When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband was sick on a Sunday morning. We had committed to leading a discussion in Sunday School, so I got in the car to drive myself to church.
I blame it on pregnancy brain drain. At some point during the drive, I completely spaced out. I was on autopilot for about fifteen minutes. I suddenly snapped back into awareness and realized I had absolutely no idea where I was. Instead of being downtown at the church, I was on a four-lane highway that looked completely unfamiliar. I saw no signs to tell me where I was or where I was going. “What happened? How did I get here? How do I get to church from wherever it is I am?” The only choice I had was to keep going until I found some signs that helped me reorient myself. I ended up taking a different route to church. I got there the long way; I got there late.
As it turned out, my brain had simply gone into autopilot. Instead of going straight at an intersection, I’d turned right–the same turn I took every day on my way to work. It looked unfamiliar because I didn’t pay enough attention on my drive to work most days, either. Without even realizing it had happened, I simply did what I was used to doing, without any attention to detail.
Our marriage was on autopilot for a long time, too. Somewhere, somehow, we took a wrong turn–and suddenly we were in a place that was unfamiliar. It certainly wasn’t where we’d planned to be. There were times when I would momentarily wake up in our marriage and wonder, “How did we get here? Where did we take a wrong turn? How do we get to a good and happy marriage from where we are?” We just kept on going, clueless, until we were finally able to reorient ourselves.
So many marriages are on autopilot. Without paying attention or realizing what is happening, a couple realizes it’s been days, or weeks, or months, or years since experiencing any intimacy, physical or emotional. And you wake up, with no clue how it happened or how to get back on track. Start to pay attention. Look for the signs in your life that give you information. Look at where you are in relation to where you started. Do you find yourself not liking your husband or spending time with him? Do you realize that you no longer know how to start a conversation with him? Do you find yourself yearning for a hug and then pushing him away because it might get sexual? Do you find yourself not even caring anymore? Do you find yourself wondering if you’re going to still be married five years from now? Has your spouse stopped trying to initiate sexual activity? These were some of the signs I saw in our marriage that helped me realize where we were and where we might be headed. We took the long way, but we did get back on the right path, attending to details and paying attention to where we’re going.
Autopilot is a scary thing. I did make it to church that morning. I was quite shaken when I realized how lost I was. And just like then, I’m very happy to be where we are supposed to be, even though we took the long way to get here.