Just because you fell in love “once upon a time” it doesn’t mean you will assuredly “live happily ever after.” The probability that your once passionate love for each other will eventually fizzle (and in some cases, even explode) is a pretty sure thing. Just look at the divorce statistics, for just one clue, among many. Loving takes intentionality.
To fall in love is no big feat. You kind of trip into that situation. But to continue in love —that’s the challenge. However, without intentionality involved in growing your relationship, I’m afraid it’s not likely your love will grow in a positive direction.
Yet by doing what it takes to LEARN how to continually grow your love relationship, it’s not the impossible dream.
Something We Learned
That’s what Steve and I learned the hard way. We met over 47 years ago when I called into the college radio program he was disc-jockeying. (That term in itself is a blast from the past.) He was begging people to call in song requests and I was one of them who did. We started talking, and really hit it off to the point where we decided to meet each other at the radio station the next day. The rest is history. That was the start of our “journey in love.”
It didn’t take long for us to become infatuated with each other and eventually to “fall in love.”
We dated for two and a half years and then married. We were sure that ours was a love like no other and that we would be the model couple showing others how love was to be lived out.
Were we wrong! Our first year was pretty great. But eventually life has its way of getting between even the strongest of couples and inching us away from enjoying being with each other. It came to the point where we even hated being together more times than not.
There are a lot of reasons for this, some of them being youth, naivety, lack of the type of maturity it takes to forge a marriage partnership, lack of knowledge of how to resolve conflict in healthy ways, life itself delivered a few punches in health issues and financial setbacks… to name a few.
Loving Takes Intentionality
But eventually the Lord helped us to wake up just before it was too late and we started applying ourselves to learn how to live with each other in more understanding ways and to rebuild and then continue to grow our love. All of that took intentionality. There’s that word again, but it’s true. God showed us we needed to have a purpose driven marriage (see the Marriage Message, A Purpose-Driven Marriage), which would take intentionality on our part to develop and to grow our love for each other.
“Sometimes, we begin to slide away from one another without our realizing that the rift is happening. Like the slow dripping of a leaky faucet, we get so accustomed to the pattern of the noise that we don’t even realize that something is broken. Something is in need of attention.
“But step by step, day by day, year by year…we disconnect. Maybe it’s that we’re not taught how to fight against the drift. Or maybe we’re just not in tune to the drifting when it happens. But either way, if we’re not careful, we can find our marriages in a place we never intended for them to be.” (Debra Fileta, from her book, “Choosing Marriage”)
Combatting the Drift with Intentionality
Recently, I came across some things written and spoken by Dr Pat Love. She wrote on the topic of staying in love with your spouse. It holds a lot of truth and is worth applying as we work to grow our marriages (Steve and mine, and yours). While Pat doesn’t put it into a biblical context, it definitely goes along with biblical principles pointing out that love is not only a noun, but also a verb. It’s what we do, which best shows and grows our love.
Here’s a shortened version of what Dr Pat Love explains as “the four basic keys to loving.”
(1) You’ve got to show up. You’ve got to be present. And you have to be under the same roof. You’ve got to log in some hours with each other. You don’t just show up for what’s fun for me. If it’s important to you, it becomes important to me.
(2) You’ve got to tune in. Attunement means that when I’m present with you, that I am not multi-tasking… You cannot be intimate when you’re multi-tasking. So, during those important moments when I look at you, I really see you. And you can tell when I look at you with soft eyes and I really hear you and I’m present, so I tune in. I mean, there’s such a difference in taking someone’s hand and holding their hand and feeling their hand.
(3) Tune in long enough to understand, to see how you are different. I tune in long enough to get you or understand you…
(4) Behavior, will be congruent with that understanding… We love people who love us. It’s pretty simple. But we really love people who get us. And their behavior shows it in those subtle little ways.
I believe there’s so much truth in what Pat explains. And when think about it, aren’t those points, which helped you to first fall in love with each other? You were “present” in your relationship —spending time together, learning more and more about each other. You “tuned in,” as far as how you interacted with one another. This helped you to better “understand” more about the person you would one day marry. You were supportive and loving, and your behavior showed it both in little and big ways.
What happens too often after marrying though, is that we become so familiar with each other that we allow ourselves to slide out of continuing on with those actions. Everyday living naturally slides us apart.
As Dennis Rainey states in his book, Staying Close: Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation in Marriage,
“Your marriage will naturally move more toward a state of isolation. Unless you lovingly and energetically nurture and maintain your marriage, you will begin to drift away from your mate. You’ll live together, but will live alone.”
It’s true. It will take intentionality to apply the “Four Basic Keys to Loving,” as Pat Love talks about. But if you want to stay connected in your marital relationship, or you want to connect again (because the same “rule” applies here too), you’ll do what it takes to stay in love or to fall in love again, as the Lord guides you to apply the principles of 1 Corinthians 13 and beyond. “Love is not a fight, but it’s a fight worth fighting for.”
Keep in mind that the principles for loving are the principles for living, as pointed out to us in the Bible. With intentionality, read it. And then apply it.