By Barbara Rainey
First posted on EverThineHome.com
Many romantic novels and movies seem to follow a common theme. A handsome, intelligent, adventurous, single man unexpectedly meets a beautiful, equally intelligent single woman under improbable circumstances—often in an exotic foreign location or in a lavish historical setting.
Their personalities may clash at first, but eventually they fall madly in love … often in just a few days. While this love is often impulsive and always new—never mature—in most cases the story ends with the unspoken assumption that they will live happily ever after.
How many romance novels or films feature a faithful husband and wife raising children, packing lunches, cleaning up messes, mowing the yard, going to work, serving at church … and, oh yes, enjoying passionate romance on a regular basis?
Not many. I’ll grant you that Hallmark television romances—which I never watch but friends of mine do—often include happily-married couple. However, they are almost always secondary characters. The audience is more interested in the fantasy “boy meets girl” romance.
Obviously not many real couples live like the made-up characters in the movies and books. Who can maintain that level of intensity? Or adventure, intrigue, and surprise?
Everyone must come down from the high of new love and make the transition to everyday romance. But there really is something to learn from first love, too. It’s important to work at renewing some elements of those beginning lovestruck days.
Even Jesus talked about this when He told the Christians at one church that their love for Him had grown cold. His solution to rekindling their love? “Do the works [or deeds] you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).
Couples in the beginning season of romance are often so focused on pleasing each other that they devise ingenious means of capturing each other’s attention. They create endless ways to say, “I love you.” Their courtship is marked with creative notes and gifts, interesting dates, surprise parties, and much more.
But at some point complacency sets in to a relationship, and creativity often goes out the window—or is refocused on the children.
The ability to imagine and create sets humans apart from the animal world. It’s a connection to God Himself. He gives you the ability to use your mind to think of something that is different or distinct and then express that idea in some kind of action.
In an article titled “God Is Not Boring,” John Piper suggests that using our God-given imagination is a Christian duty. He writes, “Jesus said, ‘Whatever you wish that others would do to you do also to them’ (Matthew 7:12). We must imagine ourselves in their place and imagine what we would like done to us. Compassionate, sympathetic, helpful love hangs much on the imagination of the lover.”
The application for rekindling romance in marriage is twofold:
Express your love to your husband in the ways he enjoys. And love isn’t just expressions of affection. It’s also expressed in the ways we treat our men … with kindness and patience, with respect and belief. It’s also expressed in our words. Do we speak with love or with criticism and contempt?
A favorite quote of mine is from author Madeleine L’Engle who wrote in her book, Walking on Water, “to love anyone is to hope in him always. From the moment we pigeonhole him, and so reduce him to that, we cease to love him, and he ceases to become better.”
Use your imagination and creativity like you did in your dating and early married season. And you don’t have to create public exploits to wow your friends or his when you tell the stories. The best love is private and safe, the kind that generates security and peace within the walls of your marriage and your home.
Still, men and women are very different. We are opposites God made for the purpose of completing one another like two puzzle pieces. One of the challenges when it comes to romance is that spouses usually spell romance differently. For example, men usually spell it S-E-X while women spell it R-E-L-A-T-I-O-N-S-H-I-P. But not always … I often hear from wives who are more interested in sex than their husbands.
The point is you will both view romance and love differently. So your challenge is to find ways to nurture the relationship side and the intimate side of your relationship.
One key is thinking of creative ways to spend time together. When the weather begins to warm, invite him to go on short walks in the evening with you with or without kids. If he has evening tasks outside in his garage, work room, or the barn, join him to get time with him where he is most comfortable. Men are often more willing to talk if they are doing something they find interesting or relaxing. They don’t often respond well to, “Let’s sit on the couch and talk!”
As you find ways to get more time together, add small creative acts like leaving him a voicemail, sending a text, or writing notes for him to find, (see our newest designs here). Take him coffee, ask how you can help him, be kind and interested in him as much as you once were.
Make it a point to thank him verbally to his face for something you appreciate about him. Or something specific he does that helps or encourages you like his work, his leadership, his faithfulness, or his way of serving you and your children. Naming the good in people—your husband and your children too—always calls out more of those qualities.
Ultimately, if you know your man and know he would like this, imagine new ways to give yourself to your husband sexually. Depending on your level of comfort and your husband’s level of interest in bedroom creativity, plan a special love feast for his birthday or your anniversary.
The only guidelines for your creativity are that it be pleasing to your husband, not offensive to either of you, and within the boundaries of Scripture.
One last thought. In some ways, renewing romance is like baking a cake. Every cake has some ingredients in common; such as flour, sugar, eggs. But there are also many variables that affect the baking. Oven temperature, altitude, humidity, and the inevitable mistakes of inaccurate measuring, incorrect ingredients, or inadequate equipment affect the final product.
Similarly, every marriage contains a host of romantic variables. Husbands and wives bring different thinking patterns and past experiences. Every spouse has experienced disappointment, failure, and rejection in life, related and unrelated to romance and sex, that influences the ability to take further risks. Many marriages deal with repeated health issues for one or both spouses. All couples have different personalities, values, desires, and goals.
Romance is a lot more complicated than baking a cake, but every marriage has the ingredients to make it work if we follow God’s recipe, the Bible, in learning how to love well.
Renewing romance in your marriage means taking the time, exercising your imagination and being willing to “love your neighbor as yourself”—and your nearest neighbor in this case just happens to be your husband.
May you enjoy a Happy Valentine’s Day this year as you focus on practicing love as God taught us in His word
My Heart, Ever His: Prayers for Women (NEW from Barbara Rainey)
As we search for meaning in our world of shallow online relationships and glamorized selfies, many are returning to traditional and liturgical churches. The repeated words, benedictions, and historic hymns connect us to saints who have gone before, giving us a sense of belonging, richness, and transcendence. Written prayers, once cast off as archaic, are now welcomed as guides to tune our hearts to the heart of God.
In My Heart, Ever His Barbara Rainey shares 40 prayers for women. Readers can read and meditate on one prayer throughout the week or read a prayer a day for 40 days as a way to express the longing of our hearts to our Father who loves us even as he sees who we truly are. Like the psalms of David, these prayers are honest, sometimes raw. Barbara uses these transparent expressions of common female experiences to encourage us to surrender to Christ and help us see God as he is, not as we assume him to be. My Heart, Ever His provides a stepping-stone to help you become more transparent with God and discover his welcoming embrace.
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