one to plan something! He’ll be happy once you are out , away from kids, and work, and everything. Plan something you’ll both enjoy. Something active, even a walk is a great start. Or take him to an action movie. Do something fun. Lighten it up.
5. Cook something just for him. The stomach will always be the way to a man’s heart. If you’re a mom, you likely cook a lot of meals geared to your kids’ taste, or convenience, or a budget. Maybe it’s time to go back to cooking some of you and your husband’s favorite things. Let him know you were thinking of him when you picked up the steak, or baked his favorite dessert. It really does work, ladies.
Another little tip from my experience: I find that the more I simply focus on who I want to be as a woman…as a person…the more naturally I become a better partner to my husband. Some things I think of:
I do not want to be needy, weak, or insecure. I don’t want to be harsh, or critical, or quick-to-anger.
I want to be feminine, and strong, and wise, and beautiful.
So I ask: How does a woman who is feminine and strong and wise and beautiful respond to whatever situation I am facing.
And then I do it. (Or at least I try!)
You’ll never be able to control another human being, but you can be the very best you possible. And sometimes being the best you includes the wisdom to humbly reach across a distance.
Because strong women build bridges.
Feel free to comment with any thoughts on this topic. And as always, if it has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your friends using the buttons below! Mahalo.
PS Some of my favorite books on marriage:
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs
You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
(I have not read this one but have heard great things.–>)The Love Dare
I loved this. Thank you
I have also found that remembering my husband’s love language and deliberately speaking in that language (even though it is not my own and sometimes feels like a lot of effort) is also a good bridge builder.
Thank you for the encouraging reminder that our marriages and our husbands are worth it. I love the question you posed at the end, ‘how does a strong, wise, beautiful woman respond?’
I adore this post, Monica. I recently discovered your blog via MOB on Facebook. We have two toddler boys (4 and soon to be 3). I am refreshed by your offerings here and this post is such a sweet motivator to love on my thoughtful, generous, God-pursuing hubby and a reminder to not hyper focus on our little blessings (as needy as they may be). Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Tricia! So glad you hopped over here and thank you for the encouraging words! 🙂 Yes, keeping priority and perspective is not always easy, but very much a worthwhile effort. Aloha to you–
monica… you never cease to amaze me…honestly. This is some of THEBEST advise I’ve ever heard.
i cry when i read your posts.. your truly gifted at this.
love you friend!
I like this and I completely agree with it. A marriage should be 100/100 always. Realistically though, folks have their ups and downs. A spouse should be willing to pick up the slack when the other is down…that is team work. However, I find it extremely difficult to ALWAYS be the one to do these things…to always pick up the slack. I have a hard time making excuses for the other party. If I, in my hardest of hard times can still give, then why can’t he?
Thanks for this! It was a great reminder, it was actually just last night that everything came to its breaking point between my husband and I. 2 years into marriage and it already feels like its falling apart.Hoping these tips help!
So sorry Katie. Our first years were definitely our hardest. There must be a commitment to working things out. No question of a way out. And yes, humbly being the first to reach out will be one step in the right direction. Hang int here and do not give up! aloha-
Thanks for sharing this. You are so wise!
Thank you so very much for this post. It came at the perfect time and I am going to try all 5 things. I do want to be strong
Awesome Melissa, thank you for commenting! You be strong, do your part to make connections, and I am sure that the blessings will flow! 🙂 XO
That is what I am hoping for. I have faith in God’s plan. Thank you.
Excellent advice!!!thank you so much Monica. In my heart you and Dr. Swanson is a perfect couple. And you are nutrious every day..
Thank you!! May God bless you for your posts. I follow you constantly as my husband is a provider and we have two little boys. I feel God brought you just for me at times!!! Blessings!!!
Great stuff xxxx
Once again you’ve spoken straight to me! My family is going through a lot right now which is not uncommon, I’m pretty sick a lot of the time and things always seem to hit while I’m down. My husband ALWAYS carries us all, and he does it so well and so quietly that it became easy to expect it. It’s easy to forget that he is at least as “worn and weary” as I am – more so, no doubt. I know the point of this post was far more than the one tiny sentence that hit me the hardest, but I really needed to hear (read!) it. I can work at some of your suggestions (not all, I am pretty sick) but hopefully it will make his burden a little easier to bear when he sees me making an effort to show him how much I love and appreciate him.
Wow! This was a good one and exactly what was on my heart yesterday! I was just thinking about how much I miss time for romantic moments with my husband. Now I will be the one to start. Thank you for that nudge in the right direction. Summer has been a bit exhausting with 4 little boys, and I even homeschool! I mean, why would summer be different? But I guess not having the structure of school makes them extra rowdy. I’ve been craving some feelings of the old times, when I would get dressed up for a date, and feel feminine and beautiful. Now I just feel like the snack giver and meal maker. I’m going to start reclaiming the strong, feminine, wise and beautiful mama that I am!
This is exactly what I needed to read right now. I’m married to a strong/silent type guy & it feels lonely most of the time. I need to initiate more! <3
Thanks for the reminder!!
You are so right,even at 70 that works.
Bidda! So sweet–I love that, and hope that other people take that comment to heart! 🙂 Thanks so much. Much aloha, and hope that foot is recovering quickly~
I’ve found these last couple of posts on marriage/parenting really thought provoking and super helpful. Thanks for taking the time to post on these topics- really appreciate it.
This is a great post, exactly what I needed to read right now! Thanks!
Great post and much needed! Being caught up in being a mom and trying to figure out how to balance life is hard, and sometimes I forget to focus on my husband. This was a great reminder:)
This is soooo good. It’s crazy how fast a little distance can grow between work and kids and life in general. I must be more intentional to bridge the gap. Thank you for the tips 🙂
Thanks Monica, I really like the ending about the woman that I want to be. This is just what I needed to hear this morning 🙂
Thank you Emily! Funny, I just added that at the end, but it just jumped in there and I decided to keep it. So glad it encouraged you. Bless you far away friend!!
I know this post wasn’t really targetted at people like me, but here are my thoughts:
Firstly, I definitely can’t imagine Dave doing that thing on the street corner! 🙂
And secondly, if only more women would just listen to number 4 and watch an action movie with their bloke once in a while… 🙂
Yes Greg, I actually always think of “blokes” like you when I write a post…I think there was something in there for you too–just tuck it away! 🙂 Aloha!