How Indifference Can Wreck a Dream and a Marriage

A Disturbing Dream

The other night I had a disturbing dream. I don’t have many disturbing dreams, but this one shook me to my core.

In my dream, my wife and I were separate…and she initiated it! She seemed to have little interest in being around me, and asked me not to contact her. Her indifference toward me was beyond painful, and it was clear that her indifference towards me was going to end our marriage.  But that was not the most disturbing part of the dream.

For some reason, we met to talk, and though her indifference was still a thick shield that kept me at a distance, I saw it was more an indifference of sadness than anger. Then, she reached out and laid her hand on my arm. I was overwhelmed and grateful for such a simple touch. I told her how much I had missed that. She agreed, but something in her voice said it was too late to make a difference.

And that’s when it hit me. The indifference that destroyed my marriage was not her indifference towards me. It was my indifference towards all the little things about her that I now missed so much. There were so many things to which I hadn’t paid attention. So many things I hadn’t been grateful for. It was my indifference that had hurt my wife and killed my marriage. And now, I didn’t know if I would ever get a chance to get her back.

At this point, I woke up overwhelmed with a sense of fear and sadness that made me roll over and confirm that my wife was still in bed with me. I can still feel the heaviness of her indifference towards me, as well as the heaviness the realization of my indifference towards her.

But despite how painful it was, I’m grateful for the dream. Like Ebinezer Scrooge after being visited by the spirits, I was left with a desire to never let that dream come to pass.

What does indifference look like?

Indifference is a lack of interest or concern about something. It’s viewing something as being unimportant or of little concern.

I believe that indifference is the great destroyer of marriage. But it’s not the indifference displayed towards the end of a failing marriage that destroys the marriage. It’s the little indifferences during the course of the marriage that brings the marriage to a sad and indifferent end.

We are indifferent towards our spouse when we overlook the simple things they do for us each and every day. Things like:

  • Preparing a meal.
  • Mowing the yard.
  • Touching our arm when we’re upset.
  • Helping us with a chore.
  • Speaking an encouraging word.
  • Working to provide for the family.
  • Giving us a simple kiss.
  • Laughing at our jokes.
  • Putting up with our quirkiness.

We are also indifferent towards our spouse when we fail to appreciate their:

  • Talents.
  • Smile.
  • Abilities.
  • Quirkiness.
  • Heart.
  • Commitment.
  • Sense of humor.
  • Desires and dreams.

You may not like everything your spouse does, and there may be things about them that drive you crazy, but there’s an old saying: “You don’t miss your water till you well’s gone dry.”

If your spouse were gone, there would be so many things you would miss about them…including the things that currently drive you crazy. These are the things to which you dare not show indifference.

What can you do?

What can you do to stop the cancer of indifference in your marriage?

Pay attention. Pay attention to your spouse. Don’t miss anything. Drink it all in. Pay attention to their:

  • Acts of service.
  • Acts of kindness.
  • Habits.
  • Humor.
  • Sayings.
  • Idiosyncrasies.

Show appreciation. Revive the lost art of saying “Thank you.” Tell them how much you appreciate what they do…and be specific! Talk about the things you can always count on from them.  Tell them what you would miss about them if they weren’t there. Don’t wait till they’re gone to show your appreciation for them.

Here’s the bottom line…If you don’t pay attention to your spouse and show appreciation for them, someone else will. If you take your spouse for granted, there’s someone out there who won’t. Don’t let indifference wreck your dreams or your marriage.

To get you started in curbing indifference, try the following exercise: (1) Take some time and imagine what you would miss if your spouse were gone…from divorce or death. (2) Actually make a list of such things, using the list above to get you started. (3) Once a day, express your gratitude and appreciation for one thing on your list. (4) Watch the difference this will make in you, in your spouse, and in your marriage.