Marriage was created by God. True. But that doesn’t mean it’s magic. And that doesn’t stop people from approaching it like magic.
People spend their whole lives building terrible relationship habits that’ll make commitment near impossible for them. But then get married. And take vows. And exchange expensive rings. And make forever promises about the future that simply don’t add up with their past.
People spend years building bad spending habits, bad credit habits, bad debt habits, bad communication habits, bad conflict-resolution habits, bad anger habits, bad drinking habits, bad addiction habits, bad working habits, bad schedule habits, bad sex habits, bad commitment habits, bad faith habits.
But then despite it all, they get married. Because they must think marriage is magic. They must think marriage can just abracadabra all the stupid they’ve spent years building.
Maybe we’re confused because few are honest about the realities of marriage. Everyone wants to live and tell a fairytale. Maybe it’s because we haven’t gotten real with ourselves and clear with the next generation about how difficult lasting love is.
Love is worth it, trust me. But it takes hard work, just like anything else in life worth having. So real quick, let me do you a favor and share some truth. Repeat after me:
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is hard.
And it’s true. Right? No one had to teach you to fall in love, it just came naturally. No one had to teach your seventh-grade girl how to “fall in love.” She just came home one day with “I love Corey” written on her hand.
No one had to teach the college-you how to fall in love, it just happened. It didn’t even require your brain because heaven knows you weren’t using it. I mean, who cares he’s been with four different girls this month? Who cares you’ve only known her a week? You two are in love! Because he made you a playlist. And she wears your hoodie around campus! And you two share the same drink at dinner!
Maybe that’s why we think we can just flip a switch, say “I do,” and magically stay in love forever? Because falling in love is so easy. Maybe. But the reality is that although falling in love is easy, staying in love is hard. And it won’t take you more than a few months in marriage to find that out and wish you and your spouse were better prepared.
Repeat after me:
Falling in love takes eyes. Staying in love takes effort.
All it took was attraction for the two of you to fall in love. You fell for her the moment she walked in… love at first sight… time stood still… everyone else disappeared… as she floated across the floor… in slow motion… and light shone through the window upon her radiant face (even though it was night)… you were in love.
And all it took was your eyes. But the bad news is that no one told you staying in love would take more than just looks. No one told you that the two of you would only get older, and people don’t age like fine wine. Instead, quite the opposite. So to keep love alive, it was going to take more than a hot bod, straight teeth, and dreamy eyes. It would require a concerted effort.
Last one. Repeat after me.
Falling in love takes chemistry. Staying in love takes commitment.
People literally experience “chemistry” when they’re attracted to someone. Attraction causes a rise in dopamine and norepinephrine, so you feel this sort of high. Attraction acts like a drug because of the physical chemistry it causes.
You remember when you two first started dating? And y’all were convinced no one had ever loved like you? Not your momma. Not your grandmomma. Not the people on TV or in movies. Nobody! And you two held hands everywhere. And sat on the same side of the booth at dinner. And you wrote her poetry. Even though you never actually read a poem and got like a C- in English. But you wrote it anyways. And it was terrible. But that didn’t stop her from posting it on social media. And you two swooned. And everyone else who read it was like, “Gag me!”
But then a week later he dumped you. And now you look back and you’re like, “What was I thinking!?” And the awkward love poems are still floating around out there because it’s the internet and it’ll always be there. Even for your next boyfriend. Even someday for your kids. [I digress.]
You remember all that? I know. I know. You tried to forget. But here’s the good news… You two were high. Seriously. You’ll thank God later for this excuse. Part of what caused this love-drunk feeling was your brain chemistry.
But no one ever told you that sooner or later it would wear off. No one told you that falling in love affects a different sort of chemistry than staying in love. And so when it did wear off you began to wonder, “Have I fallen out of love?” because you never knew what normal felt like to begin with.
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is hard. Falling in love takes eyes. Staying in love takes effort. Falling in love takes chemistry. Staying in love takes commitment.
But. It’s. Worth. It. Few things are more satisfying than love sustained, and I believe God created marital-love like this on purpose.
God created marriage like he did because it matures you. If you’re serious about sustaining love, then marriage forces you to get outside of yourself. No longer do your actions affect just one. Marriage forces me to stop thinking in terms of I and start living in terms of us. And nothing matures you quite like that.
God created marriage like he did because it matures them. You see, in marriage, God calls you to partner with him in sanctifying your spouse. He calls you to join him in bringing your spouse toward perfection in Christ. If you’ve been Christian long, you know your relationship with God is a journey. It doesn’t happen all at once. And God created marriage to ensure that Jesus would remain an intimate influencer in every spouse’s life through the physical presence of their partner. In marriage, you vowed to be Jesus in the life of your spouse, and nothing will mature them quite like Jesus.
But most importantly, God created marriage like he did to remind you what he did. He gave. Jesus sacrificed his life to advance yours. And there is no other human relationship that illustrates this sort of self-sacrificial effort, commitment, and struggle quite like marriage.
God could’ve chosen magic, but instead he chose marriage. So approach it and live it on purpose. Because it has a purpose.
Originally posted January 27, 2014 at CrossShapedStuff.com.
Tyler McKenzie is the Teaching Pastor at Northeast Christian Church and Blogger at CrossShapedStuff.com. Give his blog a visit for more great content and join the conversation.