Marriage is not a Hallmark movie.
If you’ve been married for more than 5 minutes, you were probably like, “Duh.” But do you have single friends? Do you remember all the lofty ideas you had before you got married?
Last Christmas, I went to a Hallmark movie party. Think leggings, chocolate, and Christmas Hallmark movies. It was glorious. However, I was one of the only married women there. As I watched these precious women take in the love stories, I wanted to stand up in front of the screen and say, “It’s not like this! It’s really hard! There’s a reason God made it a covenant because, at some point, you will probably want out!” This seemed a little heavy for the evening, and not wanting to be a literal Scrooge, I kept my mouth shut.
Here’s why Marriage is not a Hallmark Movie
Marriages Can Be Cyclical
Marriages aren’t a Hallmark movie. We know this. But I think we forget that they can be cyclical. When you’re up and doing well, you never think you’ll be down again. When you’re down or having a hard time, it seems impossible to get up again. I find I can feel the same way about my covenant relationship with the Lord.
When I’m close to God, really feeling in love with Him, and am saturated in the Word and prayer, I think I will never get out of that place. However, distractions come. Things happen, and He will seem distant to me. I’ll read an old prayer journal and think, “Ah! Why can’t I get back there? Did I really write these words?”
I wonder if that’s why He gave us a covenant for both relationships. So we could feel safe knowing He isn’t going anywhere, and so we could have that safety in our marriages because feelings ebb and flow. Even C.S. Lewis talked about hills and valleys in our faith walk. It’s true of marriage also!
Marriages aren’t a Hallmark movie. We know this. But we forget that they can be cyclical, experiencing both highs and lows.
Not too long ago, my husband was busy, I was busy, we were both sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, and I felt so distant from the man who was sleeping right next to me. Dear friends of ours offered to watch the kids for us so we could have a date night. Honestly, I wasn’t even that excited about it. It seemed like a lot of work to get the kids ready, and I just felt indifferent.
It didn’t help that everything went wrong that night. He got caught in traffic during rush hour. I thought I’d misplaced my wallet when we got to the restaurant and was frantically searching for it. Not only because I thought it was stolen but also because I was looking forward to a glass of wine. My husband says, “Honey, you’ve had four children. They won’t ask for your ID.” I think to myself, what the (insert curse word of your choice) was that supposed to mean?
Then we get to the table, and he realizes he needs his reading glasses. When he goes to the car, he also realizes he grabbed his truck keys (not my keys), so we are locked out of our car. When he returns to the table, I say, “Date night sucks!” And I seriously meant it. I was just not in the mood for it. I could have been in pajamas at that moment instead of those uncomfortable heels.
That’s when he threw his head back and belly laughed. It softened me, and I started laughing too. We ended up having a lovely dinner with an even lovelier conversation. Time alone without distractions gave me an opportunity to remember some of the reasons I fell in love with him. He underreacts when I overreact, which settles me down.
I tell you all of that because, in one night, things turned around.
Doing the “Right Things” With the Wrong Heart
I hear this all the time. I’ll get a call from someone whose marriage sounds like it’s really in a bad place. I’ll be worried sick and praying constantly, and then the next time I check in with them, they are doing great! Something happened. A good conversation. A counseling session. A softened heart as a result of prayer. A night away. Hours, days, weeks, months, or even years of bad can turn around, and things can be good again…if not even better.
God’s mercies are new every morning.
Just like with the Lord, taking time to be present with our husbands while truly focusing on them and their good attributes makes a big difference. If my quiet time with Jesus is marked with a checklist of “do this Bible study and keep up with the reading before your next meeting. Pray. Read theology books,” but is not marked with a heart of getting to know Him better. Eventually, I grow cold. I feel distant. I’m going through the actions without actually enjoying His presence.
Same with my spouse. I can do all the “right things.” Ask him about his day. Make his favorite dinner every once in a while. Be available for sex. But if my heart is not right, I can again go through the actions without actually enjoying my husband.
My point is this: if you’re in a great place, awesome! But if not, remember that it can change. There are cycles in marriage. Good and bad and just indifferent. Don’t freak out and think the worst next time you’re in one of the latter two. Be realistic and remember that it’s pretty normal and you don’t have to stay there.
I read Isaiah 64:4 this morning, which is an encouraging reminder: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” The Lord is always willing to act on behalf of your marriage. Wait for Him. Pray He reconnects you. Our marriage is a covenant and God takes covenants more seriously than you can ever know.
Don’t miss Ashby’s story; start here: I Never Wanted to Be a Pregnant Widow.
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