Sometimes the extraordinary we want is found in the ordinary we already have. —Linda Trammell
One proverb asks a particularly intriguing question, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:10). Although the question seems pointed at single people, its message speaks to every reader—“finding” lasting love is a challenge.
Because our market economy presents us with new choices every day and commercials constantly convince us that new products are significantly better, we’re conditioned to believe that to find lasting romance we need to “keep looking” for something more, something beyond what we already have.
Add the discontentment produced by what economists call “buyer’s remorse,” the condition of no longer wanting what we thought we wanted, and it’s easy to see why couples second-guess the decisions they’ve made—why they find themselves wondering if there’s something better than what they’ve already found.
The choices and discontent also make it more difficult to appreciate the “ordinary” qualities we see in each other’s love; as a result, we miss the extraordinary in every day. Young marriages are especially vulnerable. Many of the couples we counsel seem unaware of how deeply the economy influences their ideas about finding love that lasts. The truth is we don’t “find” lasting love – we spend our lives creating it.
Too Many Faces
Johnny Lee’s classic performance of Lookin’ for Love tells the story of a man who was “looking for love in all the wrong places,” trying to find it in “too many faces.” The song’s lyrics harmonize with the views of social scientists like Barry Schwartz who suggested, “while we think having many choices will make us happier, it actually leaves us less satisfied. When you have too many options, you’re always thinking about the alternatives that you passed up. . . . If you’re looking to find the best, you’re never going to put in the time and effort to make what you have the best.”
The pleasures inherent in having choices in other areas of life often diminish the pleasures we experience in marriage. Maybe the admonition not to “desire someone else’s wife” and the research on choices are showing us that it’s important to spend less time looking and more time loving (Deuteronomy 5:21).
Affirmation Activity: Looking and Loving
You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain. —Song of Songs 4:12 (NLT)
When the husband in the Song of Songs praises his wife as “my private garden, my treasure . . .” he celebrates the passion in protected pleasures. He also communicates the wisdom in spending less time comparing and more time adoring. His affirmation not only protects him from sin, it protects them for more engaging intimacy.
Rich and I often suggest the following activity to help protect couples from the distractions in a culture that connects happiness with having choices:
Take a moment to stand in front of each other like the husband and wife in chapters 4 and 7 of the Bible’s Song of Songs. Describe, from head to toe, what you appreciate about each other. For instance, the husband and wife in the Song use two metaphors, “your eyes are like doves” and “your eyes are like the sparkling pools in Heshbon” to communicate the peace and refreshment they feel when they look into each other’s eyes (4:1; 7:4 NLT). With or without metaphors, share what you experience when you look into each other’s eyes. Then move on – and only stop when you want to.
Spending this kind of time together will help you counteract the negative influences of a market culture. The more time you spend actually looking at each other, the less time you’ll waste looking for love in all the wrong places.