During the Christmas holiday, a lovely couple had dinner at our home. They sat together on our library sofa, eating appetizers and laughing. Engaged to be married in less than two weeks, I found them fascinating. Both were over the age of eighty. Each had logged over fifty years of marriage with their respective spouses before death prompted separation. I asked him how he stayed married that long, and if he thought people today were quick to throw in the towel.
“I do think people give up too easily. He shoots a smiling glance at his bride-to-be. “I will tell you a story. There was a time in my life when I hated my wife. I hated everything she did, everything she said—I couldn’t stand her. But I had kids, and I didn’t want to leave them.”
“What did you do?” I perched on the edge of my chair, wide-eyed like the only-been-married-twenty-three-years kid I probably was to him.
He had my full attention. “Changed how?”
I started treating her different—like I was dating her. Every day. All the time.”
I already loved this guy. “And what happened?”
“She changed. She started treating me different, too—with respect and appreciation—I fell back in love again. The next twenty years were great. The last ten years were wonderful.”
His insightful words resonated with me. For the next few days, I told anyone who would listen about his sage marriage advice, and worked hard to implement it myself.
Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Marriage, talks about the call to “fall forward” in marriage—that even in our worst moments we must pursue this person, embrace and grow toward them. Marriage presumes giving your all—the gift of self.
If we don’t, we fall back. I pictured someone walking alone on a long pier that juts far into the ocean, then tripping and falling backwards. Injured, unable to get up, he’s stranded. He thinks, “Why did I choose to make this journey alone?”
We who said “I do” aren’t on this journey alone. We’re in it up to our til-death-do-us-part eyeballs. We may as well give it everything we’ve got. And then give it some more.
“When you entered this relationship of marriage, you committed to keep moving toward your spouse. Any step back, any pause, any retreat, is an act of fraud. Learn to move toward the person God has given to you for the purpose of teaching you how to live,” Mr. Thomas said.
In what ways can we choose to fall forward into deeper intimacy with our spouses?