Remember when your relationship was new, fresh, fun, exciting?
If you don't, you have probably rewritten the narrative of your past in a negative light which is completely common to do when contempt has set in the present. I bet if you married this guy you enjoyed him at some point.
When you were building your relationship, there were essentially 3 things happening. The Gottman Institute observed couples for decades, and here is what they discovered was at the foundation:
Fondness and Admiration
Turning Toward (vs. Turning Away).
Love Maps are the information we have of our partner's world. It is knowing and being known. Think about how curious you were about your man when you first met. He was like a gift you wanted to open and discover. You asked questions. You paid attention. You wanted to know.
After years of marriage you feel like you know him. Maybe you find him boring or predictable. Yet, think about all that goes on in your inner world in a day? Like you, there are thoughts and feelings guiding the things your man does and doesn't do, There are dreams he has, even if those dreams have moved into dormancy.
Hit refresh. Be curious. Update your map.
Fondness and Admiration refers to just that. It is liking, adoring, admiring.
Building your relationship, you probably thought this guy was pretty awesome. Maybe you giggled at things he did. You appreciated certain attributes about him. You described him to your family and friends as (fill in the blank).
The relationship became a sort of mirror to show each other your best. You each reflected all the admirable and praiseworthy attributes of the other. He was awesome. You were awesome. "Falling in love" felt good.
Continue to look for ways he is lovable. Like searching for Waldo, keep your eyes open for all the ways your husband is praiseworthy.
Turning Toward vs. Turning Away is sharing in all the little things (and the big things). When your husband says, "Did you hear about the Rams?" or he shares a headline from his news feed, he is making a bid to connect.
When we are turning toward, we are answering those bids to connect. It may be in watching a show together, pulling weeds, sharing a meal, or simply acknowledging and engaging when our man shares.
Look for the most mundane ways to connect. The alternate is "I will deal with this on my own," which leads to a cascade of distance, loneliness and isolation. It is always better to turn toward than to turn away.
We can't decide how our man shows up. But we can show up because that is who we are. We are the wife who hits refresh, intentionally finds reasons to admire our man, and turns toward rather than away. We do it regardless of the reciprocity and we find meaning in being the partner we are proud of.
You can do amazing things. Complete great feats. Follow the rules to the tee.
Yet without love it doesn't matter.
People stay in marriages because its the "right thing to do". And sometimes they are bitter, unkind, discontent and unhappy.
God always starts with our hearts. He wants to transform them. He starts there, not on the outside. Our interaction with the world must come from a place of love. The actions are less about the actions, and more about the place they come from.
Our works are a reflection of our faith which is rooted in love and ample supply. Doing works without love is nothing but a big racket.
If we stay in our marriage as though it were a hardship so that we may boast, but do not love, we gain nothing.
I Corinthians tells us what true love is:
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is respectful.
Love rejoices in the truth.
It is not envious, nor proud. It is not self seeking nor angered easily. It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
When we operate from a place of obligation we feel dread, bitterness, resentment. In turn, we might do the right thing, but act like a sourpuss.
You are loved my sister. Amply. Prolifically. Abundantly.
The fruit you want to produce in your life is LOVE.
Remember the love that is available to you? In faith, grab hold of the truth of who you are and the abundance you have been given. See your man as the lovable person God made him. See yourself as lovable.
From this place, you will feel love. Love comes from a thought. Love-driven actions will produce a great harvest in your life.
Like Paul shackled by chains in prison (Philippians 4), you too can be content and rejoice in all situations because its not the situation that is making you disappointed. It is your thoughts about the situation.
Have you ever "loved" from a place of lack? If so, the result is probably feeling depleted, exhausted, maybe even bitter or resentful. It is hard to give what we don't have. We don't accomplish what we intended when we give from a place of not having.
Now imagine you have been given all these things in abundance:
When we give from a place of having more than enough, the result of giving is having more than we gave away. Our giving produces good feelings, multiplying as it goes forth.
