I was at our Credit Union last week conducting some business when one of the employees remarked that it was her parents’ wedding anniversary. A coworker commented on the happiness of the day, to which she responded, “Not really, they’re divorced.” The scope of divorce in our society is disheartening, and I wonder how many of them could have been prevented.
Nearing our sixth wedding anniversary, I have better insight into a few of the common pitfalls. These stumbling blocks can get a marriage off course. Left unattended long enough, they could plausibly lead to divorce. While I don’t wish to be naive about the complexity of divorce, I think that boredom plays an outsized role. A key source of this boredom relates to routine.
Humans love tangible emotions; we love to feel. When you’re trying to catch a girl’s attention, or in the early stages of the dating relationship, there are a lot of feelings. There’s the experience of new things, the thrill of the chase, and a lot of public displays of affection. Feelings are transient and are a reaction to some event or stimulus. As you move deeper into marriage, the role of feelings diminish and the role of love increases. Love is not a reaction, but a lens. Instead of responding to some thing, love informs all of your decisions and shapes your attitude and actions towards a person. It isn’t a response to something, it’s a proactive function.
We’re creatures of habit, and we settle into a routine. In this routine, we may notice a decrease in the excitement or surprise in our relationship. If we approach marriage with the expectation that the feelings we experienced during courtship will linger, unchanged and sustained without effort we will be sadly disappointed. This set of expectations can lead to trouble, chasing a high that can’t be sustained.
If you find yourself starting to take on this attitude, there are two definite ways to help you see through the fog that’s building in your relationship.
First, examine your expectations. It may be that you’ve never communicated to your spouse what it is you are wanting, or in what ways you don’t feel fulfilled. Being coy is for dating; being clear is for marriage. Share what you are feeling. Keep in mind what you’re asking for may be unrealistic.
Second, think about all of the things your spouse has done in the past week. Love is manifest in many ways, most of which are unassuming. Maybe they put the kids down while you got to watch TV. Maybe they worked all day to clean the house or spent a few hours out in the sun washing and waxing your car. Maybe they went out and brought home dessert, prepared a nice meal, or took the kids to the park so you could have some quiet time at home. Sure, many of those examples may be their actual responsibilities in your family, but they are still loving acts.
There should be surprise, gifts, and excitement in your marriage. Expecting marriage to be a buffet of public displays of affection is setting yourself up for disappointment.