A while back I listened to Dr Gary Chapman and Lisa Anderson speaking on a Focus on the Family broadcast. I found one part of the program to be especially interesting. It concerns the amazing love you can find in marriage. I’ve been thinking about it all week.
These speakers were addressing singles. They were equipping them to learn how to love with sincerity and maturity. But at one point Dr Chapman started talking about married love. He talked about how most of us truly don’t “get it” as far as the progression—the turn that marriages eventually takes. And that’s why so many marriages fail.
Amazing Love in Marriage
He talked about the two stages of romantic love.
“The first stage requires little effort. We’re pushed along by EUPHORIC feelings (which he also calls the “tingles). When we’re IN LOVE, we freely do things for each other without thought of cost or sacrifice.
“In this stage of romantic love, the couple doesn’t have to work on the relationship. They may expend great energy in doing things for each other. But they would not consider it work. They would tend to use the word delight. Bot of them feel elated with the opportunity to do something meaningful for the other person. They want to make each other happy and they often do…
When we are in love, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. We are totally focused on being with each other and making each other happy.” (This quote came from what he said on the program, but is also stated in the book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married)
But as he said (which research and life experience proves true) we don’t stay in that stage of love forever. We can’t. We’d burn out. It usually lasts about 2 years or so, with give and take.
Coming Off That High
What we’ve seen is that sometimes circumstances and maturity can either cut that time short or extend it longer. But sooner or later most couples eventually will “come down off that high.”
As Dr Chapman said: “Most of us marry in the EUPHORIC STAGE of love.” And that makes for a great beginning. But we can’t stay at the starting gate and live there forever.
Eventually, you find yourself running the “race of life” with all its busyness. But you lose some steam. And then you look at this person that you thought you loved so much and as Dr Chapman says, “You start thinking. ‘I don’t love this person any more’ because you don’t feel that euphoria.”
I’ve been there and have done that. And I can safely say that we have had hundreds, more like thousands, who have written us over the years who have emailed or posted comments that have hit that stage, as well. (And/or their spouses have done so.) Eventually it all looks different and you just don’t know what to do in this situation.
As Gary says, “It’s not just about marrying the right person. It’s also about becoming the right person” when it comes to marital love —growing into the “right person.”
Stages of Amazing Love
The first stage is EUPHORIC LOVE. The next stage, according to Dr Chapman, is COVENANT LOVE. This next stage is where you learn to love so you can “keep emotional warmth alive.” That’s where learning The 5 Love Languages is important, learning your spouse’s language, in particular.
That’s also where you need to learn to build your communication skills with each other. It’s important to be intentional in connecting with each other emotionally. It’s also the “grow up” time of marriage where you learn how to love in a way that you never would have known any other way.
And this is where, as followers of Christ, God can teach us how to love. That is, if we are willing to apply ourselves to learning —to be students of marriage, and students of loving our spouse as God would have us.
I can sure relate to something that Edie Wadsworth wrote in her article, “Why is Marriage So Hard” where she stated:
“The reason marriage is so hard is because you’re more sinful than you think you are. You don’t yet grasp the depths of your own depravity. You want your own way. Plus, you think your faults are less offensive than his. You justify yourself in a thousand ways and give yourself every benefit of the doubt. But, his [or her] faults and sins are magnified to you. You’re convinced that you give more in the relationship. You are always the hero in your mind.”
Honestly Facing Your Sins
Ouch! It’s like what author Gary Thomas said,
“What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. It forces me to face myself honestly and consider my character flaws, selfishness, and anti-Christian attitudes. It is continually encouraging me to be sanctified [set apart for God’s use] and cleansed, and to grow in godliness.”
I find that to be so true. As we bump into each other in marriage, it’s amazing what comes up to the surface in my sinful attitudes and actions, when I truly look at them.
I can see that it’s true what Gary Chapman says about the COVENANT stage of love and marriage. That’s where the real work begins. It shows what’s deep inside of us as far as values and growing as a person, and as a spouse.
It can bring us face-to-face with God when the “tingles” have gone down (or vanished). What are we going to do next? Are we going to abandon ship (or the marriage) and keep walking on in life until someone else comes along who brings back that euphoric feeling of “love” to us again? Or are we going to take a deeper journey with God and learn how to love as God does —as God can teach us? He can best teach us to “live a life of love, just as Christ love us” (as we’re told in Ephesians 5:1-2).
Making Wise Choices Towards Amazing Love
I realize that some spouses are never given the opportunity to take this journey, because their spouse is the one who abandons them. How I grieve for those who find themselves in this situation! I truly cry for them.
But when you are the one who is faced with this change in “love” and you have choices to make, what will you do to keep the covenant of love alive and “grow the warmth” in your marriage?
As Gary Thomas also said,
“Your marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help you know God better. It helps you to trust him more fully, and love him more deeply.”
I can tell you from first-hand experience (and so can my husband Steve), that if you apply yourself to grow your love… to lean into loving God and your spouse on a whole new level, there is no “tingle” that can measure up to the richness of mature love.
Honestly, I still get the tingles with Steve on a daily basis. I love this man more than I could ever express. But it’s because I have learned and am still learning from the Lord how to love this man by continual choices I make to love beyond reason. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy. But it’s continual. As I love the Lord and He loves me, I learn how to love my husband beyond ways that I ever thought possible.
Thank you Lord, for this amazing love!
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.
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