Apr 102013 18 Responses

When Your Marriage Feels Like You Just Co-Exist

I hear it every week:

  • “We are living parallel lives.”
  • “She does her thing and I do mine.”
  • “I feel like we just co-exist.”

Most marriages do not end with a spectacular fight; they end with an apathetic whimper. What began with passionate love devolves to an emotionless relationship which slowly dies. But it doesn’t have to be that way. (See: The Warning Sign of a Bad Marriage You Might Overlook)

Just as a marriage can devolve into two people simply co-habitating, it can also evolve into an intimate bond with two individuals longing to be together.

If you feel like you simply co-exist with your spouse, don’t call the divorce lawyer. Don’t seek someone that makes your heart come alive. Don’t give up assuming you are stuck in this relationship.

If you feel like you co-exist:

Admit it. Don’t deny it. Don’t assume everyone feels the same way. Admit it to yourself and your spouse. Without attacking, without blaming, without judgment, vocalize it. Recall the way things use to be. Voice your desire for more; not just a desire for more with someone, but a desire for more with your spouse. Until a couple is willing to admit they don’t like the path they are on, they will not change directions.

Repent of it. Marriage is supposed to be more than a co-existence of two people. If you are just co-existing, you are living less than what God intended. To repent is not to figure the percentage of blame each person holds, it is to confess to God that each person plays a part in the marriage being less than what it could be. It is best to repent as a couple, but if your spouse won’t admit the marriage is bad, repent of your mistakes. Repent of whatever responsibility you have for where the marriage currently is. Even if all you can repent of is that you didn’t say something earlier, repent.

Do something about it. Admitting and repenting are two big steps, but unless we do something about it, we are destined to stay in an unhappy marriage. We must do something about it.

If your marriage is going through a bad season, something as simple as taking a trip can be a great jump start to reconnecting. One of the biggest mistakes couples make is failing to spend quality time with one another on an annual basis away from the normal stresses and strains of life. It doesn’t require a grand vacation or a remote spot, any place that is a different scenery, is free from the normal day-to-day demands, and allows the couple to spend time with each other will work.

Most marriages need more attention paid to them. A cheap and effective way to focus on marriage is to read a book together about marriage. Read John Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work (and actually do the exercises) or Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage or Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. Give focused attention on a day to day basis to your marriage and watch what happens. Attending a class on marriage can also work. Nearly every church has a small group geared toward marriage, sign-up, attend, and study.

Far too few couples ever attend a marriage retreat, but they can powerfully combine a change in setting with an intentional focus on the relationship. Couples who attend a marriage retreat might talk more about their relationship in 48 hours then they have in ten years.

A powerful tool for changing one’s marriage is finding a mentor couple. Talking through issues about one’s marriage with someone who is further down the road and has survived your current state of life can be a marriage altering experience. Consider someone who has a marriage with you respect and invite them to dinner, ask them for help, and figure out a way to improve your marriage.

All of these steps can be taken in coordination with going to counseling. When a car is broken you call a mechanic. When your child doesn’t feel well you call a doctor. So why don’t more people call a counselor when their marriage is sick? Whether it be pride, embarrassment, ignorance, or some other reason, this basic step is so often overlooked. Nearly every couple could benefit from counseling at some point in their marriage. (See: 13 Questions to Gauge if you need Marriage Counseling)

Marriage can be much more than two people co-existing. It can be a meaningful and intimate well-spring from which all of life flows. Instead of living parallel lives, we should strive to increase the points of intersection with our spouses and make those points the most meaningful in life.

As a pastor, one of the most frustrating aspects of my job is trying to convince people that the marriage they are in can heal and be the most meaningful relationship in their lives. They can, but it only happens when people admit where they are, repent of how they got there, and do something about it.

For more, read:

How to Stay Married in the Tough Times

You Aren’t the Perfect Couple


18 Responses to When Your Marriage Feels Like You Just Co-Exist
  1. Susan Haines Reply

    Need a couple to testify to the last paragraph? By God’s grace, we’re that couple. To Him be the glory! He rescued us!

  2. fanny Gobes Reply

    But what if the other party is unwilling to work through the problems

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      If my spouse were unwilling to work on some issues, I would personally begin counseling without the spouse to see what steps I could take to make the situation better.

  3. […] One of the guarantees of marriage is that we will experience days, months, seasons of staleness. It&... kevinathompson.com/rejuvenate
  4. […] But it doesn’t have to be this way. (See: When You Feel Like You Just Co-Exist) […]... kevinathompson.com/wonder-dont-love
  5. liz Reply

    Too much damage has been done. My husband had an affair and I tried to give it the better part of a year. Now I’m at the point where I don’t want to reconnect.

    • Jerry Williamson Reply


  6. Linda Butler Reply

    My husband and I need help! Fast.


    I’m not married but I’ve been engaged for a year now. My fiance and I have been together now for 9 yrs. We have always loved each other but after 3 kids, work and other daily task it seems we have forgotten each other. We never get any alone time because we have no help with our children so everywhere we go we all go! Lately we argue alot without anything being resolved and I feel like we are both very unhappy..it hasn’t always been this way and I pray we can get back to how things were

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Brittney, it’s a common story. One key is to step outside of the routine and find a way to reconnect.

  8. Denise Reply

    Hey I read a couple articles of yours. The one on a silent marriage really describes my marriage. We have been married for 25 years and to be honest, there have been many more bad memories than good. Our marriage is cold and dead dead dead.The breaking point was last week when my daughters were with him in a serious boating accident and he didn’t bother to call me- he had my minor injured daughter to call me at work and it took him a few hours to show up at the hospital.This is not the 1st time but the 3rd. He has never enjoyed family outings. The only 2 reasons that I haven’t left is my kids and walking away from God. Thanks for letting me write this….Denise

  9. kelton garvin Reply

    I’ve been married for only two months and I already I’m filling like I made a big mistake, she’s an educator and her family is as well. they come across as a dominant headstrong inevitables and the only ones who make the money. nothing I say seems to strike an interest, in fact,
    whatever I say seems to be looked over and is never interesting to them at all. I fill like an oddball in the bunch! she also has kids with someone else which is also a hard act to follow, I’ve given up everything to make this woman happy by trusting everything she said we would be for our future, and it just seems that we are co-existing. I’m tired and I fill like packing up and disappearing without a trace!! nothing I say can or will make a difference at this point, well that’s I’m filling! I fill like she can do better than me and to add salt to the wound she is pregnant with are baby. SMH!! found that out right after we talked about not having one because it was too much going on that we need to work out first. please, i need all the advise I can get.

  10. Catherine Reply

    My husband is 70 and I am 67. We be been married for 4 years. He orders me around, tells me what to do and how to do it. I had 4 children,have run a house ,cook for several,clean,look great for my age, and love the Lord and love people,going to church and Bible study. Oh,he does too! But he’s rude to me, and doesn’t seem to respect me. We’ve been married for 4 years. He S hadc5 surgeries and 3 more are due. All joint replacements. I golf,walk, hike etc. He watches TV ,does things in the garage and yard, keeps up the cars,and barbecues. We don’t seem to have a life together. He isn’t funny,crumbles and complains ,critismes, and judges people.

  11. Craig Reply

    Mate, dont ask for replies when you just turn the other cheek and throw out “call a counselor and get some help”. Ridiculous and paints you in a poor light.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Craig, I don’t know what you mean by turn the other cheek. I’m just giving the best information I can.

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