This week we are going to talk about the second stage of marital decline, the stage where most couples live. It’s not bad; it’s just a stage that we find ourselves in day to day, and it is unavoidable. We call it Reality!
I think deep down inside, most people know that they will not live in the Romance stage 24/7 but perhaps don’t fully grasp how impactful Reality can be on their marriage. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. If we are not careful, we find that Satan will use the small things, the daily activities, the mundane tasks on our lists, to cause a wedge between us and our spouse.
Suzy and I hit the reality stage right away. After our wedding we rented a small apartment, we each had good jobs, and our life was great. Everything about the transition from dating, to engagement, to marriage was smooth and exactly how we had planned. But, in just a few short months, everything changed. Looking back today, we are grateful for the journey God put us on, but as we walked through it, we did not like it.
Less than three months after getting married, without going into much detail, I had to make a job change. It was unexpected for us, but it was the right move to make. When I shared this news with Suzy she was on board, and I was off to find a new job. Unfortunately, after what seemed an eternity of searching, I was still unable to find a job. I was frustrated and praying that God would open a door. He did. I was super excited to share the opportunity with my new bride.
When I shared the opportunity with Suzy, I was not prepared for her response. Just before we got married, she asked me to promise her that I would not take her to Miami to live. That was easy, I had no intention of going back to my hometown. However, it was a job and I felt like I needed to provide for my family. Shortly after dropping the news on Suzy, she broke down and began to cry … and didn’t stop. I felt awful and didn’t know what to do. The realities of life had hit us hard. We finally decided to head to Miami. Within a few months we found out Suzy was pregnant, and our daughter was born the following August. Sixteen months later our son was born. We were 23 and 24 years old and were knee-deep in the Reality stage.
REALIZING YOU’RE IN REALITY
We discovered that reality was unavoidable, and it made being married tough. We were unable to see these realities as opportunities to grow in our relationship with the Lord as well as each other. As much as we loved each other, the pressures of finding a new job and moving from our home in one city to another seemed to be more than we could handle. Add to that the surprise of parenthood and the fact that we hadn’t even figured out how to be husband and wife and it was a recipe for disaster. We were right in the middle of reality, and it didn’t take long. How husbands and wives respond to this stage will determine the success and the trajectory of their future together.
What we started to learn was how to submit to the Lord and each other. Ephesians 5:15-21 says “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
HOW TO APPROACH REALITY
It is important, when in the reality stage, to be vigilant and to focus on your relationship with the Lord, submitting daily to the Holy Spirit. Don and Sally state in the Two Becoming One resource that “in the reality stage, feelings wane and the flame begins to fade. Dissatisfaction overtakes joy and contentment. Romance blends into the background. Frequent expressions of love disappear. It becomes easy to wonder, ‘Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life?’”
How you approach this stage will make all the difference on what your future together will look like. Are you submitting daily to the power of the Holy Spirit for a fresh perspective of what you are navigating? And are you submitting daily to your spouse? The enemy is always at work. Make sure you are properly armed to deal with his attacks. If not, it is easy to slip into the next stage which is Resentment.