Love is a Discipline
One of the most joyful days of my life was the day I became Mrs. Jennifer Thompson. Todd and I had come through a two year, long distance relationship with very few visits during that separation. It’s no lie when I say I was euphoric at the thought of getting to spend every day and every night with him from then on.
It was paradise. Well, except for the homesick part. The day after our wedding in Southern California, we moved 1600 miles away to Arkansas. I missed my family and I missed my friends and I missed my beach and it was all a bit challenging for those first few months. But still, I knew I was where I belonged – with the man I loved.
I had always heard that a good marriage took work, but I didn’t see it. I mean, why in the world would I ever have to work at loving Todd? It came so very easy those first few years. When I look back over our time before children it’s with a great fondness. Life was just fun and carefree and we loved each other and were so happy.
During that time I heard more than one person use the “we just fell out of love” excuse for their separation or divorce. “Pshaw! People don’t just ‘fall out of love’,” I would think to myself. Obviously they weren’t in as much love as Todd and I were. Right?
A month before our fourth anniversary we welcomed a precious baby into our hearts and home. All that love and joy I had felt when it was just the two of us had grown exponentially with the arrival of our firstborn, and I feared it was actually possible to explode from all that warm and fuzzy emotion.
Fast forward to somewhere in our fifth year of marriage. We had a toddler, a new home, I had a new job, Todd had a new position, he was playing softball, we were both engaged with church commitments… we were Busy with a capitol “B”! And do you know what happened? We started co-existing. I distinctly remember passing him in our very narrow hallway and not even looking at him. We weren’t fighting and I wasn’t angry or anything. I was just busy doing my own thing as was he.
I can’t really say how long we went on like this. It was long enough for us both to realize something was wrong. That’s when I figured out “we just fell out of love” was a real thing. It’s not that I didn’t love him anymore, but he had dropped very low on my list of priorities. I had become apathetic to our marriage and he had done the same. And the scariest part was how quietly it sneaked up on us.
Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. ~ Ephesians 5:21 (MSG)
Most translations say “submit to one another”, but “submit” is such a hot button term and I don’t want you to miss the point here. We had, very innocently, let our relationship slide until we were only thinking of ourselves and our responsibilities and needs and wants. Once we started putting each other ahead of ourselves we quickly regained the ground we had lost.
In June we will celebrate 28 years of wedded bliss. Or maybe I should say 28 years of a lot of really good with a little meh thrown in for good measure. It would be a lie to say we figured out the secret to a perfect marriage long ago and have never faltered since. The truth is, there have been a lot of distractions in the form of life these many years, and without paying attention we have sometimes found ourselves slipping into old habits. And then we remember to be courteously reverent to one another.
A good marriage does take work. It requires more than love. It also requires discipline and selflessness and sometimes that’s hard. But the results are so very worth the work.
- Marriage 101 - August 29, 2021
- When Disappointment Takes a Back Seat - October 23, 2019
- A Singular Sin - October 2, 2019
Excellent. I always told our kids there were times when we worked on our marriage and there were times when we needed outside help to work on our marriage and there was no shame in that. Nope marriage is not easy, nor is working on it and looking at our partners with fresh eyes. But it is so worth it. Thanks for sharing. The more people who bust the myths the better.
No shame in working on our marriage and getting help from the outside at all. And yes – people need to know it isn’t always going to be roses and that’s okay.
A year and a half into my marriage, your post is a mix of encouraging, exciting, and scary. But hey, one could also describe a good marriage with those adjectives, too, right? Thanks for keeping it real.
Keeping it real is how I roll. 🙂 And I would say you’re exactly right. A good marriage is all those things and then some!
So much truth in this Jen. While I’m still deeply in love (grows more each year) with Nate after 20 years- many years have been hard, especially during the child raising years. Some of those were meh for sure. It’s so easy to not only lose who you are during those years, but to lose who you are to each other. Marriage does require discipline- to God- to each other. I fear that so many jump ship because they’re not willing to commit to doing what’s needed for healthy (and sometimes painful) growth. Thanks so much for sharing.
I think you’re right. Too many people throw in the towel because they don’t realize those hard times are normal and if they would just work on their marriage instead of giving up they would come through even better than before.
‘…without paying attention we have sometimes found ourselves slipping into old habits. And then we remember to be courteously reverent to one another.’ Discipline means we have to stay at it, make the choice on a daily basis. It’s hard. Like getting fit, or quitting smoking. Marriage can be a bad thing without the discipline to be reverent to each other. After 43 years of a mix of reverent and irreverent times, I can vouch for the truth in every word you say! And I do love the MSG translation for that verse!!! Thanks, Jen!
“A mix of reverent and irreverent times” – I like that. 🙂
“a lot of really good with a little meh thrown in for good measure”
Yassss! Discipline. I always get so fired up when people say we’re lucky to have an enduring marriage. Yes, we are blessed to have each other, but each day carries with it the discipline to make the decision to love each other well–through sickness, & health, for richer, for poorer, and through meh.
It’s another one of those, really easy, but really hard concepts, isn’t it?
Beautimous. I think it’s important that we share that it’s not just affairs and drug problems that can trip up a marriage- sometimes ‘busy’ can do just as much damage.
Thanks. And I think “busy” probably is more to blame than anything. Sometimes it’s the “busy” that leads to the affairs and drug problems. And the “busy” is normal and we all go through it. It’s just how we decide to deal with the “busy”.
Love what you share here about your marriage. So true are your words about how easy it is to put other priorities ahead of that relationship. It can even happen when there are no more birds in the nest. Thanks for the reminder from Ephesians…
Thanks, Jen. Even after 40+ years, it is important to redirect interests and attentions every year – asking ‘are we still reverently paying attention? Sometimes the answer is embarassing and painful; and sometimes it’s worthy of celebration. Thus the meh and the not-meh. Kinda like my relationship with Jesus…hmmm.