Most of us who have iPhones love them, but after a year, the problem with a smart phone is that the battery gets weaker and weaker. It is glorious in the first six months when you plug your phone in at night and don’t even think about power levels until the next evening. But at about 6 months, you start to get nervous mid-afternoon so you re-charge it to last the rest of the day.
After a year, you’re plugging your phone back in at lunch-time, and then half an hour before you leave the office, because that battery is getting weaker and weaker and weaker. At the end, you plug it in every chance you get.
This process, sadly, is never reversed. Once the battery starts draining, it just keeps draining faster and faster until you cling to the two-year deadline to get a brand new phone without having to pay extra.
The same principle applies in many marriages. The passion is so intense when the relationship is new that it seems to charge itself even when you’re apart. It doesn’t need special care. It doesn’t need to be plugged in. It seems to supply its own passion.
But sooner rather than later, the passion begins to drain. And that can often mark a downward slide that, sadly, is sometimes never reversed until the couple gives up, trades each other in, and gets a “new” partner.
There is something we can do, however, to reset our passion, to recapture those days when our passion sustained our relationship as opposed to mocked it.
It’s crucial that you understand what often drains a marriage: unfulfilled demands and unfulfilled expectations. Those two realities drain our “batteries.” The challenge is that no human being is capable, long-term, of fulfilling all demands and all expectations. Which means every marriage will be drained unless we change the demands and change the expectations.
That’s what mission does. That’s why I talk in A Lifelong Love about letting a “magnificent obsession” fuel the passion in your marriage. Until you and your spouse get to the point where you realize you were made for more than each other, you will drain each other.
Consider this: if I think my wife’s calling is to make me happy and feel secure and loved, but out of any number of reasons I feel unhappy, insecure, and ignored I will drain her faster than a single Google search drains a three year old iPhone. But if my expectations are that she is called of God to seek first His kingdom, my expectations will be to support her, listen to her, and encourage her in fulfilling that call.
Unchecked self-centeredness drains every marriage, every time, every day, until there is nothing left.
C.S. Lewis (in The Four Loves) talks about how true friendship always points to something else: “People who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends.”
We could re-state this as “people who simply want a roller-coaster romantic relationship will never have one for very long. The very condition of lifelong romantic connection is wanting something besides romance.”
Lewis explains further, “Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.”
If you are not seeking to help your spouse fulfill all that God has called them to fulfill, you are draining your marriage.
If your focus is primarily on how your spouse is treating you instead of whether they are being faithful to their call, you are draining your marriage.
If you are frustrated that your spouse doesn’t pay enough attention to you while not even considering whether they are attending to God’s call on their lives, you are draining your marriage.
The secret to a lifelong, fulfilling marriage is caring about more than your marriage. It’s about learning to share a passion outside of your marriage. It begins with not making yourself the center of any universe, including the universe of your marriage.
We blame everything else: “She ignored me to focus on the kids.”
“His job became his mistress.”
“We were overwhelmed by bills.”
“Success killed our marriage—when we started making millions instead of hundreds of thousands.” (Yes, I have actually heard someone tell me that.)
At root, these are all merely the symptoms. The disease is a self-centered marriage that isn’t about mission but has become about personal fulfillment.
To re-charge your marriage, rediscover your mission. Rediscover your passion. Even better, rediscover your spouse’s mission. Help your spouse rediscover their passion. Care about theirs as much as you care about your own. When we do that, the Holy Spirit pours out His equipping and empowering presence, so your marriage can’t be drained, any more than God could ever get tired.
If your marriage is continuously being drained, what that tells me is that you’re plugged into the wrong thing. Your passion is drawing from the wrong well.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you as well.” (Matthew 6:33).