Years ago I read this letter written to Dear Abby:
“Do all marriages go stale after 25 years? Ours has. My husband and I don’t seem to have much to talk about any more. We used to talk about our kids. But now they’re grown and gone, and we really don’t have anything to converse about. I have no major complaints with my husband. But the old excitement is gone. We watch a lot of television. And we read. And we have friends. But when we’re alone together, it’s pretty dull. We even sleep in separate bedrooms now. Is there someway to recapture the old magic?”
– The Song has Ended
How incredibly sad! Too many marriages in our churches are struggling because the romance has died. Looking around, there is a disturbing trend that plays itself out in most troubled marriages. They go from fiery romance to reality to rut to resentment to regret. Before long, divorce comes.
Pastor, the marriages in our churches – including our own – are either growing together or drifting apart. There’s no middle ground. Your church has a unique opportunity to encourage healthy, growing marriages. How do flat marriages rekindle their romance? The same way Jesus tells us to rekindle our love for him in Revelation 2:4-5. Jesus says, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen? Repent and do the things you did at first.”
First, you remember the good times. You do again what you did when you first fell in love. Then, you repent or deliberately change how you treat your spouse. But what are those actions that you “did at first”? Married people did five things when they first fell in love. And they’ll need to do it again if they are going to recapture that romance: attention, affirmation, affection, adventure, and accordance (spiritual oneness) they had when they first fell in love.
1. Attention: The very first sign that you were falling in love was that you noticed that someone was paying attention to you – and you started to pay attention to that someone. Do you remember how much attention you paid your mate before you were married? You wrote notes. You made phone calls. You spent hours talking together. You sent cards. You bought flowers. You brought gifts. You said over and over again, “You have my total and undivided attention.”
What happened after you got married? Instead of saying, “I'll get that for you,” we started saying, “Get it yourself!” We became complacent in our relationship and took one another for granted. But if you’re going to rekindle the romance, you’ve got to make time for each other and pay attention to each other. If you don’t, you’re headed for trouble.
2. Affirmation: The quickest way to put spark back into your marriage is to start focusing on your spouse’s strengths instead of their weaknesses. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Give encouragement to each other. Keep strengthening each other.” Everybody wants to be admired, appreciated, and looked up to. We fall in love with people who admire us.
You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s so true. “Treat your husband like a king and he will treat you like a queen.” Very simple yet profound. We tend to become what others expect of us.
Verbalize your love for your spouse every day. If you will verbalize your love, you will begin to feel that love you once had.
3. Affection: Remember how affectionate you and your spouse were during your courting days? In fact, you can always tell who the unmarried couples are. They can’t keep their hands off each other. Unfortunately, after the wedding, the touching and tenderness stop in so many marriages. All marriages need large amounts of hugging, kissing, caressing, and other forms of non-sexual touch.
Ephesians 5:19 (Amplified) says, “Husbands ... be affectionate!” It is a command. Husbands, if you’re not doing this, you’re sinning. Some say, “I'm just not naturally affectionate.” So what? Change! It’s not in your genes. You learned the behavior from your background. You can learn to be affectionate.
4. Adventure: Most marriages are dull. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with your wife.” I’ve read that the number one cause of affairs is boredom. Are you fun to live with? You had adventure when you were romancing your spouse. But you’ve probably lost that sense of adventure. Everything is predictable. Predictability kills a marriage.
Unfortunately, most of us define fun as what you do after you’ve got all your work finished. But you never get all your work finished! The work is never done. Even after you retire, you still have got work to do. As a result, you don’t have any fun in your marriage – and you wonder why the feelings have died.
You need at least one date a week. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be at night. (Kay and I have done them on Monday mornings.) But regardless, do something you like to do together. And do it without the kids. Schedule it – every week – so you can’t back out when your schedule gets tight.
5. Accordance (spiritual oneness): The key to fellowship with your mate is for both of you to live in God’s presence. When you and your wife are both committed to Christ and what he’s doing in the world, you’ll be naturally drawn together. Spiritual unity enhances romance. I ended up proposing to Kay while we were praying together. I felt so close to her – our hearts were knit together – that I figured we might as well join our lives together. Prayer joins you together. And then there is the natural desire to show physical affection, physical oneness, when you are spiritually one.
God wants you to have oneness. Romance was God’s idea. The Bible says two shall become one – intellectually, emotionally, physically, recreationally, and spiritually. When you are only having oneness in three of those areas, your marriage isn’t fully what God wants it to be. But when you and your spouse connect in all five areas, that’s when you find real, honest oneness.
Do you and your spouse pray together? Do you do ministry together? Do you share what God is doing in your life with your spouse, and visa-versa? Make those things a part of your time together, and romance will return.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2009 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved