Do you remember the moment you met your spouse, your first kiss, your first date, your wedding, the first time you made love, had a baby, bought a house, etc.?
Those are the things you cherish, the things that your relationship is founded on and pulls from for support in emotionally difficult times. The recently released movie The Vow states, “My theory is that…life is a series of moments…moments of impact.”
Unfortunately, all too often those moments of impact can damage us emotionally, even to a point that we develop automatic responses to the pain. (And if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that all too often it’s the ones we love the most that can hurt us most deeply.)
For many couples, especially church-going ones, the “love tank” is a familiar concept. It goes like this: Each spouse makes deposits into each other’s love tank, and if that love tank goes empty, you start experiencing extraordinary stress, less ability to handle conflict and pain, and are less likely to be forgiving and gracious towards each other. In short, the ministry and holiness of marriage is compromised.
That’s the simple version, right? Easy problem to fix–just do more things that make your spouse feel more loved…
“Right,” you say. “I’ve done that, and done that, and done that. I still don’t think my spouse feels that love, and moreover, I don’t think they really know the thing I most want in order to feel loved.”
So what happens when the tank is empty, and you’ve pulled all you can from those sources and the well is now dry?
As this Valentine’s Day passes, a day of excessively glorified “romance,” remember that one day of romantic gestures will not fix the hurt you may have caused your spouse, and it will most definitely not fix the hurt your spouse has inflicted upon you. (Although, for some of you it may be a start.)
Love is not a word meant to be thrown about solely to convey your feelings of attraction for one another, nor is it merely an expression of your undying commitment to one another. Though these things are a part of love, there is a deeper and truer sense of love that many never tap into. We will call this true love. For most of us, love is based upon feelings. This, of course, is what Valentine’s Day is touted to be all about–romantic feelings. Feelings are great and important, but true love is not based upon feelings; true love is based upon selfless sacrifice.
Is it true love to keep your promises to your spouse when you feel like it, or is it really true love to stay true to your vows when you don’t feel like it–when your love tank is on empty. Do you remember your vows? “In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse.” If you don’t keep your vows during times of sickness, emptiness, and tragedy, then there was no point in making them!
True love is something more than feelings.
True love is something not governed by how mad you are or how unloved you feel or how unfair life’s circumstances are.
True love is not swayed by what you get in return.
When I say that, many of you think:
“Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to love my spouse.”
“Sometimes any and every alternative to truly loving your spouse seems easier, smarter, more attractive, more fulfilling, and more satisfying.”
In such times your hurting heart can be your worst enemy if you let it control you.
If you identify with these feelings, odds are you have been married for at least a year. The honeymoon is over, and every day life throws “everyday” at you. You fall into routines and patterns and comfort zones, and if your not careful and proactive it is this monotony that can become the primordial ooze of bitterness, selfishness, and deceit, which can evolve into abuse, affairs, apathy and neglect to mention a few.
It’s very likely that you are, or will soon be, at the mercy of life’s challenges.
In a couple weeks we’ll be talking about how two people (or just you) can prepare for and overcome, with God’s help, those challenges, and how you can stay in control of yourself and still be available emotionally for your family.