Marriage After God

Can I Fall Out Of Love In My Marriage?

Episode Summary

Join the Marriage After God Movement! Thousands have already said yes and we want to invite you to join them. Learn More Here http://marriageaftergod.com - Is love something that we can fall in and out of? Can I still be in love if I don't feel like it? What if I'm not happy in my marriage anymore? If I fell into love once can I fall into love again with someone else? READ TRANSCRIPT [Aaron] Hey, we're Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God. [Jennifer] Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage. [Aaron] And today, we're gonna be tackling the question, can you fall out of love in marriage? Welcome to the Marriage After God podcast, where we believe that marriage was meant for more than just happily ever after. [Jennifer] I'm Jennifer, also known as Unveiled Wife. [Aaron] And I'm Aaron, also known as Husband Revolution. [Jennifer] We have been married for over a decade. [Aaron] And so far, we have four young children. [Jennifer] We have been doing marriage ministry online for over seven years through blogging and social media. [Aaron] With the desire to inspire couples to keep God at the center of their marriage, encouraging them to walk in faith every day. [Jennifer] We believe the Christian marriage should be an extraordinary one, full of life. [Aaron] Love. [Jennifer] And power. [Aaron] That can only be found by chasing after God. [Jennifer] Together. [Aaron] Thank you for joining us in this journey as we chase boldly after God's will for our life together. [Jennifer] This is Marriage After God. [Aaron] Hey, thanks for joining us on another episode of the Marriage After God podcast. We just wanna invite you at the end of the podcast or anytime, really, to leave us a star rating and a review. That helps other people find our podcast, and we also love reading those reviews. So if you wanna take a minute, and again, the easiest way to do that is just to hit one of the stars at the bottom of the app, and that will just give us a rating right there, or you can leave us a text review. We love reading those, so we just wanna invite you to do that. [Jennifer] Another way you can support the podcast is by shopping on our online store, shop.marriageaftergod.com. We have a ton of resources that we've wrote for you guys, including some prayer books, but also, I wanna take a minute to highlight our newest book that we wrote for you, Marriage After God. In fact, today's episode, we're gonna be sharing from Gary Thomas's book, but he read Marriage After God, and this is what he had to say about it: "Marriage After God is not your typical marriage book. "Rather than focus on the common symptoms "of marriage dysfunction and lack of intimacy, "Marriage After God dives into and focuses "on the root causes: the need for faith, biblical truth, "fellowship, ministry, and God-ordained vision. "The Smiths take the wise path of urging us "to grow a better marriage by focusing first "on growing closer to God." [Aaron] Yeah, so we just wanna invite you to pick up a copy of that. We wrote it to encourage your marriage, to find out what God's purpose for your marriage is, and we believe God has a purpose for every one of us in the body, especially your marriage. So please pick up a copy of that book today, and we'd love to get it in your hands. [Jennifer] All right, as always, we're gonna jump into our icebreaker question. Aaron, why don't you start by answering this? What is your favorite game or activity to do with the kids right now? [Aaron] I think I really like wrestling on the ground with the kids. They all climb on top of me. Partly, it lets me lay down for a little bit. Or building forts with our huge, big couch pillows. I think that's awesome. With Elliott specifically, I like practicing drawing. We put on a YouTube show and learn how to draw a dragon or a dinosaur or something like that, and that's a lot of fun. [Jennifer] Yeah, some other games that I would say we've been really into lately is Blokus or Blokus, I don't really know how to say that. [Aaron] Oh yeah, I just played with that them. [Jennifer] So that's super fun, super easy to catch onto, and we've been playing Battleship a lot. [Aaron] Oh, that's a good one. [Jennifer] Yeah. [Aaron] But he gets frustrated when I win. [Jennifer] Everybody gets frustrated when they don't win. So we're working through some of those things, but yeah, those are some games. [Aaron] That was a good question. [Jennifer] That we love with the kids right now. [Aaron] So before we get into our topic, discussing whether or not we can fall out of love in our marriage, I wanna read a quote from Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, on page 157. "The opposite of biblical love isn't hate; it's apathy. "To stop moving toward our spouse "is to stop loving him or her. "It's holding back from the very purpose of marriage." [Jennifer] Well, I feel like that answers the question right there. [Aaron] Yeah, and well, it's a great start to the conversation, because I feel like people might think, of course, yeah, you can't fall in and out of love, but that's kind of where our world's gone, in the secular world and in the Christian world, and we see it often in emails we get, in messages we get on our social media. We just thought it's a very pertinent topic to bring up with our communities. It's something that we've had to deal with in our own marriage, just feeling that like, well, maybe