Marriage: Back to the basics
by Dr. Dave Currie
As the years go by, without the right attention, it’s not uncommon for a marital relationship to begin to waver – as in fade or grow apart. Routine, busyness, stress, baggage, assumptions and selfishness along with a host of other complexities can easily take their toll on a once dynamic love connection. Simply, the marriage becomes less of a priority over time. Sadly, it’s too easy to take each other for granted. If you’ve already ‘tied the knot’, you likely have experienced some version of this unraveling in your relationship.
When the distancing happens, couples lose the warmth, charm and closeness they once had between them. As I help so many rebuild their marriages, it’s important for people to get ‘back to basics’. Set the most elementary parts of a relationship right and you have a chance of regaining a satisfying, meaningful marriage, maybe even better than before.
Every couple would be wise to appreciate and apply this simple and practical formula of LOVE. Read it and let it sink in.
Love = Commitment + Attraction
The equation suggests there are two fundamental and equal parts to a truly loving relationship: commitment and attraction.
Commitment is the vow. It is the pledge to remain engaged with our mate; it’s a promise of exclusiveness and a focus of faithfulness. There are times when the commitment holds you together.
Attraction is the appeal. It is the magnetic charm that draws us to the other person. Who they are entices us. We are attracted to what they bring to the moment. There are times when the attraction holds you together.
But here’s the problem I see. Commitment and attraction should be virtually identical in their ongoing impact on the relationship – they should shape the union about the same. That’s the problem. As the wavering and fading in the marriage happen over time, these two fundamental parts do not remain equal. Let me illustrate.
Imagine tossing a coin. You’ll either get heads or tails, right? If all things are equal and the coin isn’t weighted to favour one side, on average, 50 percent of the time it will be heads and 50 percent of the time, tails.
Now imagine that heads is Commitment and tails is Attraction. With the ongoing tossing of the coin, they should remain relatively even. However, what seems to happen in most marriages is, the longer married, the more the relationship is anchored by commitment. It keeps landing on “heads” for some reason over and over again. As time goes by, heads (commitment) keeps winning and tails (attraction) simply isn’t showing up. I’m not saying it is not important to stay committed. That’s a great thing. But as attraction fades and becomes less and less a determining factor in securing the relationship, you, like many couples, could be headed for trouble. It seems the need for commitment keeps growing. But what about attraction?
Commitment and attraction are both needed for a long-lasting, satisfying marriage. Commitment carries you through tough seasons. Every marriage goes through deep valleys of trials. That’s the hard part of marriage. Attraction is always present when the marriage is at its best. We enjoy the mountain peaks of loving connection. That’s the easy part of marriage.
Attraction by definition here is a positive thing. It involves healthy traits, attitudes and actions that draw us to one another. It is a necessary component of a great relationship and not a bonus. It is intentional, not accidental. But between life stresses, various marital stages, and our own personal changes, we need to keep breathing life into our relationship. That’s where attraction must keep kicking in.
Some anchoring truths about this formula of LOVE
You can’t build a great marriage on commitment or attraction alone. Both are needed. It can’t be only about sheer commitment where you keep gutting it out and working hard to hang in there. But it’s equally wise to not base your relationship on mere attraction. As we have discussed already, attraction fades. Sociological research of the family reveals that on average that crazy infatuation, “wow, I’m in love” stage lasts on average only 18 months after the wedding. It only takes one and a half years and BANG – the Honeymoon is over. It would be really wise to learn how to keep building the attraction side of the marriage.
Commitment brings security – attraction brings enjoyment. Commitment is about giving my word; my integrity to keep being faithful to the marriage. Attraction is the choice to do what it takes to make your spouse want to be with you. It’s about being a delight to be around.
Commitment and attraction both require a consistent and intentional effort. It will no doubt take work to stay committed in every way and also work to keep being an attractive person for your spouse to be around.
We are called to “Love each other deeply from the heart” in 1 Peter 1:22. That would imply both staying committed and being attractive. Here’s where to get started.
Tips on growing commitment
Live Loyal. Keep your promise. Be faithful to your spouse when you are with them and equally faithful when you are not. Don’t buy into the cultural trickery that says, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” Don’t believe the lie that, “what they don’t know won’t hurt them.” It does. Unfaithfulness breaks hearts. Keep your vows.
Loyalty is assumed in 1 Corinthians 13:7. “If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him”.
No Secrets. Volunteer your life; where you are going, what you are doing and who you are with. This is nothing other than respect. Tell the truth. It builds trust and strengthens your bond. Be trustworthy online too. Share your passwords. No hidden friendships. Stay away from dating sites, porn sites and the like. Stay faithful.
Ephesians 4:15 calls us to “Speak the truth in love”.
Keep Boundaries. Discuss what relational limits you need to keep with those outside your marriage. No private conversations. No flirtatious interchanges. No trashy or dirty jokes. No one-on-one coffees. Limit any show of affection to what you would do if your spouse were standing beside you. Be exclusive to one.
Proverbs 20:6 puts it pretty clear. “Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” Be that faithful person. Ask God to help you live out your vows, remembering “for as long as we both shall live!”
Tips for Building Attraction
Be Attractive. Factors of attraction are both innate and developed. Some you are born with and some you can learn and work hard to display. Characteristically, one of you will find it easier to be kind, for the other it will take work. One can forgive freely, the other chokes on the words. One spouse is creative and thoughtful and the other needs the book Romance for Dummies. Just know that you can choose to be a blessing, a positive person, and an encourager and frankly, just choose to make an effort to be a delight to be around.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22. May your disposition always bring healing.
Lighten Up. Be refreshing and positive to be around. Choose to bring smiles. Find ways to make your spouse laugh. Start your day with eye contact and a warm greeting and hug. Admit it if you’re the downer, the killjoy or party pooper. It takes work to be attractive. Turn off the your bad attitude. Change your tone. Don’t wait for your spouse to change before you start. Be a blessing!
“A cheerful heart is a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15. May your spouse keep coming back for more of you.
Have Fun. Carve out time to laugh and play together. You can’t be friends if you don’t do friendship. The key is time. Be intentional. Fight the usual slide into distance and disconnect. Put regular dates back into your schedule – duh, not once per year either. Get alone for three hours of fun at least every two weeks. We have to make time for each other and start having more fun.
Talk is cheap. Get a plan. Make the changes to find time together. 1 John 3:18 says, “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions”.
Work the formula of Love. It will allow you to better enjoy your marriage.
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