My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Real Family Talk
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
What should married people do if they fall in love with someone else?
Your question leads us to assume you are speaking about external qualities that reduce love to a feeling, an experience, or a moment in time. The media have led us to believe that “falling in love” is that feeling of butterflies in your stomach that makes you want to smile, skip, and sing sweet melodies. Truth be told, that’s not being “in love”; that’s infatuation. Let’s examine what true love really is.
Real love pushes past fleeting emotions, digs in its heels, rolls up its sleeves, and gets ready to hang in there “in sickness and in health, for better or worse, in good times and in sorrow.” Remember those vows?
To be sure, we are not speaking about being in an abusive relationship, but in a relatively healthy relationship where you have been taking each other for granted and things have been allowed to become mundane. This is often why people say they are no longer in love with their spouse, or that they have fallen in love with someone else.
Our culture places a high value on falling in love, but not on staying in love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the apostle Paul reminds us about true love. All the ingredients for having a lasting, passionate, authentic relationship are found in this passage. Staying in love requires a strong commitment to working hard for the relationship and not giving up.
You may think you’re in love with someone else, because it’s easy to be “in love” with someone with whom you don’t have any “baggage,” someone with whom you haven’t experienced any challenges, or have had any hurdles or obstacles to overcome. You’re searching for those feelings you get when you first fall in love, and you think they can no longer be found in your spouse.
Here’s the good news: you can regain feelings of being in love with your spouse, and build a marriage that is stable and satisfying. First, you have to avoid contact with the person you think you’re in love with as much as possible. Then refocus your attention on your spouse. Remember how you felt when you first met. What attracted you to him or her? This should rekindle some of the emotions you initially felt for your spouse.
Feeling “in love” is nice, however, it’s most important for you to reframe your understanding of what it truly means to be in love. Love is a verb; it is an action. Start focusing on what you can do to be a better spouse, loving your spouse the way Christ loves you (see John 13:34). Examine your expectations and determine which ones are realistic, and which have to be discarded. Focus on working together as a team to fill in the gaps that inevitably appear in marriage.
Also, guard your heart, as the Bible implores us all to do. By nature, our hearts are desperately wicked; and as such they are likely lead us astray. When things are not going the way you imagined, talk to your spouse about your concern. Don’t look for someone else to make you feel better. Openly share your feelings of anger or disappointment (and joy) with your spouse. You will stay in love if your share with one another at a deeply intimate level.
So turn toward your spouse with all the energy and emotions you started to give to someone else. The feelings may not be there right away, but if you start today the feelings will follow tomorrow, or soon after.
Trust God with your marriage. Ask Him to give you strength and courage to do the right thing for your marriage and your family. After all, marriage is meant to be a blessing to you, as well as to honor and glorify God.
We are praying for your success.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
All Bible references are from the English Standard Version.