The other day I attended a prayer breakfast in downtown Indianapolis with about 600 area pastors, government officials, and ministry leaders. During the keynote speaker’s message I looked over to the neighboring table and saw a young married couple nestled close to one another, listening intently to the speakers words.
As I studied them briefly, the thought came across my mind- “Don’t ever lose that affection for one another.” Before you know it, if you’re not careful, love grows cold.
My wife and I have always been good at showing affection to one another. That’s never really been a problem for us. But, over the years, we have experienced so many seasons of mass-busyness that, at times, we look more like ships passing in the night than a married couple.
We are sort of in a season like that right now. Between work schedules, our kid’s schedules, and the normal demands of life, the course of our day moves pretty fast. Many of you can probably relate.
As I watched the couple at the prayer breakfast a few mornings ago, I figured they probably were newly weds, married less than a year, just beginning the journey. In my mind, I hoped for them. I hoped they would make it to the “death do us part” part of life, many many years in the future. I hoped their love would burn as bright that day as it does today.
It wasn’t long after I saw them that the antithesis walked past me. It was an elderly couple. They sat down in a booth across from me at a restaurant I was sitting in. They didn’t talk, didn’t smile, and only acknowledged one another when an waitress asked for their empty plates. They sat in silence nearly the entire time, looking away from one another, and reading their individual magazines.
I wondered- what happened to them? How did they arrive at this place where silence was easier than words? At what point in life did they simply stop trying?
The honeymoon was long over for them. And you know what? It should be. Because their love for one another needs to be something greater and more sustaining than a wedding day or honeymoon affection.
The longer I watched them, comparing them to the young couple I saw a day earlier, the more this thought raced through my mind:
- Cultivate love everyday of your life. Because, love is an everyday, growth process.
If you base your love or affection on the way you felt for each other when you were young, and just starting out, love will grow cold. Because that love was based more on infatuation than sacrifice and perseverance (2 things that happen over time). But, if love is cultivated everyday, and intentionally cared for like a farmer cares for the field he hopes will yield a crop, it grows greater and deeper than you can imagine.
We don’t start out on a life journey with our spouse hoping, or even intending, to end up like couple 2. We dream of growing old together and holding on to one another’s hands well into our 80’s or 90’s. Let’s just be honest- we want to go out like the elderly couple in The Notebook, right? (Sorry for the spoiler!!!). So, how do we achieve this?
Here’s a litmus test. Ask yourself these questions, as it relates to your marriage:
1. How much affection do we show each other daily?
Do you kiss each other in the morning before you depart for work? Do you kiss each other goodnight before your head hits the pillow? Do you intentionally (not forcefully or begrudgingly) show affection to the person you committed to spend the rest of your life with? If not, why?
2. How much time do we really spend talking to one another (and listening)?
I mean really really talking and listening. Not in passing or during your kid’s basketball game, I mean, away from all the distractions, in the confines of your bedroom, or out at a coffee shop? Where you can focus intently on your husband or wife and actually digest the words they are speaking and the feelings they are feeling?
3. How’s our sex life?
You’re squirming a little right now, aren’t you? “He said the S word!” you’re muttering to yourself. You bet I did! Sex is a big deal. It’s your physical connection to one another. This should be a regular occurrence in your relationship. Without it, your emotional and physical love begins to erode. And that can cause lots of other problems.
If this hasn’t happened in a while, it’s time to farm the kids out to friends and relatives, grab a bottle of wine and some candles, and set the night in motion!
4. Are we really on the same page?
With your finances, your schedules, your children, your retirement, your home life, and the list goes on and on! I talk with so many couples who have a “page position” problem in their marriage. They are simply on 2 different pages. We know how that is. Over the years, many of our struggles as a couple have been the result of being on different pages.
If you don’t like the answers you came up with for the four questions above, it’s time to do some work. We come face to face with these questions all the time. We’ve recognized how crucial they are to the longevity of our marriage. The same is true for you. Don’t wait until you’re bitter, frustrated, and broken down by the world, to change. Do it now. Cultivate love for your spouse everyday. Make it your top priority.