Have you ever driven along a dirt road and found your vehicle following a rut? You know what I mean. Over time, the road can develop those parallel wheel depressions from being well-traveled through rain and mud. Some of those ruts can get quite deep, and you find that it is easier to just stay in the ruts in order to keep moving forward. Trying to get out of them can seem difficult, depending on how deep they are, so you just stay the course. It’s not that much different from finding yourself in a relationship rut.
It is interesting how a marriage relationship can find itself in a rut, just staying the course. Rather than to rock the relationship in an attempt to climb out and rejuvenate it, we never attempt to get out of it because it is so much easier to move forward over the same, well-traveled road.
Recognizing A Relationship Rut
Every marriage experiences these ruts from time to time, and some stay in them way too long. Have you ever heard someone say when asked how their day is going, “Same story, different day?” That’s a rut.
We tend to get caught up in the routines of life, doing the same thing repeatedly day after day: work, home, sleep, repeat. On the weekends, kids are carted off to various sporting events, work around the house and yard needs to get done, kids need help with homework, and at some point, we gather everyone together to head off to church. Life becomes a weekly routine, and our relationship with our spouse gets caught up in the rut of life.
This isn’t to say that routines are inherently bad; I happen to thrive well in a routine environment. But getting stuck in a pattern of routine can have a negative effect on a marriage over time.
The Risks Of Ruts
My wife and I are with each other 24/7. We work together at the same company five days a week, we are both in school taking the same online courses, we do ministry together at our church, and we do short-term missions together. With our busy schedule, routine is an absolute must in order to stay on top of it all. But there are drawbacks to the routine. At times, we have found ourselves so engrossed in the routine that we realize we have not been taking time to nurture our relationship. You might think that because we spend so much time with each other that this would not be an issue, but it is.
One of the short-term hazards of relationship ruts is that we tend to view the amount of time together as being sufficient while overlooking the quality of that time. We need to intentionally steer ourselves out of those ruts from time to time. If we don’t, we can find our marriage stuck in a long-term rut. The danger here is that once the kids are all gone and the routines of life begin to change, we suddenly look at each other and realize that we hardly know one another. The past routines have kept us coasting along in the ruts, and we have never steered out of them to make sure that our marriage relationship is where it needs to be.
Keeping a Relationship Fresh
I drive a truck, and when I am on a dirt road with ruts down the middle of it, I have found that it is way more fun to steer in and out of the ruts. We get bounced around and jostled back and forth for a bit, and then I settle the truck back into the ruts for a while only to do it again a little bit later.
My wife and I have learned over the years to simply steer our relationship out of the ruts periodically, even daily to keep our relationship fresh. When one of us senses that the routine is lasting too long, we will do something crazy to steer our way out. It may be something simple like deliberately messing up the words to a song on the radio as we drive home from work, which then turns into a contest to see who can make up the craziest lyrics. Or it could be sneaking up behind my wife while she does the dishes and pantsing her while she’s elbow-deep in soap suds and can’t do anything about it (don’t worry, our kids are all out of the house). The bottom line here (pun intended) is to just do simple things that break up the routine to help avoid the short-term hazards.
Getting Out Of A Deep Rut
For the long-term hazards, make sure you set aside some regular date times in order to deliberately connect outside of the family routines. Early on in our marriage, we couldn’t afford to do fancy date nights, so we would go to the local coffee shop once a week and sit on the patio for an hour or so and just talk. Make date night a night when you talk about each other and your relationship. Don’t talk about the kids, finances or any other routine family stuff. There’s plenty of other time for that; this is your opportunity to focus on your relationship.
Another way to overcome the long-term hazards of falling into a relationship rut is to regularly take a look back at your marriage and remember the fun and romantic times. Just the other day, we were cleaning out a wooden chest that sits in our entry area. As we were going through it, we ran across some of the cards that we had given each other when we were dating, as well as some poems I had written. We ended up spending the next 30 minutes reading and reminiscing about the passion we had shown to each other 19 years ago. Then, we started comparing it to the love and passion we share today. We don’t write love notes or poems to each other anymore, but we were thrilled to recognize that, while we do things a bit different today, the passion is still the same – if not greater – because we have learned how to steer out of the ruts.
Set aside time to make sure your marriage doesn’t fall into a rut. A little maneuvering along the way is a lot easier than digging your marriage out of a ditch someday in the future.
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