Guest Post by Jonathan
Patti has been trying to post many times this month, and so she turns to me and asks “What would you write about for a post if you were to guest post tonight?”, so I think quick and reply, “probably about how wonderful it is to be married to you.” She figured that was a good start, so here I sit…
Truth is, marriage is a lot of work and we’ve been working at it for almost 14 years. The reason that this has become a topic tonight is that we are counselling a young couple that is about to get married. We actually have to sit down and think through all the stuff that we consider to be wisdom that we have learned and figure out a systematic way of passing that information on. In the last 14 years I would say that we have learned a few things, but if you stop me and ask me to list out what it is EXACTLY that we have learned, I would have to stop and think for a bit. Having to counsel this couple has put us in that position and it has been interesting talking it through with Patti.
In our first few sessions, we talked about expectations and boundaries and even how to have and resolve conflict. There is a lot in these topics that will help and strengthen marriage, and the conversations were great, but it blew me away when we talked about “Love”. That’s right we talked about love. This couple sat with mouths on the floor, taking notes and asking questions, because they had never heard this stuff before.
Now you might ask, what does love have to do with marriage, and I was thinking the same thing around year 5, but I’ll tell you, love has a lot to do with marriage. The couple were asked to tell us what they thought of love, and their answers were based a lot on movies and media… movies and media present all this exciting, heart pumping, flirting, forbidden, risk taking, winning, wooing, almost get the girl, loose the girl, find some inner strength, run onto the plane and tell the whole plane my really mushy speech, walk off the plane in despair, girl comes chasing me off the plane, we kiss, and fade to black… credits roll. And that sells movies, but it is not love. Love comes after. Love is there when she comes home after crashing the car. Love is there when the basement floods with sewage and all the family heirloom Christmas ornaments get damaged and you have to wear gas masks in your own house. Love is there when your child dies and either you or your wife (or both of you) can’t handle life for a few months (or years).
Love is a decision. That sounds so simple, but its true. I decided to marry my wife and at that moment I committed to loving her for life. I was 21 and had no idea what I was committing to. I didn’t know that one day I would come home from a tough day at the office to this woman who had spent the day with three kids four years old and under, who hadn’t gotten her hair done or taken a shower all day and had this glazed look in her eyes that said “I’ve lost the will to live”. I didn’t know that my “happy go lucky”, never plan anything in advance, attitude would grate on her to the point that she would snap. I didn’t know that her snapping would look like that…
What I did know was that I had seen a lot of people go through marriage, and the ones that stuck it out, generally seemed to be happier in the end that the ones that quit and my parents and my in-laws had stuck it out. So when things were down (and they have been down from time to time), I chose to love. (I should say that “we” chose to love here, becuase Patti has been a great wife and has been loving and committed to our marriage all the way, but this post it from my perspective, so props to Patti and I admit that I have not been a saint to live with, but she can write about that on her own post.)
There was a turning point, were all this came together for me. Sometime around years 5-7, Patti and I were not at the best place in our marriage. We were fighting a lot, finances were tough, we had a few kids and had not really adjusted to that in our relationship. If quiting were an option, it would have been considered then…. but it was never an option. I was reminded of a verse that says “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” That “Church” spat on him, pulled out his beard and hung him on a cross. I decided that until she had done that to me, that I could and would love her.
I chose to think about the things that attracted me to her. I chose to start doing some of the things for her that I had done when I “felt the
lust love”. I chose to tell her that I loved her. I chose to love her. I chose that and decided to expect nothing in return. I chose to look at the years up until then and to consider that the love that she had shown me to then was worthy of all the love I could give her for the rest of my life. It was the kind of determination that a spouse might make to go into a hospital where their partner was wounded so badly that they could never love them back, and choosing to love anyway.
It turns out that Patti was, or had made the same commitment. I found her love coming back.
When I started to give my love to Patti like that, then things started to change. Then the love in our marriage started to have substance. Where before we had a spark and some chemistry, now there was some actual heat. I’ve seen that the love that withstands a bit of testing burns hotter than the little flame you started with. The passion comes and goes, but it always comes back stronger and more meaningful.
I know the rush of picking a girl up. I know what it feels like to like someone and not know if they like you back. I know what it is like to go on a first date and try and make a good impression. I know what a first kiss feels like and how sweet it is. I know what it is like to sit on your bed at night and stare at the ceiling and think about the wonderful girl you were out with and the wonderful night you had and not sleep all night… and I will never feel those things again. I will never get that rush again. I will never experience the chase and the pressure and the emotions and the sweet victory. Instead I will settle in with my wife of 14 years, who doesn’t like to cuddle and go through the routine of life with her. I choose the latter because it’s worth more… because it’s deeper… because it’s got more substance than the initial surface love. I don’t get the rush of the chase, but I do get the passion of a lover who has battled with me and won. I do get the enormously fulfilling love of a wife that has spent 14 years getting to know me and what I like and what makes me feel loved and fulfilled and respected.
So I will leave you with a few bits of wisdom that I have picked up along the way…
– If you spend 30 minutes staring into the eyes of someone of the opposite sex, you will begin to feel that you love them, and that they love you back. So don’t spend a lot of time staring into the wrong person’s eyes, but do start intentionally spending time doing things where you can see your spouse’s eyes. It will rekindle the feelings of love.
– If you are going to tell you spouse a great story about how you were tempted by some temptress to cheat on her, but didn’t and chose to be faithful to her. Don’t tell the story with lots of colourful details and draw it all out and make it suspenseful and then give her the carefully concealed ending. Instead give away the ending right away… or you might not live through the story.
– and finally… Choose to love your spouse. Choose to love them expecting nothing in return. Choose to do things that show love to them, in ways that are meaningful to them. Be intentional about it, and you will find… Love.