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.