And as C.S. Lewis has written, Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.
All of us encounter those days where we’re thinking, if he throws his socks beside the hamper one more time, I am going to tell him exactly where he should put them. Or, Honey, I get hormones. But does PMS really last all month?
Or maybe the slumps are longer: that season when you’re drowning in sippy cups and Big Bird, and when she gets horizontal, it’s only to immediately hit a much-needed REM cycle. Maybe it’s that season when work and schedules and teenager issues mean most of your conversations take about five minutes, four minutes of which are about logistics and who’s picking up whom.
What the following suggestions are: ideas for when fondness is waning, and you simply want to move toward your spouse rather than away. You want to kindle the romance a bit—and the affections that do grease the wheels of everyday relationships. (You’re less likely to lash out, for example, when you’re feeling warmth toward your mate.)
What these aren’t: a cure-all for deeper issues. Glossing over deep-seated problems is the equivalent of slapping on a Band-Aid to a gushing wound. While these are hopefully healthy solutions in any relationship, pretending deep problems are shallow will likely only delay healing and possibly dash hopes when your spouse fails (again) to respond.
- First things first. I wrote in a former post Paul David Tripp’s words that “relationships are first fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally.” Tripp continues,
In my marriage, I have had to make this confession–my problem isn’t first that I have failed to love [my wife] Louella in the way that I should. No, my deeper problem is that I have not loved God as I should.
Jesus said that the second commandment, to love one’s neighbor (created in God’s image) as oneself, is like the first: to love God with all that we are. Our horizontal intimacy and community–marriage being an intimate form of community–are outworkings of how God’s loved us: laying down His life for us, pursuing us when enemies.
- Ruthlessly hunt gratitude. Maybe it’s composing a running list of what you’re thankful for in your spouse, your marriage, and the life and journey you’ve made together. Maybe it’s a series of grateful prayers throughout the day. Maybe it’s a mental interview with someone asking about what you love about him. Maybe it’s imagining your jealousy if someone else was eyeing all those attractive qualities about her. The point: comb through your day to find the ways God’s handed you gifts small and large through your mate. (See here for 5 Ways Gratitude Can Rev up Your Sex Life.) Your marriage is an act of worship, and thanking God is a way of giving Him credit you’re tempted to ignore—and stirring a few embers while you’re at it.
- Figure out what’s eating your grapes. The ancient love poem, Song of Solomon, speaks of chasing out the “foxes” in the lovers’ “vineyard”. What’s eating your grapes? Maybe it’s a lack of rest; or white space on your calendar; or resolution to the issue that keeps snacking on your reserves of patience; or romance novels, airbrushed magazines, and movies setting unrealistic expectations. Maybe you’re trying to stay tight in tough circumstances. Show no mercy. Your marriage and your home are some of the most valuable pieces of your life (and your kids’). Isolation is a slippery slope! Zero tolerance: Kill the foxes.
- Set guardrails on your thoughts. As you think about your marriage and the partner God’s given you as a gift—not an enemy—use verses like 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Philippians 4:8 as the standards for your mind, taking “every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ.” I’m convicted by 1 Peter ‘s command to pursue “unity of mind.” Am I moving toward being more married, more one flesh, even in my thoughts? Practically speaking, start thinking romance and sex (exhausted moms, get tips here for Sex after Kids: 11 Not-So-Quickie Ideas).
- Go against the grain. Create the romance you long to see, even though your feelings aren’t in it just yet. Create a creative, romantic evening. Write a love note. Take a shower together. Get it on. Social psychology tells us that when we perform actions, like smiling, our mood actually draws closer to our actions. So even if you don’t feel it, lay a hand on her shoulder. Give him a massage. Reality is, our marriages are an offering to God. Sometimes that “widow’s mite” that we don’t even feel we have the resources to give is one of the most precious gestures in His sight. Start with some practical ideas, like these: 50 Things to Say to Make Your Husband Feel Great, 50 Ways to Inspire Your Husband, and 50 Ways to Inspire Your Wife.