When the Romance Dies… (Part 1/2)

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In most marriages, the more time a couple is married seems to be directly proportional to the more passionless the marriage.  Like all things, if left to its own devices, there is going to be a natural deterioration and marriage (especially romance) is no different.  There are, however, ways to fight for your marriage and ensure that the flame never dies, and I’m going to speak to a few of those in this two part series…

I hated it when people told me when I was first married that the passion and romance my wife and I had was merely the “honeymoon phase” and that it would wear off eventually.  “Enjoy it while it lasts!” they would say.  Well, I refused to believe that and after one child and 7+ years later… and I still refuse to believe it.  Here’s why:

Romance and love is not a feeling; it is a commitment and a choice that we make.

We’ve been trained by everything around us, from movies to sitcoms to songs, on what love is, and our modern cultural predominant idea of love is a shallow, hollow, ridiculous, empty type of emotive love that looks down on a deep, genuine, biblical love and would view it as unhealthy rather than the modern sensibilities, which has shown us to be nothing but unhealthy.

Predominantly (I want to say predominantly; that means that’s not everyone, but mostly), love is purely emotive and can be fallen into and out of, depending really on how happy the other person is making us.  So really, we don’t love the other person; we love us.  Love is, “You make me happy, so I love you.”  But that’s you loving you. That’s not you loving someone else.

Listen to people talk all the time. They will say they fell out of love. “I just don’t love him anymore.” In fact, the thing that’s probably most frowned upon in predominant culture when it comes to love is someone who loves by will and commitment, what the Hebrews called ahava. It was a love of the will. It was a “I’m not going anywhere” mentality.

Ahava says, “I’ve seen the ugly side of you and I’m staying.” Yet we would view that in our culture predominantly as unhealthy. “Surely God doesn’t want you for that. Your life is so short. Are you really going to spend it like that?”  In our culture, love is flippant. It can shift and change at any given moment. It is not sustaining, and it is not safe. If you want to try to get a handle on why people are putting off marriage or not getting married at all, you only need to look at how we’re defining love. Why would anyone want that?

Really, this finds its roots in the Romans and their view of love. We’ve just lapped it up like fools. If love is purely emotive, then what’s to stop Cupid in his little diaper from lighting me up with his little love arrows when I go to the store after this, and all of a sudden I don’t love my wife anymore; I love the hot woman I saw in aisle six?  You could say, “What could I do? It’s Cupid. I just fell out of love with my wife.  I’m now in love with the woman on aisle six buying peanut M&Ms for her family.”  This is the kind of nonsense we are lapping up and loving in our culture.

We don’t even have language for love anymore. I know, because you love fajitas. You love fajitas, you love your dog, and yet you would still say you love your spouse, and you’d still say you love your parents, or you love your sisters or brothers. We don’t even have language that would allow love to be deep for us. We don’t even know what we’re saying when we say that anymore. Most of the time when we say, “I love you,” what we’re saying is, “You make me happy. You make me glad, so I love you.”*

We need to get past the superficial idea of love that our culture is dishing out and start getting back to a Biblical idea of what love is.  Make the choice to love your spouse and to hold down the fort even when things get rough.**  In part 2, I will be addressing practical ways to keep the romance alive and how to make the choice of love a delight and not merely a martial duty.

*I am indebted to Matt Chandler for these thoughts.

**Barring emotional, physical, sexual abuse. You need to talk to someone about your marriage if these things are going on

4 thoughts on “When the Romance Dies… (Part 1/2)

  1. Great column Matt!

    If I love my wife to get loved back then it’s not really love. SELF motivated

    Much like if I pray for my wife to get better from illness just to make my life easier. Again SELF motivated.

    Most in the world get married for themselves not to give ourselves up for our spouse. True LOVE!

  2. Now I know what the secret is to my 20 year marriage. No secret, but Ahava. Not only do we see the worst and stay- we see the worst but know the best is just underneath….

  3. This is great and I agree with everything you’ve written. But I have a question. Does a husband, who feels his sexual and emotional needs aren’t being adequately met and who shares his disappointment and let down very regularly, have the right to be aggressive and hurtful and verbally/emotionally abusive? In light of God’s design for marriage, should a wife continue to stay in a marriage when she is always reminded of how inadequate she is, and have her spirit crushed by her husband daily? Is it right for Biblical submission to be used as a way to dominate and control, and any defending of oneself is seen as disrespectful and unsubmissive? How can boundaries be drawn with someone who wholeheartedly believes he is right and justified because he is a man? I believe in marriage but how does one get help for theirs in an environment like this?

    1. The short answer is no, he does not “have the right” to be emotionally or verbally abusive or use submission to reinforce these ideas. I would argue that he does not truly comprehend what Biblical submission is if this is the case (see posts on “Marriage & Submission” for full breakdown). I would advocate for a third party, whether that is a pastor or counselor, to talk with both of you about your marriage. That is one of the best ways to have clear lines of communication if you are seemingly stuck and not agreeing in aspects of your marriage. Third parties (that you trust) can prove to be a great breakthrough moment because it is no longer just your word against his. I would at least start there!

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