Marriage is difficult to invest in at the best of times.
When 8 months of pregnancy and over 100-degree temperatures mix with crippling amounts of humidity and the needs of a 3-year-old… it can get downright impossible to maintain.
Thankfully, marriage doesn’t rely on feelings. Otherwise, the missus would feel like ripping my stupid face off whenever I chuckle at her inability to reach something (like her feet). I would feel like retreating into my creative pursuits rather than deal with another night completely hijacked by the niece. We would both feel like just napping, rather than doing the things necessary to the day (or the exciting days ahead).
But marriage, at its best and worst, should never ever ever be based on feelings. Feelings might have gotten you here, and they are valid portions of marriage, but they are not the fuel that sustains it.
I’m convinced love is (almost by definition) a choice, an action, a step taken toward the other person’s heart. Without giving in to regard for one’s own comfort or capacity. It is in the choosing of the other person that the feelings of love are created in the first place. No action, no feelin’. The two are entwined, and rightly so.
And not just the actions of romanticism. I can bring my wife flowers every day, but if the bills aren’t getting paid on time I might as well just show her the roses and then shove them down the garbage disposal.
Never underestimate the value of “Anyway“.
I’m exhausted. I love my wife, so the litter box will get cleaned anyway. I’m frustrated. My wife can’t buckle her shoe straps thanks to my child’s girth, so I’ll get down on the floor and strap those shoes on anyway. My wife is undone by the heat and the to-do list, but she’ll make a gourmet meal for us anyway. She has no more enthusiasm or energy to give, but she’ll dance and laugh with the niece anyway.
Love is sacrificial to its essence. Its pursuing the best for someone other than you. And because it is that way, it is incredibly difficult to manifest the gusto to love with excellence some days.
Recognize that sometimes you’re not going to feel like being loving to your spouse.
That’s okay. It’s not a question of if it will happen, but what will you do with it when it happens. Hopefully, you won’t make the mistake I so often do and try and ‘fix’ yourself out of embarrassment or a sense of ‘failing’ the other person. Everyone ‘fails’ at being the perfect partner – despite what Hollywood, the Church, and authors of incredibly poorly-written (or so I’ve heard) teen fiction novels about vampires might have you believe. I fail consistently at being the best husband history will ever record the existence of. So will you (especially if you’re a wife…)
The trick is to do the action. The action is to love. And love is shown many ways, but is defined best when given through grit teeth… when it interrupts whatever it was I was so involved with elsewhere… when it costs me something.
Love in marriage is so far the opposite of self-satisfying that it actually catapults your fulfillment back into the land of ‘good’. You stretch yourself to meet the needs of the other, and somehow your own soul is fed. I think it’s designed to work that way.
Love is a choice worth making, even when it costs us everything.