When my husband and I started dating some 15 years ago, he was big into rock climbing. And I, I didn’t even know that rock climbing was a thing. I had never been in a harness…because thighs. I had never once scaled any kind of wall or rock type surface and I had zero upper body strength. None of this sounded fun.
I was also not a huge fan of heights, so there was that too. I was, however, a fan of this cute outdoorsy, athletic, guy, so I dove right in anyway and pretended that rock climbing was awesome. I joined him on a number of climbing adventures, I got my own harness (sigh…the things we do for love) climbing shoes, chalk bag, Nalgene water bottle and tried to impress my future husband with my “skills”.
In those early years of our relationship I was up for pretty much anything. The first thing my husband and I did after we got married was go camping. In a tent, in Kentucky, to – you guessed it – go rock climbing. This was the true test for me. I had never camped before. I grew up in metro Detroit, the only ‘roughing it’ we did was drive some 20 hours straight to Florida every year to visit my grandparents. This whole idea of tent camping, in the woods, with no fancy shower houses or even port-a-potties, was new and great fun for a newly-wed wife who had never camped once in her life before…it didn’t matter though, camping in the rain and pooping over the edge of a cliff, I was all in.
Now, 15 years and 3 kids later, it’s harder to be so interested. I’m not even talking about grand trips and adventures, no, simple conversations and moments that could allow for some sort of connection and engagement are a struggle. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with your spouse while kids are around? Thank the Lord for text messaging or no one would remember to take the garbage out, pick up a kid from something, or have milk in the house. We are at a place in our lives where we have to work and schedule and reschedule almost everything we do. And we are not even that busy. That’s just life.
In those early years of our relationship, I was interested in whatever my husband was interested in because I wanted to know him, I was engaged and intentional. I was all in.
If being all in is engaged, then being 2 steps out the door is disengaged. Disengagement is checked out, appearing to be engaged and not be. Disengagement is the beginning of the end for almost anything, the second you’ve lost interest, what’s the point?
I read this quote recently “disengagement is the death of relationship”. When I think about relationships that have not lasted, I can see the trail of disengagement. I can see where I dropped the ball with communication, didn’t think to check in, or just let too much time pass. Even in closer relationships I’ve let go, there is a checking out process that occurs that leads to the end. Don’t get me wrong, that can be healthy and ok and a natural part of life. I have always said that I approach friendship with an open hand.
But then there is my marriage. When I got married 12 years ago, I never would have imagined it would be hard for me to be excited about my husband’s accomplishments at work, or his golf score or the book he just read, or about the tricky coworkers he has or what he had for lunch that day. But with the passing of time, the addition of children and responsibilities, it is not always what I want to talk about. I can disengage so easily.
I can choose to engage or not engage in a conversation, I can let the kids or my phone (or all the things) distract me. I can give into negative thoughts that tell me my needs are more important, my struggles are harder and my lunch was way better…so let’s just talk about me, k? And then there it is, the trail of disengagement begins. I guess what I am realizing more and more is that this is a slippery slope for me. If I allow myself to disengage from these often times not-so-important conversations, what will my response be to the bigger ones? If I am engaged and listen to my spouse talk about the nuances of his day or week, then I might be more patient and understanding if he forgets to pick up his dirty socks or needs more time with work. This building of a marriage really happens in those small moments when I choose to care and listen. He’s not asking me to camp and climb in the woods (although, of course, now that would be awesome), he’s asking me to laugh at some weird viral video…will I engage? I sure hope so.