One of the most common phrases my wife Ashley and I hear when talking with married couples who are facing struggles, boredom, the aftermath of infidelity or any other type of challenge in marriage is something like, “I just don’t feel the same anymore. I’ve fallen out of love with him/her. I’m not sure I want to stay married.”
Maybe you’ve had thoughts like this and maybe you’ve even said them out loud. Feelings are fickle, so chances are, you’ve had moments when you haven’t “felt” like being married to your spouse. Those moments can become defining moments in your marriage. How you choose to respond when you don’t feel “in love” could have lifelong ramifications for your life and your legacy.
In those moments when you’re feeling frustrated in your marriage, please remember these five truths:
1. Statistically, “unhappy” couples who stay together are likely to be “happy” within 5 years.
I recently read a longitudinal study of married couples who identified themselves as “unhappy” in the marriage. Many of those couples divorced, but for the ones who stayed together, 2/3 (67%) of them said they were “happy” five years later. The process of working through difficulties together tends to eventually bring a deeper sense of satisfaction and contentment to both spouses. I don’ t share this to encourage you to chase whatever you think will make you “happy,” because that’s a pretty fickle emotion, but EVERY couple has seasons of struggle and those who persevere together tend to become the happiest and healthiest.
2. Having an affair is NEVER the answer.
Our culture has romanticized the idea of having a steamy fling, but this is always a bad idea that will create emotional wreckage for everyone involved. It might seem enticing because a whole different set of “feelings” are involved when you’re trying to seduce someone, etc., but those feelings will betray you. If you really want to have a lifelong great sex life, it won’t be found outside of marriage. Check out our online course to enhance sex, intimacy and communication in marriage.
3. Choose what’s valuable in the long run instead of what’s easy in the moment.
Walking out on your marriage or having an affair might “feel” enticing, but think of it this way…Let’s say you had a bag full of pennies in one hand a bag full of $100 bills in another. The bag full of pennies might “feel” more substantial, but the real question is “Which one is more valuable?” A marriage that endures the seasons of life provides a richness to the husband and the wife (and their children that far surpasses what either of them could have possessed had they left the marriage. The easiest choice is seldom the best choice.
When we base our choices on how we “feel,” we will never experience real love. All through the Bible (which is a remarkably practical marriage manual), God commands us to love. For love to be a commandment, it means that love must also be a choice. After all, you can’t command someone to do something to do something that’s out of their power to do (like commanding them to “feel” a certain way). We tend to think of love as just a feeling and we’re enslaved by the fickle nature of it. When we “feel” no love, we assume the marriage must be dead, but love is always a commitment. It’s a choice; not a feeling. When we make that choice to love, serve and encourage our spouse daily, our feelings almost always have a way of catching up eventually.
5. Your spouse probably needs your love the most in those moments when he/she “deserves” it least.
“Unconditional love” is a redundant phrase, because unless love is unconditional, it isn’t really love. Do we only love our children on those days they’re being “lovable”? Of course not. We love them on their best day and their worst, because they’re our kids. Our commitment to a husband or wife should be every bit as strong and sacred. Give your best even when he/she is at their worst, and eventually, both your hearts will probably soften towards each other in the process. God gives us love even when we don’t return it and He calls us to share that same love with each other. If you want your marriage to work, don’t treat your spouse the way your spouse treats you; treat your spouse the way that God treats you.
For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, please check out my bestselling book, iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage and our brand new iVow online marriage course. If your marriage is currently in crisis, please check out the resources at SaveMyMarriage.com.
Please share this post using the links below so we can help couples who need it.