I married my husband after we had been dating about ten years, but my life became a living hell. He would go out, and come home drunk the next day. Then I found out about his infidelities, and I confronted him…. He moved out, but started calling me every day…. He asked for my forgiveness and said he wanted to come back because he realized that he loved our son and me…. So we’ve been back together for a year, and he has changed and is trying to be a good husband.

The problem is that something isn’t right…. We respect one another, but we don’t have a normal marital relationship because he is always tired. Is it normal to live like this as a couple?

Dear Friend,

We congratulate you and your husband for successfully working through many difficulties. You have recognized that you are all better off being together. Even though it is challenging, your marriage can improve.

The most important quality in a good marriage is friendship. Friendship requires listening to one another and supporting one another. You say that you have respect for each other. Are you best friends? Do you listen to him, and does he listen to you? Do you feel that he cares when you talk about your feelings, and do you actively support him when he tells you what he is thinking and feeling? When you have good communication, you are able to discuss the other issues that cause conflict between you.

Many movies and novels make it seem that good relationships are always characterized by strong physical attraction and almost unending hours of intimate physical contact. If we make the mistake of comparing our own experience with the fantasy of those movies and novels, then our own relationships will probably be judged as deficient. Reality is rarely superior or equal to fantasy.

Marriage can be very fulfilling. We can become better people when partnered with a spouse that we love and respect. But that doesn’t mean that it is ever easy. A good marriage takes total commitment and a lot of hard work. For two people to become one, as God designed marriage to be, there will be years of conflicts to resolve, and years of each one sacrificing a little for the good of the relationship.

Physical intimacy in marriage is optimal when it is a by-product of two people working together, planning together, having fun together, and experiencing life together. But it is very common for work, responsibilities and stress to crowd out the physical expressions of love. Couples who experience this must talk about it and formulate plans for putting a priority on intimacy. Sometimes, because of circumstances, one or both individuals must decide to be patient and understanding for a specified amount of time. If the two cannot come to an agreement, we recommend professional marriage counseling.

Those who mistakenly think that God is against sex may be surprised to learn that the Apostle Paul, when speaking to husbands and wives about sexual relations, taught, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time.”(1) Paul’s teaching reminds us that God Himself designed sexual intimacy to be an integral part of a good marriage.

We wish you the best,

1 1Co 7:5