One more night of feeling lonely while lying next to someone who you had hoped would be your soulmate forever. One more morning waking up frustrated, sad, and hopeless. One more day of looking for an excuse to work late. One more time of wondering how you ever let things get this far. Can you ever fill an empty marriage?
Most people get married to be happy. Or at least you expect to be happy. During the early days of your relationship the world seemed fuller, the sky brighter, and the future full of hope when you were together. But now the marriage you hoped would bring you happiness and fulfillment only seems to make your inner emptiness all the more painful.
“What can I do about an empty marriage?” is one of the most frequent questions I get asked. Wives wonder how they can extract some measure of warmth from a man who seems not to care. Husbands become frustrated and angry over a wife who seems to be a bottomless pit. It can become a sad state of affairs indeed.
In a perfect world perhaps man and woman “should” be able to fulfill each other’s needs completely. Husband and wife “should” provide an endless supply of understanding, friendship, affirmation, and intimacy – in a word, love. But too often we go to the well of our spouse’s heart to get a drink and find the well dry. Sometimes it even appears they are willing and able to provide a drink to others who are thirsty, but can’t do so for you.
When you were small, your parents (or someone else) had to feed you. The only way you could get your needs met was if someone cared enough to understand what you needed, and provide it for you.
But now that you’re grown up you’re not at someone else’s mercy in the same way – unless you choose to be. You get to decide when and how much to eat. And just the same, you get to decide a great deal about when and how much soul nourishment you take in. Your spouse is not responsible for filling you up; you are!
You don’t have to be dependent on your spouse to make you feel fulfilled.
So what do you do if your marriage seems to leave you feeling empty? Here are some ideas:
- Ask kindly and specifically for what you need. Even the best spouse is not a mind-reader. Your husband or wife MAY be willing and able to give you some of what you need if you make it clear what that is. Not always, and not every time. But try something like “Honey, would you give me a backrub?” or “Sweetheart, could I meet you for lunch – just the two of us?” And then let them know how much it means to you when they respond.
- Don’t get too needy. If you’re overworked, overly tired, or otherwise overextended the dryness of your own well is your own “fault.” Take care of your physical body by getting the rest, nutrition, and exercise you need. A rested and clear mind has a much better attitude; your marriage may look different when you’re physically feeling reasonably OK.
- Find ways to fill your own soul. Learn to feed yourself. Perhaps it’s playing music, a walk in nature, or a sports event. Some of your internal fulfillment must come from your own initiative. If your spouse joins you, that’s great. If they don’t, you’re still responsible for doing the things that fill you up. (Remember though, no sexual fulfillment except from your spouse.) Find a coworker, a girlfriend, a church group, a sports buddy to do some things with.
- Give what you DO have. If you’ve done any of these things there will be SOMETHING in your heart. It may be only half full. Or only 10% full. But find a way to give something that you DO have to someone else. It’s a law of the universe (in other words, God made it that way!) that when you give you will receive more. And this often works especially well when the one you give to is your spouse. Give without expecting ANYTHING in return.
- Go to God for your deepest needs. No human being can fill up another human being completely. There’s a need inside each of us, man or woman, that only God can fulfill. That doesn’t mean people aren’t important, but no person can do what only He can. Some things that you may need to get directly from God include reassurance that you’ve got what it takes, that your soul is beautiful, or that you’re always loved. Only He can heal the deepest wounds we all accumulate through life.
In a marriage, two halves do NOT make a whole. Two partial people don’t equal a whole marriage. The statement “you complete me” can never be completely true.
So if your marriage seems empty, don’t keep going back to the same empty well and become ever more discouraged. Focus on finding ways to fill your soul in the ways that you can, even if it’s not perfectly. And then focus on moving toward your spouse, and finding ways to give rather than get.
You may be surprised at how much fulfillment you will eventually find in your marriage as a result.
Your Turn: What could you do this week that would make you feel filled up? Leave a comment below.
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