As we enter the month of February, we would like to walk you through what we call the four main stages of marital decline. We will take each week's blog to break down the stages to help you better understand where your marriage is and to be better equipped to navigate a difficult stage. And, if you are in a healthy stage, be intentional in making sure you maintain the reality stage while pursuing romance.
The four stages of marital decline are: Romance, Reality, Resentment, and Rebellion. This blog will cover the Romance stage! In our resource “Two Becoming One” Don and Sally Meredith state, “Everything about the stage of romance is idyllic – you’re happy, your spouse is happy. Even the challenges like living in the less desirable part of town and not having enough money don’t seem so bad. You feel so in love! When potential conflict enters, you fight it off together, you excuse it, you don’t let it bother or frustrate you. You’re more forgiving. This is a time filled with good feelings. While this is a wonderful place to be, most couples don’t stay here long.”
When it All Began
I remember when Suzy and I were dating in college and one summer we were going to be separated for about ten weeks. Suzy was traveling with a music group from our college and I was doing an internship in Indiana at a church. The thought of not seeing each other for ten weeks felt like an eternity. We did not have cell phones back then so you had to be strategic about picking a time to get on a landline to talk. I remember getting Suzy’s travel itinerary, buying some cards and stamps, and writing a letter and sending it ahead to the churches she would be visiting during her summer trip.
Suzy would write letters to me as well and send them to the house I was staying at in Indiana. We could not wait for that card or letter to arrive! Not having the technology we have today, we did not see each other until the end of summer, but felt as if we were together because of the letters we wrote. We were in love and wanted to tell each other as often as we could. To this day, Suzy still has those letters and cards that I wrote.
When Reality Sets In
After three and a half years of dating and almost twenty eight years of marriage we still love each other, but have learned that the romance stage is not a reality all the time. The second stage of marriage is Reality. We will not dwell on this stage during this blog, but it is important to note that when reality hits – the bills, kids, jobs, responsibility – it is very easy to lose the romance.
We may desire to stay in the romance stage in our marriage but reality is unavoidable. The question is, how do we pursue romance while living in that reality? Romance doesn’t happen unless you pursue it. You have to be intentional about it. You need to study your spouse, which takes a lifetime, to better understand how to best love and care for them. If we do not pursue romance, reality will naturally pull us to the other two stages of resentment and rebellion which are not healthy in your marriage.
Why Pursue Romance?
Our love for our spouse and desire to care for them, invest in them, and continually pursue them, ultimately comes from how we view God. Being reminded of how He graciously reached out to us and loved us to the point of giving His life up on the cross for us, and also recognizing the amazing gift He has given to us in our spouse. God made the first move, He pursued us and expressed that love sacrificially.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have experienced this ultimate love, the first recipient on this earth to receive that love from you needs to be your spouse. Your spouse is God’s perfect provision for you. Your spouse is not perfect, which sometimes makes it tough to love them unconditionally, but neither are you, yet God loved you with an Agape, sacrificial love!
The romance stage is not to be wrapped around infatuation, wooing, emotion, etc., although that would keep things exciting, but rather it is focused on Agape, sacrificial love to which we are called. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is a great reminder, but remember, this includes your spouse. I’m not sure why, but most of the time when I read a text like this, I do not immediately think of my wife. I think of others I’m doing life with. Suzy needs to be the first recipient of this type of love.
Now Go Pursue Romance!
So today, be reminded of God’s love towards you. Be reminded of the great gift God has given you in your spouse. As you navigate the realities of life, make sure you take time to tell and show them how much you love them and are grateful that they are God’s perfect provision for you.
Excuse me while I go and write a letter now! It’s been way too long since Suzy has received a love letter like I mentioned earlier, so I’m going to take the time now to do that.