Many questions from readers about how to preserve dying love come to the editorial office of Foma journal (after Thomas the Apostle):
What if I got bored with living with my husband? How to fall in love with my wife again if the first love is far behind? What should we do if we are tired of each other and unhappy together? Love has passed, can’t it be returned?
Archpriest Theodore Borodin, Rector of the Church of Sts. Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian on Maroseyka (Moscow) answered these questions.
During my quarter-century priestly practice, I have never heard from people who have lived most of their lives in marriage that it was easy. But not a single one lamented about these years, although marriage is long and hard joint work. Indeed, if you do not fight for love, it starts to be loneliness of two, “life for the sake of children” or forced cohabitation out of the inability to part.
However, it is in our power to prevent this. Providing that, of course, we believe that the Lord gives us a spouse for salvation: the character of a wife or husband is exactly what our soul needs to grow. And to say “love has passed” means to give yourself permission to betray, to treason.
Therefore, the first and main thing is the following: you should initially trust the Providence of God and realize that your relationship is forever. Indeed, the very words of prayers in the sacrament of the Wedding affirm this. And then serious internal work to preserve, nurture and increase love begins.
And for this you need… to communicate. It seems to be such a simple thing, but that’s what we forget about behind a barrage of everyday problems.
Solving them, the spouses sacrifice time they could spend together, for weeks they can’t find a minute just to talk. Gradually, the communication skill disappears, people become uninterested in each other: and this is a bell that love is leaving, that relationship is at risk. But it is precisely the relationship between husband and wife that is the central vault on which the whole family structure rests. Even a simple shopping trip strengthens a spiritual connection, because one topic for communication inevitably clings to another, which is deeper. And you need to work on establishing and maintaining emotional communication from the first day of your marriage.
Many people also neglect another extremely important resource: praying together. But if we talk about the family as a small Church, then certain sacraments should also take place in it. It is exactly during the joint prayer that a mysterious entry of God into the unity of husband and wife takes place. And then the revival of this unity happens, if it has fluctuated. If children participate in prayer, then the bond with them is also strengthened.
And the habit of praying together does not allow quarreling for a long time: after all, a person who truly loves God simply cannot stand up to prayer, harboring resentment in his heart. We remember the words of Christ: first reconcile with your brother, and then offer a sacrifice to God. And the time devoted to prayer is this sacrifice in practice.
Try to Give, not Take
Some people say: since I am unhappy in marriage, maybe there was no love at all? Indeed, the love that everyone remembers with such nostalgia is only the first stage of love that the Lord gives us. And then you have to work hard so that the feelings grow stronger and turn into love. Because love is not just “chemistry”, it is a gift of God. A gift given for fidelity, for the desire to preserve and enrich this gift.
Love is the ability not only to receive but to give. And those who can only receive say that “love has dried up” when they stop receiving.
I remember one couple. Their relationship was at the breaking point. And when I tried to talk about it with the husband, I heard that his wife was to blame. I asked: “And when you got married, did you want to make her happy?” And he answered in surprise: “What an interesting idea, I have never thought about it!” Just imagine, he was a person over thirty, a believer, a church-going man, a family father…
When the spiritual bond between the spouses has almost disappeared, the risk of giving in to the temptation of adultery, betrayal is especially great. But even at this moment, you can try to restore the broken connection, and not betray your spouse. And the attraction to a stranger should be stopped at the level of thought.
For a married man, all women except his wife are mothers, sisters or daughters, and for a married woman, other men are fathers, brothers or sons.
It happens sometimes that the wife remains faithful, takes care of the family, and the husband begins to deceive his wife. And at the same time he says: “I do not want to destroy the family, but I can’t stop betraying”. But when the wife files for divorce, he accuses her of the fact that she destroyed their marriage. Although there are people who simply can’t continue living together after such a betrayal. Even Christ, not allowing divorce, makes an exception for the fault of adultery: here the decision remains with the injured party.
My parents divorced when I was twelve years old. Now I’m almost sixty, but still everything hurts inside me. And it will always hurt. Because I remember that universe split in half: I loved both father and mother, and they should have been together, but decided to be apart. But it is impossible to simply abandon each other without betraying their children. Although in this situation it is children that suffer the most.
Religiously celebrated marriage is an inexhaustible source. It happens, however, that it goes deep into the depths, and efforts should be taken to make it spring with renewed vigor.
You need to stop looking for flaws in your spouse, stop looking for someone new, thinking about how unhappy you are. Remember: egoism and selfishness destroy a family. But if you understand in time that the center of your life is the Lord, and the main mission is to serve each other and children, then in ten years you will be horrified to remember that you were once on the verge of a divorce and could lose each other.
And be patient and humble. Even if you have the most wonderful life partner and you are deeply in love with him, you should work all the time to preserve this love. After all, the problem is not that the spouses did not coincide, appeared to be different or not at all those whom they dreamed of living their whole life with. The problem is that they neglected their marriage. But marriage is not a quest to go through. Marriage is a tree of paradise that needs to be grown and protected.
Christian love departs from the external, physical – through the soul – to the spiritual. People who have lived together for forty-fifty years may not already have sensual attraction to each other, but they really are the embodiment of the words “they are one flesh”. They are like one person: they speak with the same intonations, they have one way of looking at things and similar thoughts about everything. So can such love really disappear?
And if you think that love is dead, still try to resurrect it. At the same time, remember: any restoration work is more expensive than construction, and the remake is always soulless compared to the original. Of course, marriage does not fit into any scheme, and a universal solution to all problems does not exist. But marriage is a great and wonderful creative task.
Translated by Alyona Malafeeva