The day I’d been warned about before I got married, came, and it was worse than I thought it would be. It was the day that my husband and I looked at each other and admitted we just didn’t feel the love anymore. We laid in bed that night and talked about it.
“It feels like all of life stinks right now, and with it, our marriage,” my husband sighed.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied. “You’re still my best friend but I don’t feel in love with you anymore.”
There was a moment of silence and then, “I miss it.”
“Me too,” he said. “We’ll get it back though. It’s just a season and the season will end.”
A few days later, I received word that a friend of mine was considering divorce. “I just don’t love him anymore,” was her reason. “There’s not anything horrible going on in our marriage. We’ve just fallen further and further away from each other and I just don’t love him like I did when we got married.”
What was the difference between my marriage and my friend’s? Why did I not join the countless other women who filed for divorce in 2008? It certainly is not because I’m some sort of super hero or martyr. I’m nothing more than an exhausted wife and Mama most days, trying to balance marriage and motherhood with a work-at-home job.
My husband isn’t a super hero or martyr either. His days consist of working in sub-zero temperatures in the winter and scorching humidity in the summer, trying to get his own business off the ground, and hitting road blocks at every turn. Then, he comes home to an exhausted wife who’s stressing finances.
But we have something in us that makes us stick with it and refuse to throw in the towel. What is it?
It’s this: We realize that love is a choice and not a feeling. Love is something we choose to act on every day that we wake up, whether we feel like doing it or not. Love involves more than the heart; it involves logical commitment and a tenacity to hold on, even when it seems there is nothing to hold on to.
My husband and I talked about our situation the next night, and both of us made a verbal promise to stay committed and do what we could to bring back the love. We also stated to each other that we knew we loved each other, we just didn’t feel the love, and that we had so much going for us that not sticking it out wasn’t an option for us. Just making the declaration seemed to bring us closer to what we once had — not there, but definitely within range.
The following weeks were full of choosing actions despite my lack of feelings. I think it’s safe to say my husband could say it was the same for him.
We chose to write love notes to each other during this time, focusing on what we loved about each other. This was not only a reminder to our partner, it reminded us of what we treasured about our spouse. My husband was better about this than I was. He left notes on our bathroom mirror with dry erase markers, post it notes on my coffee can to find in the morning, and drew me pictures in our journal we keep as a couple.
Because his job demands all his concentration and I’m often busy with our toddler and/or working, phone calls had become sporadic between us, but we started making a point of touching base at some point in the day. It was a simple call, just to see how the person’s day was going and say the words, “I love you.” Even if we weren’t feeling the love, we were choosing to love, so those words held truth as we said them to each other.
With finances being tight, the weekly dates we had promised in the beginning of our marriage weren’t taking place anymore. But we started working them back in. Oh, we couldn’t afford dinners out and we rarely had someone that could watch our daughter, but we made an effort to do simple things: $2.00 ice cream cones at an ice cream stand 30 minutes away, using the drive as part of the date itself; using a Starbucks birthday gift card one night for a coffee date; hitting an area park for a family hike; taking walks together. The simple things were adequate when we were dating simply because we wanted to be together, and we worked at finding that simplicity once again.
This was on my end that this took place. My husband is the affectionate one. I am not. But I tried to purposefully reach out and take his hand or put my hand on his leg during car rides or church services. I even worked hard at coming up and being the one to surprise him with a hug, instead of vice-versa.
We got back into the habit we established during our first year of marriage — reading marriage books together. Although I am not a talker and I don’t usually need mass quantities of quality time, for some reason reading marriage books and discussing them briefly after each reading does wonders for feeling close to my husband. Not to mention, marriage books have great pointers to help couples through rough spots. It was, and is, hard with our work schedules, but we’re making it happen.
Making Sex a Priority
This, again, was on my end, not my husband’s. Knowing that sex begins in the brain and that sex is also a great help in the marital intimacy factor as a whole, I began to put sex in the forefront of my mind as much as I could, instead of avoiding the thought. This was difficult when I had a million and one things pressing on my mind and a to-do list that was never done, but I recognized the importance of it, and began to practice it.
Being Content with Our Side of the Fence
Because of past relationships in which my husband and I were both hurt deeply, we have learned that the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence — but it needs to be mowed just the same as the side we’re on! The reality is, no matter who we are with, the emotion of love is going to fade at some point, and the only thing left will be to choose love.
Hollywood and romance novels have done us a huge disfortune in making it look like either love is always fireworks and romance, or it’s something that fades with time and when it fades you move on.
That’s why so many divorce and remarry in an endless cycle. They’re always looking for the emotion of love, thinking that “this time” will be it, and not realizing that no matter what relationship they enter, the day will inevitably come that it will feel like the love is gone. All the money and the beauty in the world can’t prevent this time from appearing in every relationship, no matter how romantic the story is in the beginning! The secret is not in moving on, hoping to find love again. The secret is staying and choosing love despite your feelings.
What’s love got to do with it?
Nothing and everything.
Nothing, if you’re looking for the emotion of love as the indicator of whether or not to stay in your marriage.
Everything, if it is something you choose to act upon, even when you no longer feel it.
Love, true love, is a choice, not a feeling. Plain and simple.