Have you ever encountered a person who seemed like he or she was carrying the weight of the world on his or her shoulders? Sure, we all have experienced this. In fact, most of us have felt the pain of carrying too much stress or heartache.
Recently, Eric and I sat down with a couple, and the looks on their faces burdened me. Two people who once seemed joyful and excited to be together suddenly looked tired and weary. It did not seem like the time to pry, I so I withheld my questions, but my heart ached for them. Eric and I have experienced the joy of a close relationship and the pain of a distant one. We want nothing more for the couples we coach than for them to enjoy Christ-centered, emotionally intimate relationships.
If you are experiencing heaviness in your relationship, consider these points below. Are any of these present in your relationship, and if so, are you and your significant other willing to do what it takes to correct them?
- Sexual Sin – So many young people get into new relationships and feel the bliss of young love overnight. In the beginning, they feel light, free, and ready to take on the world. However, those couples who are not careful sometimes slip away from their original ideals and find themselves constantly battling sexual temptation; some battle it harder than others. Once a couple gives in to temptation, they begin to feel conviction and regret; but, after crossing one questionable line, their bodies are not satisfied… they want more. And, of course, they do, that is how God designed our bodies. Unless the couple makes changes to their thinking and behavior, they will eventually cross the ultimate line (James 1:13-15). In the moment, these physical pleasures are, well, pleasurable; but, over time, the weight of sin bears down, and what was once exciting and exhilarating leaves them discouraged and miserable. God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV, emphasis mine)
- Neglecting Spiritual Disciplines – A dusty Bible leads to a heavy heart. When we do not spend time with our loved ones, our relationships weaken; so, why would this be any different with the Lord? When we neglect our spiritual life, we become weak. This quote from John Piper stirred me, “At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and the neglect the Word. But then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.”
- Unresolved Conflict – It is tempting for parents to ignore their children’s poor behavior because disciplining them is hard work; but, if they do, they regret it not so many years later when their children are completely out of control. The same is true with conflicts. It seems easier to brush them aside and ignore them, but if you do this for years, you will grow to hate each other – or worse, become indifferent towards each other.
- Lack of Trust – Trust is so fragile. It does not take much to rob a relationship of trust; once it is gone, it takes tremendous emotional energy for it to be restored. Sometimes distrust is based on real transgressions from the past; whereas, sometimes, it can come from our insecurities. Living in a constant state of suspicion is exhausting and being frequently interrogated is no picnic either. Like the song says, “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds. And, we can’t build our dreams, on suspicious minds.”
- Lack of Intentionality – New relationships take little I am not talking about first awkward dates. First dates can feel excruciating if the parties do not connect well. However, after couples go from “nice to meet you” to “I really like you,” the next few months are typically free and easy. Finding time to spend together is no problem. It comes naturally; but, as the years go by, it takes planning to secure couple time. When Eric and I were dating, I would move Heaven and Earth to get home in time for our nightly chat. Nowadays, when I visit my parents for a week, Eric and I have a short talk at night or send a good night text. If we are not careful, we can go without connecting at all. Once a couple’s friendship fizzles, the joy spills out of the relationship. Short-term relationships run on passion and excitement, but long-term relationships run on friendship.
Restoring the Joy in Your Relationship
Many times the heaviness in your relationship stems from heaviness in other areas of your life (e.g., work stress, family problems, physical illnesses, etc.); whereas, sometimes it is due to problems within the relationship. If the light and comforting relationship you used to enjoy has become listless and unmoving, consider taking the following steps:
- Repent – If there is unconfessed sin in your life, it will affect your entire “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9, ESV)
- Set Boundaries – Do you spend too much time at work? Do you spend too much time with other people and not enough time together? Is there a distraction (pleasurable or not) which keeps you from connecting on a regular basis? Discuss what is causing your emotional separation and set boundaries to protect your relationship from those distractions.
- Create Healthy Habits – Eric thinks creating a daily schedule will help me feel more in control of my time and less listless. When I make myself complete a certain amount each day, I feel so accomplished; and when I feel accomplished, I treat Eric better. If you fix something that is not working, the change will positively affect other areas of your life as well.
- Seek Counsel – Sometimes we need to swallow our pride and seek a third party to help us work through our problem areas – and every couple has them.
- Praise – Praise God. Praise Him for who He is. Praise Him for His many blessings. Praise Him for everything that comes to mind. “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3, KJV, emphasis mine). When we praise God, our spirits become lighter.
- Create a Time Budget – If you are struggling to find time together, create a plan for how to spend your time. Maybe you are designating more hours to certain activities than you realize.
Just as losing physical weight makes our bodies healthier, losing emotional weight makes our hearts and minds healthier. If you feel like there are weights on your ankles and bricks on your shoulders, do not keep trudging along. Get real with yourself and get to the bottom of the problem. It may be easier to fix than you think; but, even if it is not, working off your emotional weight is worth the short-term sacrifice.
Talk to your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, or spouse, and discuss what needs to change. If you cannot reach an agreement, Christian relationship counseling is a worthwhile next step. If you suffer through life with a broken connection, you will regret it in the end. Lose the weight now before your relationship gets heavier. You will be glad you did.
Does your relationship feel heavy?