Happy Valentine's Day! This day is either a favorite of yours, or the most dreaded day of the year... Depends, doesn't it? This year, on this day, we're celebrating long-love with a focus on "old marriage." Read on as Dorothy Greco shares a vital lesson for lasting love. And by the way, I love YOU, dear one. And God loves you deeply, passionately and no-matter-what.
How Disappointment Can Lead Us to Love
By Dorothy Greco
Months before my tenth anniversary, I began to daydream about our upcoming celebratory getaway. My husband and I would eat dinners by candlelight, give each other extravagant presents, walk along the beach, and of course make love each night. As Christopher has learned, I'm fluent in all five love languages, and on important events, such as birthdays and anniversaries, I want to experience as many as possible. When the weekend finally arrived, I was nearly giddy as we drove away.
That lasted about three hours. I was so eager to receive his gift that not long after we settled into the bed-and-breakfast, I suggested we exchange presents. He slid his hand into his bag and pulled out - wait for it - a card and a pen and sat down to write. On the day of our anniversary. I watched him and thought, Ten years wasn't enough time to prepare for this date? My giddiness morphed into anxiety.
He wasn't unprepared: he had written a poem for me. As he began to read it, my emotions tangled around themselves like a ball of discarded fishing line. My inner dialogue went something along the lines of, A poem? I wasn't expecting a poem. I wanted something tangible. After ten years, how could he not know that? Instead of joyfully kicking off our second decade, this weekend began a painful and disconcerting season. (Just for the record, I've repented for my selfish ingratitude.)
Though we were not conflict rookies, the intensity and stickiness of our anger unnerved us. It was as if this fight somehow epitomized every deficit in our marriage. For months, we hid in our foxholes and lobbed verbal grenades at each other. When we finally reached out to friends, they helped us to realize we had been avoiding and minimizing our disappointments. As a result, we never learned what these feelings were trying to teach us and endlessly looped around the same half-dozen fights. Sound familiar?
In the context of marriage, if we find ourselves habitually disappointed, we have four options: divest and/or quit, pretend that everything is fine (which is dishonest), try to change our spouses (which never works), or ask God to use the disappointment as a catalyst to transform us so that we can love our spouse independent of their behavior. If we want our marriages to thrive, we really only have one choice.
Rather than continuing to blame Christopher, I asked the Lord to help me do three things: repent of any unfair expectations, appreciate Christopher's strengths, and develop reality-based expectations. Of these three objectives, developing reality-based expectations has been the most difficult. (Just because I want or need something does not mean my husband can provide it.)
These prayers have paid off. We recently celebrated our 25th anniversary and I'm happy to say, we did not fight. As I've learned to recognize and let go of my unrealistic expectations, I've also learned how to accept and love Christopher for the good gift that he is. This is not denial masquerading as faith: it's what true love looks like.
Dorothy Greco writes on how following Jesus is meant to change everything. You can find more of her work on her website (dorothygreco.com) or by following her on Facebook (Words & Images by Dorothy Greco). She is the author of Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You.
This article was adapted from Making Marriage Beautiful (David C. Cook, 2017). Used with permission.
Flower Photo Credit: Dorothy Greco.