It sounds crazy, but the very traits that make you fall in love with someone can be the things that most irritate you once you marry. The difference between living with a quirk and occasionally visiting a quirk is huge.
How can we re-fall in love with the person we married, learning to remember what we liked about them in the first place?
A Marital Case Study:
Frances looked out the window, watching her husband take his sweet time with the kids as they left, behind schedule and sure to be late. The three were laughing uproariously, enjoying themselves much too much, Frances thought, for a trio that was sure to be late to church. (She was staying home with a sick child.)
In the midst of her critical thinking, the thought hit Frances, “But that is the man you fell in love with.”
Frances realized, “One of the first things that had attracted me to Tony was his easy-going enjoyment of life, taking things as they came, whatever the circumstances. It was the way God had made him and I used to love him for it. Now I was condemning him for it.”
Coming to the realization for ourselves:
Don’t all of us do this, in our own way? We fall in love with our partner’s spontaneity, or on the other end, their organization, and then resent them when they live out what they are. We appreciate their laughter when we’re dating, then find them too shallow when we’re married. We appreciate their thoughtfulness and deliberate manner as boyfriend or girlfriend, and then find them too introspective and moody as spouses (“Make a decision already!”).
In Frances’ case, she became ashamed when she thought of how she had essentially grown to despise Tony for being Tony, even though she had one day very much wanted to marry him for who he was. “How often I had squashed his sense of fun and adventure by telling him to be ‘realistic’, which really meant that I wanted to be in control of the situation.”
Understanding the deeper motive: Pride
Most of us marry our opposites, and it is the course of fallen human nature to eventually despise what is different. That is the natural pride in us. We are monstrously egotistical, all but resenting the world for not being more like…us.
The Antidote: Christ, not us.
Viewing marriage through the lens of how we can become more like Christ can serve as an antidote to our pride. Pride says we’re the standard, so become more like me (we would never put it in these words, but that’s the arrogance in our hearts), while a pursuit of holiness says, “Let’s both become more like Christ.”
When Christ is the standard rather than ourselves, we have no time or energy left over to criticize others for not being there either, since we also fall so far short. It’s like me being in Seattle, criticizing someone in Chicago, for not yet having arrived in China. We’re both thousands of miles away–neither one of us are even close to the standard of Christ!
Don’t resent your spouse for not being more like you. Instead, challenge yourself for not being more like Christ. Remember, you chose that spouse as he or she is. You used to delight in their differences when your love was new and fresh and fun. Go to prayer, asking God to remind you what you used to take so much pleasure in. Pray for fresh eyes to once again delight in the discovery of who your spouse really is, as you used to, rather than looking at him or her through the lens of years’ worth of disappointment, bitterness and resentment for not being what you want them to be.
Let complimentary work for you
God designed you to complement one another in your relationship–the two of you being stronger than one. Why not let God’s complimentary design work for you in your marriage rather than against you? Remove your pride and free yourself to welcome your spouse’s unique traits, capitalizing on them for what you can’t do. Aren’t your kids better off having the two of you as parents, rather than two people just like you? Aren’t you better off, walking through this life with a person who is so different, but so complementary, to round out your weaknesses and even, at times, to depend on your strengths? Let’s put down our pride long enough to embrace, appreciate and even thank God for the differences of our spouses.
(Frances’ quotations are taken from Annejet Campbell’s book Listen for a Change)