It was Saturday in the South and I was stopping by Wal-Mart to pick up some football snacks before the game started. I quickly counted the items in my cart. Yes, I can go in the “20 items or less” aisle and save a boat load of time. I whipped in line and began to people watch while I waited. It’s one of my favorite hobbies.
An older couple caught my eye. They were in the self-checkout line and she was taking items out of the cart, and he seemed to share the same hobby as me – he looked around at all of the different people, intently watching everyone but his wife.
She was trying to reach the items towards the back of the buggy and called his name to get him to hand them to her. He didn’t hear her. She then dramatically leaned forward, snatched the items, and called him a nasty name.
He just stared at her.
Then walked away.
She continued to purchase her items, never once looking to see where he went. But as she filled her buggy and headed towards the exit, she looked around. But couldn’t find him. He had disappeared.
I don’t know the outcome of this story, or who these people are. I don’t know the story of how they met, fell in love and got married. I don’t know the circumstances behind their day and how that could have factored in to the way they treated each other. All I do know is there was no love on either of their faces. No – it was almost a hatred.
And it broke my heart.
It caused me to wonder if all married couples who stick with this marriage thing end up hating each other, because I can count on one hand older couples who love each other – I mean really love each other.
But there are countless couples I know who nag, disrespect, and talk bad about each other. Gone are the thoughtful gestures that newlyweds exhibit. Gone are the flowers, the “Here honey, let me help you”‘s, the sweet notes and kind words. In their place is only mediocracy, cold stares, and silence.
Husbands no longer seek out ways to love their wives, and wives no longer respect their husbands. And neither party seems to have a problem with that.
I don’t know that I could stand living that way. I mean, I know I’ve only been married for a year and five months, but when Chris is mad at me, life holds no joy. Pleasing him is something I try to strive for – making him feel loved and appreciated is something I never want to stop doing.
But am I just “young and dumb?” Am I looking at this whole marriage thing through rose-colored glasses? I don’t have experience on my side, I know. Chris and I have yet to walk through countless tragedies together. We have had our share, but not compared to couples married for twenty plus years.
But this I do know: I want to love my husband twenty years from now.
Not tolerate. Not put up with. But love.
And I can’t help but feel that if it is something we pray for, work at, and seek the Lord on, we can do it because it is something that God wants too.
How do we do this practically? Put aside the fluff and feelings. How can we keep each other from slipping into this sea of complacency and disdain?
The times that I have grown the most in our marriage are when I am intentional about our relationship (duh). But for me that means asking Chris hard questions.
“Chris, what did I do to make you upset?”
“How did I disrespect you?”
“Do you feel like I show you respect?”
And I have to listen to his answers. I can’t get offended when he doesn’t tell me what I want to hear. Sometimes it’s really hard. But it’s worth it.
The hard part about this whole “love” thing is it take a lot of work. Like a lot. And sometimes I don’t want to work. I’d rather sit on the couch, watch TV, and stuff popcorn and candy in my mouth. The last thing I want is to have a hard conversation, or get up and cook supper, ask Chris if he’d like something to drink, or rub his feet when he’s had a hard day. Selfish Courtney wants her feet rubbed.
But seeing how much it means to my husband, the appreciation in his eyes and the warm hugs he gives because of it show me that sacrificial love is so worth it. I know you don’t love to be loved in return – that’s not what I’m saying. But when my husband is already striving to love me and I reciprocate that love, it makes the sacrifice that much easier.
So I’m determined to fight for my marriage. I am resolved to ask the hard questions. To do the hard things. Because my husband is worth it and our marriage is worth it.
Will you do the same?