I’m here, but am I really HERE?!?! That’s the question I asked myself as I sat in church last week listening to my pastor preach a message titled “Get Back In The Gate”. This message was about the “Danger of Disengagement” and Pastor Furtick made 2 statements that shook me to my core:
“Whenever you are disengaged you are not present and you begin to open doors for vulnerabilities”
“Don’t be above your life and not in it”
Have you ever had one of those moments in church when you feel like your pastor is talking directly to you, or think does my pastor have some supernatural power to know exactly what I’m going through? That was me last week. At that moment, my mind started playing scenes in my head where I had become disengaged in my marriage and with my family.
I recalled times where Carlton was trying to connect with me or have a serious conversation and I just didn’t want to talk so I stayed glued to my phone scrolling through social media, watching TV, or reading a book and only half listening to what he was saying—until he finally said I’ll just come back later when you’re finished with what you’re doing. Or times where I found myself sitting in the other room listening to the laughter of Carlton and the kids playing games but truly just wanting to be alone.
In those moments I had checked out. I was physically present but becoming emotionally distant. I was merely engaged on the surface but disengaged where it matters the most – right here at home. What doors do we open up by not being fully engaged in our marriages or with our families? Maybe the door of insecurity for our spouse, missing key moments in your child’s life, or for you to slip into a state of depression. That question played over and over in my head this week.
Disengagement in marriage is particularly dangerous because:
- It can send signals that you don’t care about your relationship
- It weakens the intimacy between you and your spouse
- It shows your spouse you don’t want to put forth the effort or time towards making your relationship work
You might be asking how does this happen or what does disengagement look like? The truth is it can look different for every person and every relationship.
For me it started two years ago when I took a job as a school counselor at a high needs middle school, that requires a great deal of my time, energy, and most importantly my emotions. I was needed so much at my school by my principal, students, teachers, and staff that I didn’t want to come home and give more of myself away. I was emotionally drained and I felt like I didn’t have anything else left to give. So what do you do when you’re pouring from an empty cup? You start to disconnect. I felt emotionally overwhelmed and all I could do was quickly do the routine tasks of homework, housework, running the kids to their activities, and then go to my own world where nobody needed me or asked me for anything. Yes, I was disengaged but that didn’t mean I didn’t love my family or want to be married. But were my actions showing my family that they were a priority in my life or that I was all in with them and for them?
I honestly didn’t think that Carlton noticed or paid attention to me becoming less involved but I was wrong. Carlton and I were talking about that sermon and what we learned and I casually mentioned that maybe I could be disengaged in areas of my life and he said YES, I thought about you during the service when pastor was preaching. Wow, his comment was a wakeup call (more like a punch in the gut) that I needed to do something to get reengaged.
If you think your spouse hasn’t noticed the change in you, you’re wrong. Just because they may not be able to pin point it or put it into words, they’ve noticed. I want to stop simply going through the motions—I want to be all in! It’s not going to be easy to break some of these habits but I love my husband and my children and I’m willing to try these few things to become fully engaged again…
It Starts in the Mind
The key point here is to make a conscious effort to reframe my thoughts. I will decide to win the battle in my mind in order to not be controlled by my circumstances. I will not allow outside situations to dictate how I’m going to react or respond to my marriage, spouse, or children. Ultimately, I need to stop the thoughts that lead to disengagement before they start to form.
Another way to keep myself engaged is to find something to do just for me that I enjoy each week, something I can look forward to. They always say you can’t pour from an empty cup and this is one way to fill it back up. I can’t be the best me for my family if I always give every part away without filling myself back up. This point goes for women and men, wives and husbands. We all have to carve out time just for us or we’ll start to experience burn out which leads to being disengaged.
Having an Accountability Partner
The most accessible accountability partner will likely be your spouse, but it can’t hurt to also have another trusted person who can remind you when they notice you drifting away. Carlton will check me but we’re looking for easier ways for him to ‘bring me back’ that have less potential for conflict. We’re developing a non-combative phrase that signals to me that I’m disconnecting and he needs me to be more present. When he says “all in”, I know I need to come back to whatever situation is at hand.
Making Intentional Connections
Taking the time to connect is imperative in any marriage no matter what season you’re in. It’s critical to be intentional about what you’re doing when you’re spending that quality time together. Our goal is to take a moment once a week to connect and to communicate our needs. This time gives us a safe place where we can say what didn’t work this week, what we need to do to revamp, or even pat ourselves on the back and say we won in every area this week.
Being disengaged is a scary place to be in a marriage. You can have the best goals, vision, and family mission statement but if you’re not all in and present in the moment it doesn’t matter. Let’s think about areas in our lives that we’ve checked out on – whether it be our marriage, friendships, family, or even work and decide today that we’re ALL IN!
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.