This week, Shirley (my wife) and I watched a show that depicted a brain-injured husband whose personality drastically changed. The show raised the dilemma of how his wife would deal with being married to a man who was very different from the man she had married decades earlier.
In the episode, they faced three logical options:
1. Remain committed to the marriage without really knowing, liking, or “loving” each other.
3. Learn to love the “new you.”
Fortunately, and atypical for most TV, they chose option three.
The Mid-Marriage Years
Shirley and I reflected on the show in terms of our own marriage—now in its 30thyear (and having known each other for 33 years—since our late teen years). We also reflected on our past five years—our empty nest years where both our children are now out of the home and on their own.
After twenty-five years of marriage as parents, Shirley and I faced the reality that we had to get to know each other all over again—not just as parents, but more importantly, as husband and wife, as soul mates, as best friends.
In our early 50s now, we are not the same people we were at 19! In fact, we are not the same people we “fell in love with” over three decades ago.
As we faced these realities, we never wavered in our commitment to our marriage. But I’m not convinced that that is “Christian enough.” We’ve all seen Christian couples remain committed to the institution of marriage for decades, while obviously not continuing to live loving lives with one another.
Loving with the Whole Heart
The Bible calls us not only to commitment to the institution of marriage, and not only to a moralistic commitment to one person. The Bible calls us to a growing holistic loving relationship.
God created and designed us to be relational with affections, longings, and desires; rational with thoughts and beliefs; volitional with motivations and actions; emotional with feelings and moods; and physical with bodies. Thus God calls us to love one another with the whole heart—relationally, rationally, volitionally, emotionally, and physically.
In the past five years, Shirley and I have had to re-learn how to love the new “us.” We’ve had to get reacquainted.
We’ve worked to renew our affections (relational) for the new “us.” This is romantic love if you will—which is a biblical love (see Proverbs, Song of Solomon) just as much as “committed” love is.
We’ve worked to renew our knowledge (rational) of each other. We’ve worked to live together with our spouse according to knowledge/understanding/consideration (1 Peter 3:7). We’ve gotten to know, like, love, appreciate, and respect the people we’ve become and are.
We’ve worked to renew our committed love (volitional) for each other. We are called to love each other with Christ-like/God-like agape love—self-sacrificing, giving love (John 3:16; Ephesians 5:21-33).
We’ve worked to renew our emotional connection (emotional) to each other. I know, in “Christian circles” we act as if “emotions” are bad and we should ignore them. God, who is an emotional Being, created us in His emotional image. He calls us to develop emotional connection to one another (Romans 12:15)—to like and enjoy and care about each other.
We’ve worked to renew our physical connection (see Song of Solomon…enough said).
We now are best friends all over again. We would marry each other again if we met today. We’ve learned to love each other…all over again.
What’s the Point?
Though this is a much more “personal blog post” than I normally share (and, yes, I did ask Shirley’s permission), this post is really not simply about my marriage. It’s about all relationships.
People change. Love needs to grow with those changes. Our relationships need to mature as we mature.
Recently married? Allow this post to be your “marital counsel” that I wish someone had offered Shirley and me decades ago.
Not married? This applies to you also. Maybe you’re a young adult or a late teen—are you working hard (relationships take hard work) to re-learn how to relate to and love your parents?
Parents, are you working hard to re-learn how to relate to and love your children? The relationship can’t get stuck in the idealized “I miss when they were little kids.” They’re not little kids—learn to love and to like the new “them.”
Single? You and your friends change. Re-learn how to love them…all over again.
Church? Oh my! Churches change. I could write a book on how people need to re-learn how to love one another in local churches as new members join, as new pastors come, as new ministries are launched.
Relationships aren’t static—frozen in time. They change because we change. Keep knowing and growing. Work hard each day to re-learn how to love each other…all over again.
Join the Conversation
Who do you need to re-learn to love…all over again?