Marital A.D.D.: 2 Ways to Overcome the Deficit of Attention in Marriage

From the beginning of this blog, let me say that I don’t take things like A.D.D or A.D.H.D. lightly. According to the New York Times, at least 4 percent of adults have the disorder and as many as half of all children that have A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with symptoms as adults. It is a challenge to deal with as an individual as well as a married couple and more material should be produced to help couples who have been diagnosed with it.

Where an individual, who has either condition, will struggle to keep their own attention, in marriage, there is usually someone (or both) struggling to get attention. I hear comments like:

“He doesn’t appreciate anything I do.”
“Doesn’t she know I have needs?”
“I wish he’d look at me that way.”
“The only time I hear from my spouse is when something is wrong.”
“I wish I felt special.”

I call it, Marriage A.D.D. and it’s harming marriages. There are spouses struggling in their marriage from deficit of attention. Wrap your head around the change that happened when the relationship shifted from courtship to marriage. Back then, we spent time fighting to grasp the attention the one we were dating. Now, we find ourselves fighting to get the attention of the same person, but now, we’re married to him/her. Anne and I have been here. Sometimes we find A.D.D. creeping back. Why? We’re ALL susceptible to it.

How does the attention deterioration take place? 

Mistaken priorities.
Let me say this from the get-go: When you learn to love God first, He enables you to love best (Matthew 22:36-40).  And if this priority doesn’t take place, difficulties follow.

Outside of Christ, your marriage relationship should be the most important relationship in your life. Jobs, best friends, hobbies, church, etc. all must take a back seat to your marriage. Saying “I love you” doesn’t matter if your priorities don’t match up with the words.

Forgotten passion.
Passion doesn’t take place on accident. It is sought after and discovered. This is where we can glean from those “dating days.” Passion is something that is available to anyone but it needs to be fed and facilitated. Those who say they “accidentally feel in love” where actually looking for it consciously or sub-consciously. Bring back the courtship of the heart. Leisure and laughter are essential to regaining the passion back. Make dating both mandatory and consistent.

Shifting of seasons.
What worked in one season may not work in another. Your age, family, and state of life (job, home, health, etc) all shift during the course of your marriage. And what may have been romantic 20 years ago (or even a year ago) may not speak the same thing as it once did. I’ve seen so many couples missing the attention mark, not because there was a failure of attention, it was the failure of the proper attention.

Become a student of each other. Lower your defenses a bit and communicate to each other what you enjoy/like. Communication doesn’t happen by osmosis; it is an intentional act of intimacy. And the more you learn AND put into practice, the less you’ll see your marriage suffer from any deficit of attention.

Self-centered living.
Even though this could have been absorbed into the other points, this demanded its own emphasis. Healthy marriage living can only grow from healthy marriage giving. It’s that type of giving that demands no reciprocal behavior. You without expectation. A.D.D marriages wait for the other to act first. “I won’t until he/she does it first.”

Servanthood is that Christ-like manner for which our spouse see’s the example of Jesus in the home.  “Self-centered” approaches deteriorate that image and, thus, create of deficit of attention by putting focus upon ourselves. I wish I could say that I never struggle with this, but I’d be lying. Perhaps you can come together for a “come to Jesus moment” for the two of you. It can be a place where there is no finger-pointing at each other but ownership over what our human tendencies can drive us to.

Lack of gratitude.
Giving thanks FOR and WITH your spouse is, perhaps, one of the most significant marital habit. Gratitude is an essential ingredient in any relationship, but it takes intentionality and time to put it into practice.

Nobody likes to be taken for granted. Without it you get used to having your spouse in your life but forget why you chose to be with them. A lack of gratitude makes us deadened to our spouse’s special qualities and then gets us to focus on things that annoy us about them. A lack of “thanks” can leave us confused and discouraged in our relationship.

When we come into marriage each day with gratitude, choosing together to see abundance rather than scarcity, relational satisfaction rises. It will change the atmosphere of your home, develop appreciation, enhance sex, soften criticism, and pave the way for forgiveness. Practicing the art of thanksgiving increases attention by leaps and bound, thus reducing the effects that Marital A.D.D. have previously had.

Next Steps:
Simply said: A breakdown of attention is a breakdown of intimacy. This is not a one-date-fixes all situation.  It’s a lifetime of tweaks to two important systems.

  1. Change in the system of thinking (humility).
    • It begins with a mind that is fixed upon Christ and His example. We don’t wait for others to change first; the example starts with ME. James 4:10 says to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” You were never meant to hold yourself or your marriage up. Humble yourself (rest in His identity and strength) and let the Lord lift up (hold up and hold together) your marriage. Before you fix a deficiency of living, you need to fix the deficiency of thinking.
  2. Change of in the system of living (patterns). 
    • I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If your old patterns have been creating a deficiency of attention for your spouse, then it’s time to fix them and start new habits. Talk with each other. Find out what you both can do that will work toward providing the proper attention that you both crave.

Start today. Get your attention on the proper things. Don’t get distracted. Focus on what really matters: Jesus and your spouse.

I love you all. I believe in you because I believe in the Christ in you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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