On hundreds of occasions, I have listened to unhappy couples in my office say something like this: “I just don’t love him (her) anymore. I guess we made a mistake when we got married.”
Those words might sound shocking to happily married couples, but I can sympathize. Karen and I expressed those exact sentiments to each other before the final crisis that nearly split us up early in our marriage. It’s hard to comprehend today, but there was a time when we experienced the numbness and disillusionment of a couple falling out of love.
What changed? We began to understand Genesis 2:24-25, which taught us the first step in restoring the love we had lost for each other. It’s all about cleaving.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (KJV).
Like most people, when I first read that word, I thought of a meat cleaver chopping things into two pieces. I thought, “Yep! That fits with my experience in marriage so far!”
But in the original Hebrew, that’s not what “cleave” means. In fact, it means the opposite: to pursue with great energy, or to cling to something zealously.
God’s plan for marriage is for a husband and wife to pursue each other with great energy and zeal, to cling to each other for the rest of their lives.
Guess what? Cling and pursue are action words. They mean we have to do something! We have to work at marriage. It’s the secret to staying in love.
Marriages begin a downward slide when one or more of the individuals involved stop working at it. Taking each other for granted and trying to coast through life on past memories or events creates inertia.
The idea that marriage requires hard work can be a challenge to our deepest romantic misconceptions. Whether we express it or not, most of us believe that marrying the right person means we’ll just stay in love automatically. We ride into the sunset and live happily ever after.
But how often do we just wake up, look at our spouses, and say, “Hallelujah”? Maybe we do that on the honeymoon, but eventually you have to return to the real world.
This is when we need to think back to our first few dates with our spouse. How hard did you work at impressing your date? How much time did you spend on your appearance? How careful were you with the words you spoke? How much energy did you expend being polite or trying to please your date?
Clearly, your relationship began with more than just chemistry. There was work involved—hard work. A lot of energy and effort. A zealous pursuit.
If you see cracks beginning to appear in your marriage, maybe the first step toward fixing them is to work harder. Don’t take your spouse for granted. Remember the early days, and start cleaving.