Four years of marriage may not seem very long to some people, but it is a lot longer than a good percentage of marriages last these days. And Jordan and I have gone through more heartache and trials than what some people experience in 10+ years of marriage....but we have also experienced more joy in our four years than some experience in a lifeteime. So with that being said, I think I have gained some right to give a little bit of advice on the topic of marriage. : )
The one thing that I wish I had known before we got married....
You know that euphoric, floating-on-clouds feeling that you get when you meet your true love? That larger than life feeling that we call "falling in love"? Yeah, I bet you know what I'm talking about. Well, no one told me before I got married that that feeling fades away. Sure, I had heard the coined phrase "the honeymoon phase" but I didn't truly know what came after that.
For most, that "lovey-dovey, mushy-gushy feeling" begins to fade after the wedding. For some, it happens during the honeymoon. And for others, it happens after two years of marriage. But one thing is for certain, it will happen. And when it does, unfortunately, a lot of people come to the conclusion that they have "fallen out of love"....and that is why the divorce rate is at an all time high and climbing. But the real problem is not that they have "fallen out of love", the problem is that they do not have a clear understanding of what true love really is....most people think that love is just a feeling, but it is much more!
...two different things really.
*First, we have phileo love. Phileo love is based on feelings. Phileo love is that euphoric feeling that I described above...that feeling we get get early on in a relationship that is prompted by emotion and impulse...infatuation would be a good way to describe it.
*Then, we have agape love. Agape love is a commital love or a self sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that God has towards us. (Romans 5:8 -but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.) One cannot have a thriving, lasting relationship without agape love.
Early on in the majority of relationships, phileo love abounds and outweighs agape love. But then something happens. Reality sinks in...the little "quirks" that we used to think were cute suddenly become annoying....he leaves the toilet seat up, she burns dinner a lot, he leaves dirty clothes on the floor, she makes annoying eating noises, he loses his job, she wants to have a baby but he doesn't, etc, etc, etc. As Gary Chapman puts it in his book The Five Love Languages, "In this world, a look can hurt and a word can crush. Intimate lovers can become enemies, and marriage a battlefield."
This is when the rubber meets the road, and we make one of three choices. 1) opt for divorce 2)decide to stay together but live in misery 3) recognize the "falling in love" experience for what it was and now pursue each other with an agape love.
Sadly, most couples do not even realize that there is that third option and they choose divorce because they do not want to live in misery....and after they divorce, they repeat the process with someone else...before long, they have multiple divorces on their hands and children that our hurting from being right in the middle of it all.
But all of that can be avoided if we recognize our marriage vows for what they are...and that is a promise to love each other self sacrificially...it's a commitment to love each other with a love that grows out of reason and choice and not just instinct. Love is the attitude that says, "I am married to you, and I choose to look out for your interests." (Gary Chapman)
So if you are reading this right now and you have gotten past the "in-love" stage, and you are contemplating choosing between divorce or a life of misery, I encourage you to choose a third option...choose to honor your vows...choose to (agape) love each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. It will be hard at first and it will require much effort and discipline. But the reward is so worth it. You will discover what true agape love is and then the love that you will share with your spouse will be exciting beyond anything you felt towards each other when you were infatuated. Now you are loving each other by choice and not under the influence of the "falling in love" obsession. And I would like to add that there is nothing wrong with having that infatuated feeling at the beginning of a relationship. It is human nature to feel that way but it is also human nature for that feeling to fade. This is why we have to learn to have an agape love for each other or our relationship will fall apart. And that looks different for each relationship. What makes your spouse tick? What makes him smile? Makes him laugh? What puts that twinkle in his eye? How does he like to be shown love? Through words? touch? The possibilities are endless.
I can't sit here and tell you how to show your spouse that agape love. That is something that you have to figure out yourself by getting to know your spouse better....so make that commitment...that choice to love your spouse with an agape love...to look out for his interests...to help him reach his highest potential in life.
Afterall, God has shown us love in the most highest form. God is love. And we are of God. So shouldn't we strive to love others (especially our spouse) with the same kind of self sacrificial love that he has shown us?
So here's to four wonderful years of marriage to my best friend. I "agape" love you!