By: Hollie Kowalski
Encompass Outreach Coordinator
“We’re just in a rut, I guess.” We can’t seem to find joy in each other’s presence. We feel tired and frustrated with one another. Hearing this explanation from a friend referring to her marriage made me think back to a time when my husband and I were in a similar place, a “joy gap” in our marriage. Then I started to wonder, how did we get there? How did we get out? How do we keep from getting there again?
All marriages will make some unexpected stops on the journey to forever. I’ve been married to the love of my life for almost 20 years and I can say with certainty that unfortunately even the best marriages will occasionally take a misguided detour into a “joy gap.” To steer your marriage as far away from this place as possible, you’ll need two main ingredients: time and attention. Without the commitment of both parties, your marriage will likely decide on the “joy gap” as it’s final destination. In our case, we recognized that we weren’t devoting enough time and attention to our relationship, and we had lost our rhythm.
A Spouse must be able to research and eventually recognize their partner’s rhythm. Once they know their partner’s rhythm, they can begin to synchronize their journey and develop a rhythm together. The three aspects of your relationship to begin synchronizing: emotional, intellectual, and physical/sexual.
Emotional Rhythm- This rhythm is the core component to your relationship. It’s the unspoken language between the two of you. It’s staying in tune with your spouse, being totally vulnerable, knowing when to be there for them with your touch, some comic relief, or as a sounding board and so much more.
My husband and I have developed routines for our favorite times to connect. Almost every workday we give a phone call/text to lend support, motivation, or just let the other know they are in our thoughts. Then, after dinner in the evening we enjoy sharing our day’s events and lending emotional support. We also can sense when specific days are emotionally exhausting, and words are too much. On days such as these, we look forward to being in each other’s arms.
Intellectual Rhythm- A good marriage requires (most often) aligning intellectually by discussing feelings, needs, accomplishments, dreams, goals, ideas, challenges, fears, and concerns on a regular basis. Try to remain attentive as the other one verbalizes and then reciprocate without dismissing or trivializing. Make sure you are both in the right frame of mind before attempting an intellectual discussion. (My husband knows I am not a morning person and talking to me about anything of importance during that time of day will generally create frustration and aggravation.)
Physical/Sexual Rhythm- Being in rhythm physically with your spouse means knowing how much and what kind of physical touch your spouse craves. My husband I are very physical beings. His primary love language is physical touch. If I’ve gone all day in his presence without a hand hold, resting my hand on his leg, or touching the back of his neck, he feels unfulfilled. (We joke that my primary love language is “all 5 of them.” - I’m complicated like that😊) If you and your spouse haven't already taken it, I highly recommend taking the 5 Love Languages Quiz.
After all this time, we know what the other needs physically and when to make ourselves available for intimacy, and we both agree that it’s not fulfilling when we try to have physical intimacy without emotional availability. If only we could go back in time and tell our younger selves what we know now. It would save us a lot of sleep deprivation from late night talks about physical/emotional connection!
My husband and I both NEED to stick to our specific rhythm to feel whole. Without it, we start to slowly get off course. I hope you can find the rhythm that synchronizes your relationship and devote the time and attention it takes to have a joyous journey to forever!
If you’re having difficulty finding rhythm in your relationship, contact Encompass! We can help you find your way back to each other emotionally, intellectually, and physically.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.