On Wednesday evenings Benson and I sit in our living room across from engaged couples and try to convince them that they will one day have the urge to cuss out their spouse and throw their everyday ware across the dining room, and that on that day, they will need to refrain from cussing out their spouse and throwing the everyday ware across the dining room, and instead, calmly talk out their problems and hold hands.
When Benson and I were engaged, I thought it impossible that there would ever come a day when I would be so mad at him I might possibly test the limits of the human body’s capability to breathe fire from my mouth. I honestly remember telling a girlfriend, “I cannot imagine getting in a fight with Benson.”
Two years later:
Turns out, when we’re engaged or simply early on in a relationship, we feel so good about the other person that it makes us act in a certain way.
It’s like this: “I love you so much, I am so happy to be with you, that it brings me joy to give your dog a bath. And while I’m washing the poo off your dog’s tail, I will think fond thoughts of you. Really, that’s how great this whole thing is. Later, I’m going to tell you how smart you are when you change my oil.” And when the girl tells the guy how smart he is, he’s all, “Aww, that’s so sweet!”
So, in the beginning relationships are like this: I feel so good about you that I will do and say good things for you, thus making you feel good about me, and so on.
And it feels like magic, people.
If left un-nurtured, the good feelings will fade, and thus, the good actions will fade.
What could happen is this: “I think you’re a bit fatter and grumpier than when we first met and I am not 100% sure I’m still in love; therefore, I’m going to start putting you down in public and rolling my eyes at 70% of the words you say, slowly killing any chances we have of enjoying this whole marriage thing.”
And then the spouse is like, “Pah! You want to make fun of me in front of our friends? Fine. I’ll be watching football for the next seventeen years if you need me.”
So it’s like this: I don’t feel love toward you, therefore I will not act lovingly toward you.
And we start acting on our emotions, which is totally stupid.
BUT, you can avoid this! It happens like this: I feel kind of rotten when I’m around you, but you know what? I’m going to do something nice DESPITE MY FEELINGS, and then…and then, people…
I just might feel a bit better around you.
Here’s the way my pastor worded it:
Love is a commitment to service that produces an emotion.
The emotion of love is produced by serving one another.
But what if we’re already in the nasty cycle? Well, we can CHANGE this (I mean, unless you’re married to a real jerk).
You don’t feel like telling your husband you’re proud of him for his job? Suck it up. Tell him anyway. No, you don’t have you use a sappy voice. But just put your hand on his arm and say, “Hey, thanks for working so hard. I know it’s a grind. I’m proud of you though,” and then turn around and keep stirring the spaghetti.
You don’t want to tell your wife you’ve always loved her eyelashes? Do it anyway, buddy, and then throw in that you think it was really clever the way she organized the laundry room like that thing she found on Pinterest and you appreciate it.
And then you know what can happen? Do you?
The feelings can return.
The acts of service, the acts of surrendering, start producing that emotion that once came naturally.
Is it a guarantee everything will go back to the good ole days?
Am I for sure that your wife will melt when you tell her that you like her new pants and think her butt looks really hot in them?
Nuh-uh. She might even roll her eyes at you and somehow get offended.
Will your husband start talking about his feelings and open doors for you?
But, I can guarantee that if we continue to act on crummy feelings, our marriages will starve.
So let’s feed them!
Nom nom nom!