Ahhh, the Honeymoon Phase

What happens after the honeymoon that turns dreamy-eyed lovesick people into bitter enemies? The origin of the honeymoon can be traced back to early Scandinavian cultures where a honey-based liquor called Mead was regularly consumed for wedding celebrations. After the ceremony guests would send the new couple off with a month’s supply of Mead. The hope was that for at least a month there would be light spirits (pun intended) in the household that would lead to the expedited arrival of a baby. Beyond that “Honey Month” it was up to the couple to figure things out. The problem today is that only 50% of couples manage to figure things out. Is there anything that can make a difference for people desiring better marriages?

There are three realities that can give couples a second honeymoon but unfortunately there are none that can make marriage easy. Without conscious intervention relationships tend to drift apart. There is no relationship that is self-sustaining and can be left on autopilot. The marriage relationship will always need to be nurtured. In spite of this and because of this, marriage is a rewarding covenant that is worth much more than the sacrifice it requires. We were created to be in relationships. Our hearts hunger for love at levels we don’t fully understand. We were made to be in families and the foundation of family is marriage. Here are three realities that can help seal some of the cracks in the foundation.

Marriage is not meant to fill every need. In many ways marriage is the union of two people who are both starving but both believe the other spouse has their meal. The husband and wife come together with needs but marriage is not the ultimate vehicle to fulfill them. A great source of conflict in the marriage is the desire by each person to get their needs met by their spouse. We all have a need to feel respected, desired and significant and it is appropriate to expect a spouse to provide those things to a certain degree. But if there is a hole at the bottom of your heart, it doesn’t matter how much the person tries to fill it they will never be enough. So the frustration you feel towards your spouse may not be entirely about them. It may in fact be an opportunity for you to get curious about the true nature of your hunger.

The couple that plays together stays together. The realm of play has sadly been dismissed as just for kids but this is one of the best things a couple can do for their relationship. I’m sure even now you are forming a list of reasons why you can’t.

1.) We don’t share the same interests.

2.) Who will watch the kids?

3.) We’re too busy with work.

Yes, this will require some intentional effort but considering the alternatives this is a small investment with a high return. Couples need time together to reconnect and strengthen the bonds of intimacy. There ought to be more to married life than the business of life or most certainly the busy-ness of life. Think about ways to get back to your days as a dating couple. You probably didn’t have a ton of money back then but I would bet those were some happy times.

A hard heart is a major warning sign. The silent killer of too many marriages is the hard heart. It is the state of mind we enter when we resign ourselves to a bad course despite our inner voice telling us otherwise. There are times when we must choose a path and stick to it despite it being uncomfortable but those are supported by a decision to resist fear. The hard heart is nurtured and sustained by fear. The hardhearted person is afraid to offer vulnerability because there is too great a risk that it will be rejected. Nobody wants to feel like a fool so instead we play it “safe”, toughen our hearts and march forward to disaster. Step into your courage and believe in yourself enough to not base your worth on how someone reacts to you, even your spouse.

When I look at my own marriage I see nine years of successes and failures. Sometimes I don’t know why we’ve been blessed to have the relationship we do but I can look back at those moments when one of us led in vulnerability and how that helped bring down the walls. The reason we are capable of hurting each other so much is because there is nobody else with whom we share this level of intimacy. We are open and exposed having given each other unprecedented access to our hearts. Because we are messy humans that mean well, we cause harm. Nine years has taught me that marriage will always involve some struggle. But I do see that it is possible for couples to struggle better and struggle with courage.

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