Dr. John Gottman reports that research shows most couples wait 6 years from the onset of marital problems, before seeking counseling. By the time a couple enters my office, I see years of built up resentment and contempt. Relationships in this condition often result in hearts that are hardened and afraid to love.
In comparison, scripture often tells the story of God’s people turning away from love, because of hardened hearts. In Chronicles 7:14, His people are invited to humility and a return to converse with God as they repent from sin. In the same way God’s people will to soften their hearts, so can an individual in a relationship that has grown cold. The central focus is on the individual person not what your spouse can do first for you.
Humbling yourself, opening your mind and heart to converse with your spouse again and checking your own bitterness at the door is the beginning of rebuilding love.
Jan and Dan met just out of college. Both ready to begin promising careers. Within a few months they knew they wanted to be married and six months later, they said “I Do.” The first two years of marriage both worked hard to secure employment and to advance their careers. Feeling positive about where they were at financially, they bought a house and soon after decided to try for a baby. By their 3rd anniversary, a new baby was on the way and their home was the start of what they’d always dreamed of. What wasn’t as hopeful was their relationship. Jan complained all the time, according to Dan, that he would never keep up with housework. She felt it should not be all on her, since she was working outside the home and about to give birth. Dan accused Jan of being too emotional and moody. He said he understood pregnancy and all of her responsibilities (usually in a sarcastic tone), but she made coming home a chore and certainly not the retreat he’d always imagined.
Both came to counseling believing if the other could just be kinder than maybe they could begin loving one another again. Although, they admitted they could change their own attitudes too, the other was really worse! After several sessions Dan decided to refocus his thoughts and prayers on his own way of viewing his wife. He began to imagine the way God saw her, through Christ and considered what it meant to love his bride as Christ loves the church. He stopped thinking about how things weren’t the way he wanted them to be. What followed surprised Dan. Not only did his heart begin to soften toward his wife, but he described a new sense of what it meant that Christ loves the church, that he is loved by God. Dan wasn’t looking for Jan to fill his heart with the kind of love and respect that he could experience with God. He didn’t give up hope that Jan could love him in this way, but he didn’t expect that she had to for him to be able to love her and for joy to be renewed in his life.
Interested in experiencing this kind of love? Giving it can be the start to knowing it in your relationship with the God who’s love endures forever.