For millions of people, February 14th is a day to sit around in PJ's, watching sappy movies and assigning blame to the various parts of their bodies and personalities that they are absolutely sure are keeping them from finding true love. Valentines Day is the day of love, right? The day that is supposed to remind us that for every sad, lonely, college dude there is a confident, beautiful woman who is going to pick up the pieces of his life and shape him into something worth admiring. Its the day where single people mope around, jealously looking at all of their married friends lives,feeling sorry for themselves because they are so utterly alone (joke, don't crucify me). But according to an article I recently read by Guy Winch PH.D (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201306/together-still-lonely), up to 20% of the general population suffers from chronic loneliness, and of that 20%, just about 2/3 were people who were married and living with their partner.
I am not familiar with this publication and can't stake my life on their math, but what if they are right? Think about that. In the Unites States alone, there are over 328,000,000 people. Which means that just in our backyard, there are 65.6 million people who feel alone for a sizable chunk of their lives. And of that 65.6 million, 41 million are "happily married". I am writing this to the 41 million.
Before you got married, you thought that marriage was going to solve all of your problems. You thought it would satisfy all of your needs. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, and let's not pretend you weren't including your sexual gratification in your wedding daydreams. But the statistics say that a third of all married people feel lonely and neglected in their marriages. They say that 15%-20% of married people are having sex less than once a month, and that a great percentage of those who are not struggling there are still unhappy with the actual intimacy in their relationship (a bunch of young Christians just reconsidered their life goals. My bad, guys.). They say that a sizable chunk of the married population is stressed over money, loneliness, incidences of infidelity, jobs they hate that they can't leave and so much more. Marriages are struggling all over our nation. So I imagine that in this society of wounded marriages, it is not just the single people who are facing Valentines Day with a scowl this year. Which is why I am writing this blog.
To the 41 million, I have three things I want to say to you today:
1. Forgive Yourself And Do Better
I have only been married for just about five years. I haven't had time to experience the pleasures and pains in marriage that many of you have yet. I haven't seen the deep highs and deep lows that I am sure I will see before our time is done here on this earth, but I have had my share of painful experiences. Looking back on the last five years, I can point to so many occasions where my wife and I have fought and experienced turmoil over perfectly avoidable situations. And to my great shame, many of those incidences were completely my fault. Maybe I got angry about not getting my way. Maybe I was way too emotionally exhausted to be engaging in a conversation I had foolishly walked into. Maybe I was bitter about things that were completely out of my control, so I took it out by escalating situations I could control. Regardless of the details, there have been many times where I have made mistakes that have cost my marriage peace, as I am sure we can all say if we are being honest with ourselves. And it is easy to allow shame to set in. Especially when those bad decisions cause hurt that doesn't vanish with an "I forgive you". Some mistakes linger. Some words can't be taken back. Some failures don't mend themselves with time, alone.
Don't give up. No matter what mistakes you have made or what damage you have done within your marriage, if they haven't walked away, don't allow guilt to become a barrier between you that eventually drives them away. I want you to, right now, let go of the mistakes you have made. Forgive yourself for the wounds you have caused in your marriage. And use the few hours you have left this Valentines Day to do better. Go and cherish your spouse. Remind them of who they fell in love with. Choose your words more carefully. Enter conversations prepared to stay cool and collected. Treasure their body and mind and spirit. Choose to not deepen wounds that, if allowed to heal, just might do that. Let the day of love be a spark that gets your fire going again. And then dont turn back.
2. Forgive Your Spouse And Let Them Do Better
I don't know about you, but for me, my wife's mistakes seem to just be bigger than mine. At least in my own mind. Isn't that how we all operate? When I deal damage to our marriage, it was a mistake. But when she does it, it was intentional. Right? No, that's just nonsense. Your spouse's mistakes likely happened in the same tired, selfish, lame circumstances that yours happened in. So, if you can look at what you've done and find a way to forgive it, do the same thing for them.
Forgive them for their mistakes. Stop telling yourself that they meant every angry word they said. Stop letting their criticisms morph into marital betrayals. Forget the time they ripped up your favorite book in anger or the time they burned your dinner (cause in my house, that is an unforgivable offense). Seriously... whatever has happened, whatever they have done, whether accidentally or purposely, if your marriage is going to survive: Let. It. Go. If they are prepared to do better, please, for the sake of your future, let them.
We all have expectations coming into marriage. Expectations when it comes to love, sex, money, children, in-laws. We have expectations for everything you can think of. And for most of us, those expectations are just not met. But change doesn't have to break us. It doesn't have to even disappoint us. If you are still in the game, I choose to believe it is because you want to be something more. So, choose your marriage. Divorce your anger, right now. Let it go and choose your marriage.
3. Let Yourself Fall In Love Again
As I said, I haven't been married long enough to have known the hurts you may have experienced. And I won't pretend that I have any kind of expertise in the area. No, I write more from compassion and biblical standard than I do from experience, but please don't dismiss it anyway. If you are one of the 41 million, there is hope for you.
Do you remember what it was like when your love was new? What it was like to hold each other? Or to laugh at your newlywed poverty? Do you remember arguments with your in-laws that forced you two to band together? Or diaper-changes that left you both sprawled out on your living room floor, afraid of the coming years? If so, there is hope for you. Don't give up. Don't let go. Don't forget.
Take the rest of your Valentines Day to hold her like you used to. Use this day to spend too much on dinner like you would of at the height of your infatuation with each other. Rub his back the way you know he likes. Carry her up the stairs with the same passion that used to sweep her away. Make his steak as bloody as he likes it, and kiss him later anyway, even if you picture cows mooing in protest from his stomach. Send the kids away and watch that one movie she loves. You know, the one you find too predictable but she somehow gets mystified by. Rub her feet, and dont stop until you run out of lotion. Wear makeup for your man. Dont laugh at her if she's forgotten how to put it on correctly. Be in love again.
Take the rest of this day to do the things that made you you. Fall in love again. And no matter what... Don't. Give. Up.
And just for fun, what made you fall in love with your spouse? Share your story in the comments below!
Some Resources For Hurting Marriages:
5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Languages-Secret-that-Lasts-ebook/dp/B00OICLVBI/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=241914947458&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9021845&hvnetw=g&hvpos=1t1&hvqmt=b&hvrand=5849729977359209100&hvtargid=kwd-16004393924&keywords=the+5+love+languages+chapman&qid=1550195721&s=gateway&sr=8-1&tag=googhydr-20
Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away by Gary Chapman: https://www.amazon.com/Loving-Your-Spouse-When-Walking/dp/0802418104/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
One More Try by Gary Chapman: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802411517/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i20
Also, all of Gary's other books. Seriously. Read them all.