February 14 is a red letter day for young and old alike. For centuries in parts of Europe and in America, Valentines Day is a time when love is expressed in beautifully crafted cards. And if the recipient is someone special, the card is often accompanied by a box of chocolates!
How this holiday originated is a subject of debate. Among the stories bantered about is the ancient account of St. Valentine who befriended children. According to legend, he refused to worship Roman gods and was banished to prison. Concerned children tossed loving notes between the bars of his cell window. This may explain why people exchange cards on Valentine’s Day.
Falling in love is a magical sort of experience. Cupid’s arrow pierces the heart and strange things transpire. A guy who dislikes poetry, is transformed into a poet, writing sonnets to the object of his affection. He is also likely to pass on the premier of “Fast & Furious 6” to see “Les Miserables” with his girl. Likewise, a girl smitten by love will alter her plans in a moments notice when the “perfect guy” calls.
In time, many couples take the marriage plunge. While they notice their partner has some “minor flaws,” they are certain this will change once they are married. In time, the magic wears off and the poetry stuff goes out the window. The “perfect guy” (and girl) has some glaring imperfections. In reality, what young couples often fail to see is that they go into marriage with unrealistic expectations. Marriage is the union of two imperfect people.
Studies reveal that couple satisfaction rises during engagement and slowly declines shortly after marriage. It continues to dip during the child rearing stage as couples faced with numerous challenges raising a family, have very little time and energy to invest in each other. For those who hang in there over the years, studies show that their satisfaction level rises again.
Often the real problem affecting satisfaction is that couples forget to do the things that made their relationship special in the beginning. They stop investing in each other. The Bible calls it “losing your first love.”
In the book of Revelation, a letter is written to seven prominent churches. Among them was the church of Ephesus, commended for her hard work, perseverance, and intolerance of evil, yet also told, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4,5) While this congregation was doing some good things, she had forgotten her first love. She had mistaken religion for relationship. The remedy was simple: remember, repent and return.
This treatment plan is ideal for couples having lost the magic in their marriage. The first step is remember. Remember what you were like when you fell in love. Dust off the picture album, open the shoe box of poetry, cards and letters. Reminisce about the romantic dates, the fun excursions, and how alive you felt. Stroll down memory lane, even if it means you have to drive a ways to get there!
The next step repent, means go the opposite direction. This exercise requires some self-examination. It may include having to ask for forgiveness for your attitude and behavior. Assigning blame is counter-productive. Christ called this form of judging, “looking at the speck in your brother’s eye while failing to see the speck in your own eye.” Time and energy is better served by working on yourself rather than focusing on your partner.
The final step is to return to your first love by following Jesus’ excellent advice. “Do the things you did at first.” What would this look like? Going on real dates, giving cards, showing a genuine interest in each other are most likely things you did early on. It will give a boost to your marriage to return to these “first love” activities.
There are many external and internal stressors impacting marriages today. Couples often report dissatisfaction, hurt and loneliness in their marriages. Clearly, many marriages are suffering pain. You may be wondering if there is any use in trying to make yours work. Let me suggest that you as a couple try it. The biblical model described is both prescriptive and preventative offering couples healing, happiness and hope.
In advance let me offer some suggestions on how you can remember, repent, and return.
- Think of one story or event in your early relationship that was especially meaningful for you and your spouse and reminisce about it.
- Watch your wedding video together.
- Ask your spouse what her/his favorite dating memory with you.
Repent (go in the opposite direction)
- Think of one thing you do that annoys your spouse and choose this month to stop doing it.
- Think of one thing your spouse would enjoy if you did it with her/him and do it.
- Do you need to say your sorry about something? Do it today.
- Start doing “date nights” again.
- Take your spouse to the restaurant where you had your first date.
- Hold hands with your spouse the next time you are out together at the store, on a walk, etc…
Valentines Day is a perfect time to return to your first love. Get out of your comfort zone. Be creative, not predictable. Plan a romantic date. Pick a new restaurant. Wash the car. Dress up. Express your thoughts in a card or poem. Go with your heart. You can do it!