I love to watch a good romantic comedy anytime I can. However, there is one common theme that frustrates me every time I watch one. The overarching message of many of these movies is that love is what keeps a romantic relationship going strong. This sounds like the truth on the surface, but as many of these movies trudge on, the character has a crisis of feelings. They fall “out of love” with their partner, and ultimately decide to move on and pursue another relationship where they might feel love again and hopefully live happily ever after.
Friend, we know this isn’t how things usually play out. The world defines love as a feeling and something we fall in and out of, which means we can lose the love that someone has already given us. This is especially disheartening when it comes to marriage. If love is just a fickle feeling, then how can any of us stay married for life?
The truth is, if THAT’S love, we can’t. Maybe you’ve struggled with this. Maybe you’re struggling with feeling “in love” with your spouse. If so, I want you to know that there is still hope for you and your marriage and restoring the feelings that you once had for your spouse.
The good news is God doesn’t define love as a feeling that comes and goes. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
And, verse 13 goes on to say,“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Wow. THAT’S real love. That’s the kind of love that I want to have for my spouse-not some wishy-washy, tepid love. I want the kind of love that lasts forever.
If you and your spouse are going through a rough patch in your marriage right now and that loving feeling in your heart seems like a faint memory, please take heart and know that there is hope. Here are four things you can do right now to help your struggling marriage:
1. Avoid “mental rabbit holes” that will sabotage your relationship.
This is a huge issue that you’re probably experiencing right now, and you don’t even realize it. A “mental rabbit hole” occurs when we choose to dwell on the “what-ifs,” negative assumptions, and worries that often accompany crisis in marriage. For example, if you aren’t sure that you are truly in love with your spouse anymore, then you might start asking yourself why and try to figure it out over and over again. This process will only lead to more frustration, confusion, and separation. Instead, we need to go to our spouse and talk to them. Lean into one another and be honest in the most loving way possible. Then, consider going to see a counselor to get to the root of the issue TOGETHER.
2. Resist the urge to share your struggle (or anything else) with a “friend” of the opposite sex.
This is extremely important. When we don’t feel close and connected to our spouse, there is usually a breakdown in communication. We’re upset and unwilling to talk about things with them because everything feels like a fight. I get it. But, we must resist the urge to talk about our personal lives with someone of the opposite sex at work, in our neighborhood, at our kid’s school, church, etc. When we do this, we open ourselves up to developing an attachment to this person. Over time, this can turn into romantic feelings and even physical intimacy. Before we know it, we find ourselves in a full-blown affair that we never thought would happen.
Tragically, I hear too many of these stories almost every day. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can protect ourselves and our marriage by resisting this urge. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about our struggle with someone; it just means we have to be very careful about WHO we talk to about this. We should only share this information with someone we can trust and is our same gender. Be sure that this person loves you, loves God, loves your spouse, and is for your marriage. It’s better if this confidant isn’t related to you because it is hard for a family member to forget the details of what you or your spouse are going through, and family tends to side with family. Your confidant could be a close family friend, a pastor, and even a counselor. When we are careful about these conversations, we respect our spouse and allow healing to take place.
3. Try a new approach to communication.
When our marriage is struggling, we may find it very difficult to talk to our spouse. I hear struggling couple’s say things like…
“All we do is fight.”
“They don’t listen to me.”
“They just shouldn’t feel that way.”
But these kinds of statements don’t get us anywhere, do they? In those times when we can’t muster up anything nice or productive to say to one another, we need to change our usual communication style.
If every conversation between you and your spouse tends to end in an argument, try writing down your feelings on paper first. Then, read through it and re-write it in the most loving way possible. Have your spouse do the same thing.
Then, at a certain point in the day, hand the letter to your spouse and ask them to read it. Take their letter and read it too. After that, take time and write a response to the letter. Then, read it and rewrite it. Hand your response to them. Do this exercise until you both feel like you can have a civil conversation. Then, sit down and talk to one another without distractions. Apologize for the hurtful conversations you’ve had in the past and share your hearts with one another. Do your best to get it all out, and don’t interrupt each other. Listen until they are finished with what they have to say. Then, respond with patience and in a loving tone.
When you both take the time to hear each other out-without interruptions, excuses, accusations, and hurtful words-you will find that it is much easier for you both to get on the same page and to move in the same direction.
4. Commit to praying with and for each other every day.
Prayer is a powerful tool that helps us to humble ourselves towards God and one another, and it brings us closer together as nothing else can. There is no better time to pray than when we are in a rough patch in our marriage. Many of us neglect this fantastic gift because we are disillusioned and upset. Friend, we must get past those sentiments and get on our knees in prayer.
God meets us right where we are, no matter what we have done or how hopeless our marriage may feel. He brings us strength when we are weak. He gives us the words to speak to Him and one another when we feel like we are completely depleted and uninspired. He can bring peace to what feels like a war zone in our home-if we let Him in. We can do this through prayer.
Join hands with your spouse and ask the Lord to forgive you both for any part of your lives that isn’t honoring Him. Praise Him for the blessing of your husband and marriage, and ask Him to help you both to do whatever it takes to heal it and strengthen it. Thank Him for all that He has done for you both. When you and your spouse take the time to pray together, you will feel the peace that surpasses understanding that only God can give. You will feel closer to one another too.