Enjoying the Many Seasons of Marriage
Have you ever tried to recreate an experience? Maybe the experience was the perfect date or the perfect family vacation. How did it work out?
Most of the time, not so well, huh? The ancient Greeks had a saying, “You can’t step in the same river twice.” Said another way, you can’t go back in time.
The only constant thing is change. Children grow, people age and experiences change. Like a river that advances with ever new droplets of water running past its many rocks, life progresses- running its courses over the rocks of life.
You can’t step into the same River twice!
This Greek saying can also be applied to marriages. I remember fondly the sweetness of my husband’s and my newly married days. We were so crazy about each other and so happy to be living in the same house after all those years of separation during our college years. Jody attended a college in New York while I stayed and attended college locally in Alabama. We had dated long distance for 5 years; all the time feeling every one of those 2,000 miles that separated us. Bliss is the best way to describe our newly married life. There were bumps, or small rocks, in our river as we learned to live together as husband and wife, but we were so stinking happy.
Jody and I began our marriage in the mid 80’s at Ft. Rucker – the home of Army Aviation. Jody was in Flight school and I worked in a neighboring town as a Speech-Language Pathologist. We lived in a tiny apartment, furnished with hand-me-downs that included a plastic outside picnic table that we used inside as a dinette. We had no money. We were just young and in love. We both thought that part of the magic was the place – Ft. Rucker must be made for lovers, we would quip. LOL! We would later realize that this was not true when three years later we returned to Ft. Rucker for Jody to attend the Advance Course.
A Little Bit of New
With this second posting, we had two babies in tow. Totally different experience! No love nest this time. Instead, Ft. Rucker was a crazy hot mess of diapers, bottles and sleep deprivation! It was the same city, in the same state, and we were the same people, but life had moved on.
Over the years, my husband and I have spoken with couples who are disappointed because the newness of marriage didn’t last, or because the thrill of the first kiss had waned. These couples attempt to step into the same river twice, but this leaves them feeling like something is wrong with them or their relationship. Instead of embracing the next bend in the river or the new set of approaching rapids, they spin their wheels trying to recreate the past. Frustration almost always occurs. Then doubt comes – they begin to think that they have married the wrong person. Ugh :/
Seasons of Marriage and The Intimacy Ladder
When I think about the river analogy and how it applies to relationships, I am reminded of an illustration I used with our three children when they were teenagers asking questions about dating. I would tell them that each relationship is like a ladder. I named it the “Intimacy Ladder.” The bottom rung is for playful conversation and flirting. On this rung with a member of the opposite sex, all feels exhilarating. Playful conversations, learning how to truly listen to another person and discovering the sameness in you both is a great rung to be on! It is also a great place in “the river.” It should not be rushed past, but instead relished.
The next rung may be simple physical contact, like holding hands. Most can remember the quickening of their heart or the tingle they felt the first time they held their boyfriend’s hand. It was awesome! On this rung you feel every nerve end firing when you are holding hands; you may even get a chill bump or two. But, hand-holding does lessen the desire for flirting. Endless conversations are no longer desired. Instead, the tantalizing feeling of skin-to-skin contact is desired.
New Ladder, Same Rungs
When you meet the next person of interest, you may be quick to rush up the ladder, or “down the river,” to a hand-holding just so that you can get the same happy feeling you experienced the last time you were on the second rung. When you climb the next rung on the ladder and have experience your first kiss, hand-holding no longer provides the same rush that it once offered. I emphasized to my children over and over: You can control how fast you climb the ladder!
I used the illustration with my children to encourage them to take all relationships with the opposite sex very slowly. I told them that there is no going back – you can’t get back into the intimacy river twice at the same place. But, I assured them that each rung of the ladder only gets better. Anticipation is a great part of the process, but not for those who rush up the ladder willy-nilly.
Setting Christ As the Foundation Through All Seasons of Marriage
When Jody and I returned to Ft. Rucker for the Advanced Course, we too easily got into a funk with disappointment with our second posting to our “river of love.” We did so for many reasons (The Ugly Years). We then had to learn how to refocus our expectations on what was coming; not on what had been. When we keep our focus on Jesus and desire to be more like Him, we are not easily caught in the disappointment trap of trying to relive a previous experience. I love what Mo Isom has written on becoming more like Jesus. Mo speaks and writes about Christian purity from the vantage point of sexual addiction. Her book, “Sex, Jesus and the Conversations the Church Forgot,” is a must read! In a recent newsletter she wrote:
“We began with the earnest declaration, “I want to become more like Jesus.”
But then our eyes were invited to the front of that sentence and over time it narrowed itself as such.
I want to become more like Jesus.
I want to become more.
But when we remember the truth of the Gospel, when we put to death the “I” and set our eyes on the back-end of that statement of faith, our life anthem becomes what it was always intended to be.
I want to become more like Jesus.
To become more like Jesus.
More like Jesus.
The direction we focus becomes imperative. Because our intentions may be pure, but our focus steers our heart.”
– Mo Isom
When Seasons of Marriage Include Seasons of Testing
When Jody and I, for the third time, dipped our feet back into “the river” that is Ft. Rucker, we got the news that Jody was not selected for promotion to Major in the Active Army. It was an unsettling time, but one that we both look back on with great fondness. It was not a second honeymoon type of experience. Instead, it was a testing of our faith. We were in awe of God’s faithfulness. The base had not changed. We had. We no longer looked to each other for our completion; we looked to God to fill our hearts with joy and peace. We enjoyed each other as fellow travelers in the marvelous journey that is marriage. We stepped into a “moving river” and enjoyed it! Because our focus was no longer on us, our bodies or our feelings, our focus was now on standing in the river of God’s love. It was all about becoming more like Jesus! God showed Himself to us over and over again. He proved His faithfulness and love. Our younger selves would not have been prepared to handle the gully washer we experienced that year. But because God had been steadily preparing us for that year, we were able to prevail over and move past the rock-created rapids in our shared river of life!
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the most High (Psalms 46:4).”
Enjoying Marriage One Season At A Time
What if you were to look at the hard parts of your journey with your spouse as sacred and not scarring? What if instead of looking back to those treasured honeymoon moments to satisfy yourself, you instead celebrate every trial and each “bend in the river” with God’s faithful hand in your life (James 1:2-4). I believe that if we shift our focus, our marriage can become that great mystery that Paul writes about in his Letter to the Ephesians. Then, our marriage can become the very tool that God can use to grow up our faith and sanctify us (Ephesians 5:32)!
And ‘Oh the Joy’ to ride the rapids with a faithful spouse in the steady hands of our Heavenly Father! My marriage, like my relationship with God, is stronger today than ever! No going back; only forward, my Christian sister!
Thank you for reading today’s post. It was an honor to write for the With Purpose event. Feel free to swing by Wordwashedwife.com. I’d love to visit with you again.
Stay washed in God’s word and chase after Jesus, my sister!
“And such were some of you;
but you were washed,
you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).”