When we were dating, the infatuating love I felt for my husband was intense. It started strong and only grew. It felt like an electric force field radiated from him. The closer I got, the weaker my knees, the quicker my heart rate. He couldn’t touch me without me getting chills.
Needless to say, dating him was my life’s greatest exercise in self-control as we wrestled with our chemistry and attraction to each other while waiting for marriage for sex. It felt like trying to contain a fire.
The day we married, we exchanged vows, and I could sense him as an extension of me. Our lives, once parallel, were united.
My smile could’ve split my face in half. Finally, I had what I’d been longing for. It felt like we could finally let the fire out.
After we married, we moved into a tiny apartment downtown. I went to school, and he went to work. We shared a bed and a bedroom and a closet and a dishwasher. Before long, the sound of his voice was no longer simply whispers of affection but sometimes a reminder to wake up for class, pay a bill or a gentle but slightly annoyed request to put my toothbrush away.
As we added people, responsibilities and careers to our lives, the chemistry of our young relationship grew more difficult to access.
When we forgot to get a babysitter, Friday nights found us at home. When we finally tucked our son in to bed, sometimes we just fell asleep before talking. Our conversations leaned toward pastoring and parenting and home improvements, toward what we did and not who we were as individuals and as a couple.
Love felt like a raging fire when we were dating and in our first few years of marriage. It was easy to believe it would always be this way.
But fire needs fuel and oxygen. It needs to be tended. I learned I can’t light a fire and walk away, only to come back a few years later and wonder why there are only embers.
Now, although we struggle for time together, but we know it is essential. Every act of love is small yet intentional. And it pays off.
We spend the extra money for the babysitter when we go on a date night. We ask each other about our days. We talk back and forth by email and text throughout the day. We share longings and fears and prayer requests at night before saying goodnight.
The years of cultivating love in the mundane of diapers and mortgages taught me I don’t have to be a victim of time and circumstances. The fire of love in my marriage, whether blazing or barely warm to the touch, is my responsibility. No one can tend to it for me–only my husband and I can ensure we love and are in love.
Lasting love is not an emotion but a decision of two people who prioritize their relationship above the duties of daily life, even above children and ministry and all the good things in our lives.
It may seem noble to spend hours at church or to take up the evening talking about your kids or your neighbors, but there is nothing sacred about neglecting your relationship, the empowering and life-giving human partnership God entrusted to you.
We can allow life to dull our passion and affection for each other, or we can intentionally set aside time for conversation, connection and intimacy. We can return to unity and stoke the fire of our love by speaking each other’s love languages, by remembering that this relationship with our spouse is first after our relationship with God.
So next time you don’t feel the love, don’t despair. Instead, do two things:
- Remember what caused you to fall in love with this man or woman. Write it down and then tell them you remember.
- Do the things you did in the beginning of your relationship. Speak more affection. Write more notes. Give more hugs. Spend more time together. Hold hands. Have more sex. If your relationship was about the small things back then, that truth has only become more real now that you’re married.
When we do the things that lovers do, the love comes back. It may take a few tries, and you may want to give up, but your heart will remember. And the fire will return.