Maybe you believe your partner does not give you the encouragement, tenderness and compassion you desire. However, what if you already had all that you needed and did not look to your husband to supply this need?
If you are a believer, you have been given love, comfort and partnership in ample supply. You have a full tank at your disposal. You have more than enough.
What if the real problem is that you were tapping into the wrong supply line?
As the daughter of The King you have a power supply from :
The one who owns the cattle on the hills
The one who created man out of dust
The one who perfectly knit you together in your mother's womb
The one who has assigned you your portion and your cup
The one who secures your lot
His provision is:
He has united us with Him and gives us encouragement, comfort, common sharing in the Spirit, tenderness, and compassion (Philippians 2). Because of this abundant reserve, we can be like minded having the same spirit of love. Because of what he gave us, we can:
We don't love out of fear in an effort to gain favor. We don't do "loving things" compelled by guilt because "we should". We don't love from a place of lack.
We love with no strings attached.
We love because Christ first loved us and does so in abundance (He was willing to die for us). When we tap into this truth, our love flows gently and liberally.
There is a marriage certificate with both of your names on it. You still share a bed (or maybe that is debatable). You have kids together. You certainly have the same roof over your head.
And yet, you feel like separate lives.
When you feel isolated, lonely or disappointed it impacts how you show up as a wife.
You think you are feeling those things because of something your husband is doing or not doing. However, you are actually feeling those things because of what you are thinking about his actions. Your thoughts create the feelings that lead to inaction on your part.
When we quit turning toward our partner, stop asking how their day was, cease to feel curious about their inner world, and continue to build evidence that they are unlovable, we will experience our relationship as two separate lives living under the same roof.
The good news is, nobody can tell you what to think. You get to think whatever you want about your husband. The thoughts you currently have are just your thoughts---they are not facts.
When you open yourself up to the idea that you can choose different thoughts about your husband, only then can you begin to create new feelings about your relationship. And when you create new feelings about your relationship, then you can change how you show up.
When you show up 100%, you change your experience from "we are two separate lives living under the same roof" to an experience of "I am connected to my man."
Many of us dreamed of falling in love. We dreamed about it as though it were something that would happen to us. We imagined another person would be so compelling that meeting them would make our life complete.
What if I told you that your experience with another person only consisted of your thoughts? In other words, your relationship was just a string of sentences in your head. The relationship was not something outside of you. "Falling in Love" was not an event.
We do not actually "fall in love." (Sorry to burst the magic of romance). We simply meet someone and we experience thoughts about them that make us feel certain things. It is the things that we think that make us feel love, desire or delight.
So its not the person. Its the thoughts. Our brain is the filter in which we take in the world and other people. What we think creates our feelings. Someone is lovable, not because of who they are or what they have done, but because of how we think about them.
What are some feelings you had for your husband in the early days of your relationship (attracted, interested, curious, amused)? What thoughts made you feel those things?
If wanting so much from our husbands and our marriages we lose our sense of humor and good nature, then let us give it up.
Sometimes we need to try in a way that it does not all depend on us. What our husband does and doesn't do is a heavy load to bear! What if you gave up trying to change him and focused on changing you?
But you don't know my husband. He should not be acting this way. He is wrong,
What if you gave up being right, examined all the ways you are wrong, and set loving boundaries if need be?
Boundaries are things YOU do when someone else behaves in a certain way. It is different than setting an ultimatum. It does not focus on changing the other person. It actually allows the person to be who they are and do what they do, but it focuses on what you will do.
This boundary comes from a place of love and respect. It is kind. It isn't haughty or right.
The work we must do is one of allowing others free will and exercising our free will.
When we let go of wanting to control another human being or think we know how they should best behave, we set our-self and our marriage free. We free up energy. We free up life.
When we give up without throwing in the towel, we start to try in a way that it does not all depend on us. We tap into all the love that we already have as daughters of The KING. Knowing we have all we need, we simply love.
Where we are in life proves what we are thinking. When we change our perspective, we can change our lives and our relationships.