A divorced woman told my daughter that “Finding the man I honestly believe is the love of my life is still not worth the pain and difficulties of being divorced from the father of my children. At some point, having someone to talk to about a funny thing one of your kids said means more than feeling madly in love.”
This woman’s story captures the empty promise behind the all-consuming but short-lived passion that is often defined as “finding the love of my life.” We not only want to be swept off our feet by our romantic passion; we want someone who will keep sweeping us off our feet.
This woman believed such a thing existed and blew apart her marriage in search of it. Now, in hindsight, she thinks she made a very sad mistake.
Neurologically, the notion that we can find that one person to keep sweeping us off our feet is scientifically disproven. An infatuation has a shelf life of less than two years. As I said in a post a few weeks back, mature love means we have to move from “fascination” to “admiration.” Michael Jordan was voted MVP only five of the fifteen seasons in which he played pro basketball. I doubt there was a coach in the league who wouldn’t have chosen him first if he was drafting a new team in at least twelve of those fifteen seasons. But it’s hard to be “fascinated” with Jordan when you’ve seen him be “fascinating” so many years already.
In the same way, you can have an MVP spouse, but after a few years together, that MVP spouse will feel like normal, even average. That’s simply the way our brains work. If you cut your MVP spouse in hopes you can sign a newer model, be prepared for the inevitable letdown.
Neuroscience warns that if you get married because of overwhelming feelings and then break up your family and get divorced because the feelings are gone, the pain you’ll feel over your broken marriage and loneliness in parenting will last decades longer than the next infatuation ever will. You will pay for grams of pleasure by swallowing kilograms of pain.
Some women (and a few men) are all but forced into divorce through habitual unfaithfulness and abuse on the part of their spouse. Those are sad but sometimes necessary stories. But it’s particularly foolish when someone gets divorced because they’re chasing something that doesn’t exist—an ongoing infatuation. Instead of divorce being used as a protective tool, they’re using it as a weapon with two sharp sides, and they’ll end up hurting themselves just as much as their spouse.
The Spiritual Slide
When we become disappointed in an idol (and romantic infatuation is a prime example of an idol), we become resentful because we feel conned. The next step is to go overboard in the other direction: what we used to worship we now disdain. Before, they could do no wrong. Now, they can do no right.
Both stances are immature, deceptive, and destructive. No human partner can complete us. And every human partner usually has at least some redeeming qualities. But to justify our abandonment (or future abandonment), we may become crazed in our judgment and blind in our prejudice. It’s almost like we’re trying to pay someone back for not being who we thought they were.
There must come a day in our marriage when we accept a more mature love. Remember what the woman told my daughter: “At some point, having someone to talk to about a funny thing one of your kids said means more than feeling madly in love.” Contentment in marriage invites us to appreciate and value the quiet parts of a lifelong partnership.
Such an approach isn’t settling. It’s not even a compromise.
Not once does the Bible promise us ongoing infatuation. Many times, however, it mentions children as a particular blessing:
Proverbs 17:6: “Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly…”
Psalm 127:3: “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children a reward.”
And, of course, having children is one of the commands that follows marriage (Genesis 1:28). We’re not commanded to feel. We’re commanded to be fruitful.
Romantic infatuation is a wonderful, God-given experience. Since God created our brains, it’s entirely appropriate to thank Him for seasons of infatuation. But children are also a blessing of marriage, and it isn’t a compromise to see this as an equal joy of spending life together.
When my youngest daughter was a toddler, Lisa saw her licking the window. “Kelsey,” she cried out, “What are you doing?”
“I’m a windshield wiper!”
I’m thankful Lisa immediately thought to call me on the phone instead of post it on social media to a few hundred “friends.” She knew no one would enjoy that story as much as I did. (And, fortunately for Kelsey, Lisa kept the windows very clean.)
Raising our children together has given us a lifetime of shared memories and friendship that runs as deep as the center of the earth. You want to feel especially close to your spouse? Fast with them for a day and use the meal time to pray for one of your children.
Such a friendship lasts longer than a wild, intense infatuation. I agree with the woman my daughter overheard. Romance is wonderful and I like the fact that there are still moments in my marriage when Lisa and I get weak in the knees thinking about getting alone together. But other times, simply having someone to talk to when one of the kids does or says something means a lot.
A whole lot.
Let’s not discount that.