This Component Is Missing From My Marriage

Something is missing from my marriage. I (we) lost it some years back. I admit, it's primarily my fault. But losing this one aspect of our relationship is causing damage and creating a further divide between us. I've noticed this loss for some time now, but yesterday, I felt it in a pronounced way.

It's eye contact.

I barely look my wife in the eyes anymore. If I do, it's for a split second before I break away to look elsewhere. It makes me sad to think about it, and I want to figure out why this is so.

Eye contact has been a lifelong challenge

I've always struggled with making eye contact with people. I noticed years ago that neither of my parents was good at it, and that interaction style no doubt rubbed off on me as a kid. I admire people who can look me straight in the eyes and hold that painful, creepy, yet beautiful eye contact while speaking to me. But I've made a conscious effort to improve at it over the years.

Changes since the start of our marriage

I didn't experience this struggle at all when I met Rebekah. After we married, we used to lie in bed every night, heads on our pillows, and stare into each other's eyes. Words weren't necessary. Our eyes did all the talking, connecting, and loving.

We're coming up on 8 years of marriage now, and stage 4 cancer invaded just 8 months into our marriage. Over those years, I've allowed my heart to get hard and calloused toward Rebekah in many ways. I wrote about this in a previous article. But I've also noticed the slow drift in our eye contact, and I know it's mostly my fault.

My anger is manifesting in lack of eye contact

This lack of eye contact is a symptomatic reflection of my heart. It's anger and frustration manifesting in a passive-aggressive punishment. I've never thought about it like this, and it helps to write it out here because now that I see the issue and cause more clearly, I can face it and address it.

I'm a planner—big time. I live by the motto that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. So, I need to devise a plan to reclaim our eye contact and restore our heart connection. Usually, you want to start from the heart, from the inside, and allow those changes to shape your thoughts and behaviors outwardly. But my plan here involves trying to work from the outside first, hoping it will bleed on down to the inside.

My plan for establishing more eye contact

Verbalize the problem

I need to bring up this issue verbally with my wife. I need to get real and talk about it. I need to stop the passive-aggressive behavior and communicate openly. We must put the issue squarely on the table in front of us.

Commit to change

Together, we need to commit to fixing this tiny issue that carries significant relational ramifications.

Define action steps

We need to commit to a plan, which, as of now, seems like we need to do at least 2 actions:

  1. Make it a point to spend 1-2 minutes a day silently staring into each other's eyes.
  2. Make a conscious effort to look at each other during in-person conversations.

That's my plan.

The K.I.S.S. principle

Through much trial and error, I've learned that if I want one of my plans to work in marriage—or pretty much any area of life—I need to implement and follow the K.I.S.S. principle: "Keep It Simple Stupid."

Thus, with my eye-contact-reinstatement-and-reclamation plan, I need to avoid complicating things with excessive strategies (which I love) and keep it casual and easy.

Here's what I'll do to help ensure success. Since we are usually in bed around 7:00-8:00 pm each night, I will set the alarm on my phone for 7:30 pm. This will serve as our forced reminder to turn off all devices and sit for 1-2 minutes working on communicating with our eyes.

Will it be awkward, even difficult, at first? Most likely! But this barrier needs to be broken through. Tender love is buried in our hearts, and we need to dig to rediscover and reclaim it.

The next step after reclaiming our eye contact is to reclaim making out all the time again, but that's an article for another time!

Featured Forum

View all responses caret icon

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our In America survey yet?