Have you ever considered that the person you plan on marrying could be an entirely different person a year into marriage? Have you been married to someone for five years only to realize that he/she is no longer the person you “fell in love with”? Anyone who’s been married for any length of time can likely point out at least one way their spouse has changed!
Early on in our relationship, my wife Allena’s love languages were a large portion of acts of service with a small side of gifts. After we got married and had kids, her needs have changed, and she loves to hear words of affirmation. While my love language has stayed pretty consistent in words of affirmation, I’ve certainly changed in how I like to relax and have fun.
For some couples, the changes that come are relatively small in nature, and perhaps even go unnoticed. It would be a challenge for them to point out how their spouse has changed. Others experience transformations as different as night and day, and it is no challenge at all to pinpoint the change. Moving in with your spouse, job changes, relocations, finances, and especially having kids are examples of outside factors that influence and bring about some of these changes.
If you’ve attended a Merge pre-marital class, you might have heard the familiar saying that people often “date each other’s public relations department.” While dating, I would always dress my best and ensure that dates were planned and no detail was left behind. I would make sure the car was cleaned, doors were opened for Allena, and that I was attentive and initiated conversations.
Inevitably over time, our public relations departments started to give way to the comfort level we developed with each other. I didn’t open the car door as much, phones made more appearances at dinner replacing conversation, and things that Allena probably (hopefully) thought were so charming at first became annoyances. Then come the discoveries of first living with your spouse that make your head spin! Allena says she had no idea how much time I spent watching my favorite baseball team play until we were married.
So the question becomes less about how much change we each will experience in our marriage, and more about "how will we react to and handle the change?" One constant we can certainly trust in is that God doesn’t change. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We can rely on and take Him at His word.
One of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of marriage is to consider that you have a sacred opportunity. In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller says,
Within this Christian version of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating and to say, "I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’”.
The chance to help the one closest to you become more like Christ is a sacred opportunity. This is a constant theme that successful marriages possess. It’s the secret sauce that keeps us satisfied. As we individually allow the Spirit to influence and shape our hearts more to the image of the Son, it allows us to encourage and sharpen our spouse to yield to Him as well.
This foundational process not only helps us to love our spouse well, but it also gives us the means to accept the changes we see in them. Galatians 5:22-23 says,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.
- We exhibit patience on things that annoy us
- We show kindness when we’ve been wounded
- We have joy in the midst of change
- We bring peace when there is chaos
- We are faithful when culture says to run away
- And ultimately, we love with no expectations in return
We have the unique chance to help our spouse become more like Jesus in a way that no other person can. Allena and I have started to emphasize this in our marriage, but we still have a lot of room for growth. Making a point to ask each other good questions will continue to create spiritual intimacy.
Living with this mindset daily will transform our marriages into something that will make the world look at us and wonder what drives us to live this way. Then we have another way that we can point others to Him and share His love with those around us.
- Discuss with your spouse some ways you have seen them change over the course of your marriage and get feedback from your spouse in ways they have seen you change.
- Think of specific ways you can love and date each other well (according to their love language).
- Take some time to pray with your spouse that your marriage would be marked by partnering together in this sacred opportunity.