While dating and even up to the wedding and honeymoon, our love manifested mostly as a feeling. Those butterflies you feel when you first fall in love and realize you are meant for each other. Childishly or maybe more accurately, ignorantly, we expected that love would always be a feeling. Realistically I am sure some one, some where along the way tried to tell us our feelings would one day change, but of course we thought we were above that and our feelings would never fade or be challenged or tested. Our love was “real”!
The challenges in our marriage started before we celebrated our first anniversary. At first I ignored what was happening, assuming the “feelings” would change back to the love and affection I once remembered, not so long ago. A couple years went by and we were about to “celebrate” our 3rd anniversary. Outside of our house we put on a good show; I am sure no one knew the trouble we were in. Inside of our house we were just roommates, barely tolerating each other. Weekly we focused on our careers, attended church together and volunteering but our marriage was taking a back seat to everything. Holding hands had become a luxury we could not afford, and at home, our backs were facing each other more and more.
It was around our 3rd anniversary that we started counseling. In counseling we learned that loving each other was a decision, not a feeling. That concept was such a struggle for me.
Love is a decision. Love is a decision. Love is a decision. I would say this over and over in my head, day after day, hoping to someday really believe it. The feelings of love had faded long ago and had been replaced with disappointment, rebellion, dislike and sometimes I regret to say, hate. Counseling helped both of us to understand that these new feelings, having replaced our feelings of love, were really the manifestation of our lack of effort toward the decision to love. But why should love be a decision? Wouldn’t “real” love be a feeling? And how do I “decide” to love when I am overwhelmed with all of those negative feelings toward my spouse? It sure sounds good…”Love is a decision!” but really, how do I do that?
It was about this time that I was reminded about God’s love for us. Think of God, our father in heaven, isn’t his love for us “real” love? He loves us unconditionally and without end. If His love for us was a feeling, He would have abandoned us long ago due to our sinful and selfish ways. Luckily for us His Love is a decision not a feeling, and we, as a married couple, are to imitate Christ. So shouldn’t my love for my husband be a decision and not just a feeling? Isn’t that one way I can imitate Christ?
Now, almost 16 years later, I realize what a pivotal moment that was for me and my marriage. It was in that moment that I realized I could “decide” to love my husband. But more than that, bigger than that, deciding to love my husband could only be achieved if God was part of the equation. The only way those negative feelings could be transformed into a decision to love was with a supernatural power? The supernatural grace of God!!
Little did I know that my husband’s grandma had planted the seed for us right after our wedding? When we arrived home from our honeymoon, we were greeted with a letter from Grandma Mary. Mary loved to cut things out of the newspaper, type on them with her old typewriter and mail them off to an unsuspecting soul. In this letter was a newspaper clipping about Marriage and how it took three…..
Marriage Takes Three (author unknown)
I once thought marriage took
Just two to make a go,
But now I am convinced
It takes the Lord also.
And not one marriage fails
Where Christ is asked to enter,
As lovers come together
With Jesus at the center.
But marriage seldom thrives,
And homes are incomplete,
Till He is welcomed there
To help avoid defeat.
In homes where Christ is first,
It’s obvious to see,
Those unions really work,
For marriage still takes three.
Marriage does take 3, with the most important part being God. The supernatural grace of God!! It is the supernatural grace of God that helps to sustain a marriage when the other 2 parts (husband and wife) are broken or disjointed!!
So “deciding” to love my husband with the supernatural grace of God?? Is that really possible?? Talk about a monumental task!! Well, only monumental for me, NOT for God. I am sure you have heard the saying “God won’t give you anything you cannot handle.” Well, I whole-heartedly disagree!! I believe it is better said, “God won’t give you anything you cannot handle with His help!!”
Having God as the 3rd person in our marriage means TRUSTING God more than I trust myself or my husband. RELYING on God to navigate the ups and downs of our marriage. BELIEVING that God knows our marriage will survive even when the worldly evidence says otherwise. DECIDING to stay in our marriage, no matter what is going on around us and within us, because God’s plan is better than our own! GIVING all of our worries, anxieties, doubts and fears to God. LEARNING to die of ourselves and imitate Him as a Servant Spouse, especially when we do not “feel” like it. SEEING our spouse as God sees them. ASKING God to help us carry our crosses no matter how heavy or long they may be. And lastly, PRAYING for patience to persevere any and all trials our marriage might endure.
Over the years our marriage got much worse before it finally got good, very good. Today, I am happy to report that God did save our marriage. Those feelings of disappointment, rebellion, dislike, and sometimes, hate I once had toward my husband have been replaced with feelings of love, admiration, awe, warmth, and so much more. My husband is now compassionate and empathetic and I am more humble and loving. I look forward to everyday with my husband. Today, I can say that my husband and I are truly one and I love him more than I ever thought possible. I think the love is bigger, bolder, and brighter because of the terrible times we trusted God to get us through.
I have had a few people ask why I would share the misery of our marital journey? The simple answer is that I believe that God will save all marriages, if we let him! Marriage is hard and in some cases it is terribly hard. And I believe that our witness might help others see God and His plan at a pivotal point in their marriage….ultimately strengthening it to withstand any and all things!!!
May God bless you and your marriage today and everyday, and if you cannot see the blessings, may you believe in their existence!