Why the loss of romantic passion might actually be a good thing (or at least not a bad one).
I always knew that this would happen eventually. I was forewarned by the many dating books I read throughout high school and college, by my pre-marriage class, and by many adults throughout my life. Now it is finally here. I think my husband and I have gotten past the infatuation, ooey-gooey romance part of our relationship.
Don’t misunderstand me. I still love my husband very much. I still wake up in the morning sometimes, feel him next to me, and am just completely overcome with gratitude. I’m still passionate about him. I love doing things for him that I know will bring him happiness. However, that butterflies in the stomach feeling is gone. I haven’t felt it for awhile.
I hadn’t really thought much about it until reading a romantic novel this weekend. Reading about the heroine of the story falling in love reminded me of how that felt when Zach and I were doing our own falling. It also made me realize I hadn’t felt that way recently. Yes, I miss the warm fuzzies. That period of love is so beautiful and precious. It makes me sad to think it’s passed or at least lessened in intensity. However, I’m also a little excited. It’s passing means that we’ve entered into the next phase of our relationship.
In his book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman notes that the euphoric “in love” feeling usually lasts only two years or so. After that, we are called to pursue what he calls “real love” with our spouse. This real love “is emotional in nature but not obsessional. It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and it recognizes the need for personal growth.” It’s moving beyond love as a feeling and realizing that love is really, at root, an action.
I like how my favorite obscure French theologian, Jacques Ellul, describes this phase of love, which he calls the phase of joint responsibility. He writes,
“The acceptance of joint responsibility is the test of the veracity of the love declared. The one was ready to die with and for the other. But it may be revealed that this one was not ready to live with the other, to undergo the test of everyday habit, the test of life, which is no picnic. After passionate love must come responsible love (which is certainly not boring or prosy but more subtle and refined).
To me, this phase is almost like a test to see how well we can live out the vows we’ve made. In the midst of the daily grind of life, does our love measure up to the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 (a verse which we included in our wedding ceremony)? Are we going to live out the promises that we’ve made even when it’s not sexy? Keeping a promise is easy when you’re living on the euphoric feeling of love. Now that we’ve entered this new phase, do we have what it takes to keep it up when the euphoria has passed? I know that we do, with God’s help.
My reasons for bringing this to light are threefold: 1) honesty, 2) warning, and 3) help. I’ll explain. First, I just want to be honest. I don’t want to fake it that I’m still on some kind of cloud nine after almost two years of marriage and four total years of being in a relationship. In some ways, I still feel like we’re honeymooning, but I also can tangibly feel the newness of marriage wearing off at this point. I’ll admit, I feel a little bit like I’m standing in front of a crowd in my underwear by admitting this, but that’s part of the reason why I’m doing it. We all need to be honest with each other about these different phases of love and life so we don’t feel alone or weird or wrong when we experience something perfectly normal. I know this is a common thing and there is life to be lived after it.
This brings us to reason number two. I want to warn those who haven’t gotten to this point yet that this is coming just like all those books and classes and people warned me. Euphoric love and romance don’t last any more than anything else in life does. Like it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Each phase and season of life has its joys and sorrows, but ultimately they all pass. Still, we encounter new joys and sorrows in the next phase. It’s okay to mourn when a particularly pleasant phase has passed. However, we also have to realize that things are always going to change and we can’t grasp on to anything (besides God) too tightly. The good old days are never coming back, but there are good new days ahead to look forward to. Whether you’re loving your current phase of life right now, or praying for it to be over, just know that the only thing in life that never changes (once again, besides God) is that things change.
This brings me to reason number three. Because life is always changing, we always need people who are a step or two ahead of us in age, life season, maturity, spiritual walk, what have you, to give us guidance. I’m looking for some advice here. For those of you who have been married a bit longer, what are ways that you have weathered this season of less euphoria and more joint responsibility and action? Any resources that you would recommend? Any suggestions to keep the passion alive in the midst of everyday life? If you have a good answer to any of those questions, please leave a comment (even if you don’t, feel free to ask a question if you have one or leave a happy poo emoji if you like).
If you’re single and reading this, you might be thinking “What the heck does this have to do with me?” Everything. First off, the changing nature of life means that you never know when your single status might not be so permanent. I happen to know this one from experience. Second, it means that even if you never get married, that ooey gooey lovey stuff is only a passing phase, just like every other part of life. Don’t over romanticize romance. I’ll be honest, I did a really bad job at this as a single, so I’m not judging you if you fall into this trap. As my good friend Ellul said, “I simply know what is true even though I have sometimes lived out what is false.” Third, it means just like everyone else that you should have a couple people speaking into your life who are a few steps ahead of you (of both the married and single variety, if possible).
 Chapman, 35
 Ellul, What I Believe, 75
 Ellul, 82