Love is why we get married and the lack of love is why so many divorce, but it doesn’t have to happen. When my husband and I’d been married about ten years, I remember feeling differently than when we were first married. Of course, we had three kids and had moved six or seven times. You know — normal life.
I was glad to learn that was a healthy, normal sign of growth in a marriage relationship. Nothing stays the same in life, and we adjust to the changes. Since feelings are a reaction to what happens to and around us, it’s natural as we focus on raising children, earning a living, and caring for our homes that we don’t put as much energy into loving our spouse. Not ideal but real for most of us.
During this time of our marriage, I learned that Hollywood misled me. Find a good guy, marry him, and live happily ever after. Happily, I thought, meant always feeling in love.
Hollywood was wrong. Love isn’t always a feeling.
My new husband hadn’t warned me he’ll forget to take out the garbage or he won’t like to cook and his idea of a great evening means watching games or Sports Center or Fox News.
There’s an old song that says, “You’ve lost that loving feeling . . . and now you’re gone, gone, gone.” Those lyrics scared me. And many couples buy this pop psychology for themselves, causing them to give up on their relationship and often their marriage.
I was happy to learn those feelings come and go. And come and go again. We just have to work at it. For example, we can rediscover the original attractions, forgive our spouse’s shortfalls (and our own), and magnify their good traits.
Love isn’t as simple as society portrays. The Bible shows four types of love: 1.) physical and sensual love between a husband and wife, 2.) love of a close friend, 3.) family love, and 4.) selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love.
When we marry, we start with the first type. As we grow together, our spouse often becomes our very good friend (even though we have, and should, other friends so we gain that type of love. We have children and bond with them and (hopefully) learn to love our spouses’ family of origin, growing family love.
But the love I needed to practice was the selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that is required as the years tick by. It’s making dinner when you don’t feel like it or going to work when you don’t feel like it. It’s even sometimes being intimate when you don’t feel like it.
(Of course, a loving relationship where one person isn’t abusing or taking advantage of the other is assumed to be the environment. In other words, they are not being selfish either.)
And I found the more I gave without consulting my feelings, the more good feelings I had in the end. Do the right thing and good things happen. The more you give away, the more you get.
Love your spouse — not just in February — but every month. And dig deep for the Christ-like love we all want and need and don’t always deserve.
And maybe more months will feel like February.