We live in the culture of new. We expect quick fixes, instant access and immediate gratification.
Millennials are known for valuing an abundant freedom of choices and are perhaps resistant to that which may tie them down, eliminating other options. This may explain why Pew Research Center found that millennials represent a record high in the number of people who are not married and will likely never be married. While economic factors play a role in their findings, cultural influences and expectations are equally involved.
In our always changing, easy to update, quick to replace society, where does the long-lasting investment of marriage fall?
How might a worldview that exalts the sweeping, passionate adventure shape our expectations of a covenant promise that remains, even in the dullest years?
When we already struggle to make peace with a life that is more ordinary that we had dreamed it might be, how do we respond to marriage once the excitement has waned from the day-to-day?
“We’re not the same people we were then.” Many cite this as their reason for unhappiness in marriage. It can be alarming to look at your spouse after years together and question why you are there. The idiosyncrasies of the other that were once exciting have now become expected. The road you started on turned in ways you could not predict, and the life you find yourself living is not the one you thought you signed up for at the altar. With the newness gone and circumstances changed, restlessness begins to creep in.
At the very least, couples are disillusioned and frustrated. Many will shut down. Some will fight. Others will look for the new and the exciting in something or someone else.
This is where we learn to love. This is where we begin to understand the commitment we made with those wedding vows.
Remember That Love Is A Choice.
One of the greatest lies our culture tells us is that love is a feeling, that it’s something we experience, not something we do.
When the Apostle Paul spoke to the church in Corinth about what it meant to love each other, he didn’t describe even one characteristic of love that was based on feelings. To be patient and kind is a choice we make often in spite of the emotions we are experiencing. To say that love keeps “no record of wrongs” does not suggest that love has the ability to forget when it was wounded, but that it chooses to surrender those offenses even when it remembers them vividly.
Those who enter into marriage promise to continuously choose love, especially when they don’t feel like it.
Stay Present and Stay Grateful.
For the restless spouse feeling discouraged, there is an abundant supply of distractions ready to meet their need for escape. We escape into our work or into the lives of our kids. We escape into the endless abyss of the Internet and the pseudo-life it provides.
We escape into the worlds of people we think are living the life we dreamed of, slipping into their pictures and imagining how much happier we might be if our stories sounded a bit more like theirs. If “comparison is the thief of joy,” how quickly we give up our joy and the excitement of our relationships by comparing them to what we think we know of other people.
Refuse to compare. Refuse to hide. The vows made at the beginning mean that when we want to run, we keep showing up. When we don’t like our spouse anymore—and there will be times when we really don’t like them anymore—we come back and stay vulnerable.
Return to the Cross.
Remembering that we are the Bride of Christ, we find marriage parallels our relationship with Jesus. The early days of excitement and passion and great emotion fuel the beginning of the journey. But sometime down the road, feelings fade and the young believer is faced with a choice to run off the fumes of that initial energy, to walk away or to dig in and grow down. For those that put in the work to continue growing, the depth they experience surpasses any rush they knew at the start.
This is the beauty of a marriage that pushes forward beyond temporary disillusionment. Each year of change, each trial worked over, each day we fight to keep the promises we made, we are drawn into a depth of relationship we couldn’t imagine on the wedding day. We develop love and excitement for nuances we never knew before; and we create a legacy that is grounded in something much stronger than the fleeting whims of emotion, a legacy that is counter-cultural and a mirror of the Cross.