Over 114 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl. Less than a hundred people actually played in it. That’s an infinitesimal percent which closely mirrors, I would guess, the percentage of average marriages to truly intimate marriages.
It’s one thing to watch, it’s another thing entirely to play. Far too many couples merely “watch” their marriage without playing it.
There is so much adventure in truly getting to know someone—to be truly married to someone—that when you do it, you don’t feel like you’re missing out. You’re feeling like this is the only place you want to be. There’s no other game that tempts you. G.K. Chesterton has a line from Orthodoxy that you could spend a week pondering: “Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman.”
Marriage is most satisfying when it’s the focused pursuit of one person. There is vastly more adventure in exploring the soul and mind and body of a lifelong mate than engaging in dozens of “hook ups” or fantasizing about everything but your own marriage. I’ve never met a truly satisfied person who lives in a myriad of broken relationships or who spends more time in fantasy than reality.
Because individuals are so dynamic (life changes us), the mysterious adventure of getting to know someone who is changing will never end. Yet many couples settle for a superficial understanding of each other and become bored—just as anyone would after the tenth game of “Tic-Tac-Toe.” Boredom stems from thinking, they already “know” their spouse, so the adventure in their marriage seems to be lost. But the fact is they don’t know their spouse as well as they think they do. They know them well enough to judge them but not well enough to understand and love them.
“That’s not fair, Gary, how can you say that? How can you know?”
Here’s how I know: God isn’t bored with your spouse, and God knows a whole lot more about him or her than you do. If you’re not like God, then I’m assuming you’re less than God, so being bored with your spouse is a weakness, not something to be proud of.
God’s knowing is a compassionate knowing—understanding the hurt, offering to heal, and being a support to move them to a more redemptive place. That’s a long process, but from God’s perspective it’s also a long adventure.
Rather than admit we might be contributing to the problem of a distant marriage with our lack of interest, we start playing different games and getting lost in lesser adventures: we focus on the kids, we may try to fix other marriages instead of our own (perhaps our parents or a sibling’s or a friend’s), we focus on building a business instead of a relationship, fixing up a house instead of a home, or we escape to a fantasy instead of working to change reality.
That’s a trap. God made you to be most satisfied with authentic, intimate relating, and that requires you to invest first and foremost in your walk with God (whose love sustains every true Christian relationship—1 John 4:19) and then to love your spouse out of reverence for God. Both are focused pursuits. Neither happens merely by waking up, breathing, eating, working, and then going back to sleep.
Double down on getting to know your spouse. That’s the game to focus on. Even if they’re not interested in that intimate of a relationship, you can be interested in them—and there is much satisfaction and joy in that. Sharing a love for your spouse with the God who also loves them so passionately is immensely satisfying; just try it and you’ll see.
If you’re bored in your marriage, consider that it may be because you’re not fully invested in your marriage, or you’ve given up on your marriage. You’re playing a dozen backyard games instead of focusing on your own personal Super Bowl. Backyard games don’t really matter, so who really cares when you start and when you stop?
When it comes to your own marriage, are you watching or playing?
(I wrote A Lifelong Love to help couples continue to build this kind of intimate relating. You can read a sample or hear me talk about it here: www.alifelonglove.com)