It was about 13 years ago. On the other end of the phone line I heard my wife say something that I was quite unprepared for: “I cannot believe you got your own email address. First this, then what?”
You may remember that prior to the year 2000 many people (not all) did not use email as a primary communication tool. This was certainly the case for us; we had previously shared an address. This does not lesson my wife’s point however. She was concerned about any wedges in our relationship, however subtle that would have the potential for creating separation. As I look back I am thankful for her alarm.
One troubling observation that I have repeatedly made as I’ve observed married people is the tendency to live lives together apart. This occurs when people are united on paper but in practice they are two individuals. While they may share an address they are living very much separate lives. This is a pattern I have noticed among Christians and non-Christians, as well as people who are young (20’s) or older (60’s); doing things apart together does not seem to discriminate.
What does this look like?
This problem is evidenced in a variety of ways. People may go to the mall together and then split up when they get there to go look at what they want to do only to reunite upon their departure. They may spend their Saturdays ‘together’ at home while the husband putters in the yard all day and the wife quilts. Then they eat dinner together with the hubby watching football and the wifey reading a novel. Sure they spend a lot of time together in relative space but they aren’t really together. Take a look at the other couples when you go to restaurants, how many of them just sit and stare past one another? So many people are apart while together.
Christians struggle with the sakes types of things listed above, but we also have a sophisticated veil that we can put on this issue to make it appear godly. Many times Christian couples spend hours, even days apart doing ministry. The wife is home with the kids and the husband is off doing ministry. Then he comes home and to give her a break he’ll take the kids while she runs off and does her thing, perhaps ministry too.
Why is this a problem?
Please note that I am not advocating that husbands and wives should have their ankles tied together so that they cannot be more than 7 feet apart. I am not trying to be unreasonable.
What I am trying to show is that steady practice of living independent lives, even within close proximity to one another is falling far short of the design for marriage in general and Christian marriage in particular. The blessing of marriage is meant to be the sharing of ones lives, experiences, joys and burdens together. It is to be characterized by intimacy of relationship. This intimacy is not limited to the physical realm but also emotional and personal. To short circuit this by living two very separate lives is leave a lot of marriage wires cut and dangling.
As Christians we know that Christ is the husband (Eph. 5). His relationship to his bride, the church, is characterized by closeness, care, love and understanding. Husbands and wives are to model their marriages after what God reflects in the gospel. It is foolish to think of a the church living independent of fellowship, love and intimacy with Christ. And so it is with actual marriage, regardless of age or life station.
How does it happen?
It certainly does not happen over night. You don’t wake up on the first day of your honeymoon and say, “I’m gonna go play golf for 6 hours, how about you watch some Martha Stewart?” It happens over time. There are subtle decisions that are made every day that bring a marriage closer together or drift them further apart. If decisions are made without regard for promoting marital intimacy then it is a matter of time before the small wedge creates a lasting chasm. Small decisions on a daily basis aggregate into a lifetime that reflects the heart of the husband and wife toward one another. To quote the great theologian Bill Parcells, “You are what you are.”
How do you fix it?
If people drift apart slowly over time by avoiding intentional time and intimacy of conversation and life together then the answer would have to be intentionality. As Christians we should look at what is reflected in the gospel and find ourselves aiming to reflect the proper model. Furthermore, we should look at the imperatives (Eph. 5, 1 Pet. 3, etc) that come out of the gospel for clear and specific instruction.
The husband as the leader should look to intentionally make the marriage more close, more intimate. Take steps to initiate conversations, not just about stuff, but about one another. Talk, listen, learn. Hear each other’s hearts. I would much rather get less done on the outside and have a strong marriage than to do the inverse. Spend time together, together; and watch what begins to change.