09/16/2013 02:09 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2013

How Far We Drift Apart -- Reclaiming Love in Marriage

Tell me how, how'd you get so far away?

All we have left are the memories of the love we made

Are you sleeping with your own regret?

On your side of the bed

Little Big Town

Easy to drift. In relationships and in life. Like an unanchored boat finding its way across a lake, we end up in places we didn't intend to go. Wouldn't have chosen. But there we are. Different sides of the bed. Untethered from the best in life, far away from the comforting shoreline where love abounds, and marriage thrives.

Keeping love alive involves focus. Intense commitment to shaping the bits and pieces that make love grow, that sustain it through thick and thin. Like pasting together a collage of figures and images, we add color, tone and passion to a once barren canvas that now hosts a rich story. One we create together. Of connection, purpose and hope.

Yet how easy to let complacency rule. To suspend action and thought in favor of a journey defined by circumstances and events that just seem to happen. Happen to us. Things we feel we can't control. We lean into them, much the way we brace ourselves against a strong wind that blows persistently in our direction. We get used to leaning hard just to stand erect. Finally falling over, we give in to its power and just flow with the invisible current. To somewhere -- but not a chosen somewhere.

Love, to blossom, needs shape and form, erected from pillars that support a sure foundation. Bound by a direction we claim. We fight for. We pursue. Guided by a map of hope, one that knows East from West, North from South.

Some have drifted far away. And need to get back -- long to get back. Reclaiming love, finding your way to the dock of passion and desire in marriage, takes work, strategy and persistence. Persistence that says, "I'm done with drifting." "Finished with ending up unconsciously in places I never thought I'd get to."

How do we emerge from the fog ahead and move toward the clearings in life where love becomes an experience we shape, we define? What strategies help us reclaim the love we once had or perhaps create anew from the rubble of disappointments that never got it started in the first place?

1. Decide what it means to love and to be loved. In other words, define with your lover what you want from each other. What kind of affection, care and compassion do you long for? Commit to a life that doesn't drift along, but forges ahead down trails that lead to meadows filled with light, flowers and brilliant trees. If you don't, circumstance will define you. You will end up somewhere, but nowhere chosen.

2. Dream large. Make a commitment to a spectacular life. One filled with drama -- good drama like a movie that ends well when you thought the hero or heroine had no chance. Talk with your lover about "big dreams" and dispense with miniature hopes that serve as mere band aids.

3. Identify actions that make love blossom. How will you reach out to your lover? How do you transform regrets and hurts into emotions and behaviors that steer togetherness in a different direction? Begin listing all the ways you know of to touch the heart and spirit of your mate. Start doing them regularly. Very regularly.

4. Focus on your own growth.
Remove obstacles that prevent you from becoming vulnerable and open to your life partner. Label any roadblocks that keep you from moving ahead, that keep you entrenched in your regrets and hurts. Could be wounds from childhood, a previous relationship or the one you're currently in. Seek out counseling, coaching, self-help books or any avenues that produce healthy emotional and spiritual development.

Finishing well in life and love comes when we feed ourselves a diet of passion and hope. When we get rid of rich foods that give us temporary satisfaction but fail to nourish. When we overthrow complacency and conquer the armies of indecision and regret. Where we grasp the skill of vulnerability and take the risk to ask our lover for more. And commit to giving them more. To shape together a more meaningful life. Creating direction. Defining the path of mutual devotion just ahead.

Anyone can drift. Not that many define a vision ahead and move to realize that dream.

Love is always a vision that has turned anger and fear upside down. Fights against the current of complacency.