this isn't gonna work, maybe this isn't right, and just maybe dispel some of the lies about it, think biblically and clearly about it, so that those that might be feeling this way can think better and pursue God in the decision. [Jennifer] Yeah. So, when I thought about this topic to discuss today, the first thing that came to my mind is we need to be aware of the things we're saying, the phrases that we use to describe the life that we're living, the things that we're choosing. And so I just kind of went back to the beginning of like, okay, so where did this phrase come from? What does it mean? [Aaron] Yeah, 'cause we grew up, this is like. [Jennifer] This is what we know. [Aaron] I wanna fall in love. Everyone wants to fall in love. [Jennifer] Yep, or people ask you, oh, when did you fall in love with each other? [Aaron] Right, like it was a day. [Jennifer] Yeah. So, I Googled where this phrase came from, and Wikipedia says this: "falling in love is the development of strong feelings "of attachment and love, usually toward another person. "The term is metaphorical, emphasizing that the process, "like the physical act of falling, is sudden, "uncontrollable, and leaves the lover in a vulnerable state, "similar to fall ill or fall into a trap." [Aaron] I love how it uses those negative phrases. [Jennifer] I know, I was gonna say, as I kept looking into this, I found other phrases like fall asleep or fall behind. Someone else likened it to a surprise, like falling down the stairs. [Aaron] Yeah, there are all these negative connotations with falling, which is really unfortunate, that one of the most, supposed to be the most euphoric and most powerful and magical things that we get to experience is love with another person, and we've turned it into, with our common language and how we describe things, it's so weak, in my opinion. [Jennifer] Yeah, that's exactly what I was gonna say. It kind of strips the beauty of one, knowing what true love is, and then choosing it, because here it's making you sound like it's just happening to you, that there's no control in any of it. [Aaron] Yeah, and I think that one of the traps of the enemy, you know, falling into the trap, like you said, that's he's taken something so beautiful that God invented and created and something that he's given as a gift to his children, and boiled it down. You know, if he can change the terms and the words and the definitions, then he can change the meanings of thing. And so, I think that's the first thing that our listeners can start to think about, is if they fell in love, right, and I know people are really thinking, like, I think you're just going overboard. What's the big deal? It's just a phrase. But it's not just a phrase, because like you said, if we're not aware of the things that we're saying, we don't realize that we define things by the things we say. Words do have meaning, and if we say them over and over and over again, they have meaning, and if we believe them, like, if I believe we fell in love, then it's not hard to believe that we can fall out of love. [Jennifer] Right. [Aaron] Because the definition, it's something that happened to me, I had no control over it. We were just in this whirlwind, and oh my gosh, the passions, and you're beautiful, and I love you, and oh, we have similar things that we like, and oh, and the way you think, and you're so funny, and all these things, which are totally good things, and they totally add to my attraction to you or attraction to another person and draw us, and actually do invoke emotions in us and feelings. And those are all given to us by God. But if we boil down love to just those things, those feelings, then the moment those things change, the moment those things disappear, the moment those things that we used to be enamored by now bug us, because that happens. Like, oh, it was so cute the way you would say that one thing, and now that way you say that all the time really bugs me, and I don't like it. [Jennifer] Yeah. So, here's the other just sad, sad part about all of this, is that in marriage, we come up against this very thing that you're talking about, is if things change. So let's say there's hard circumstances, or you really get to know each other after years and years of marriage, and there's just things like, as you said, bug you. If we say that we fell into love with one another and that goes back to this sudden thing that there's no control over, who's to say that we can't fall in love even after we're married? [Aaron] Right. [Jennifer] And someone else comes along, and no, I've done it again. I've fallen in love again, but not with you. That's dangerous. [Aaron] Yeah, and you know what, I had no control over it. We've actually heard this. I'm sorry, I love you still, but this other person came along, and they're feeding my love tank. [Jennifer] It becomes a justification for sin, and nobody's taking responsibility. That's shat I'm trying to get at. [Aaron] Right, and I think that's what we wanna talk about in this, and where we're gonna try and go with this, is to take away the decision and the control and the thoughtfulness in love is to take away the power of the love in the first place, of what God's doing. The Bible says that God is love. So he invented it, he designed it. It's his creation. It's something that, something that he is love. It existed with him. And so for us to boil it, like, oh, I fell in love, oh, I fell out of love, it's something I go in and out of, and it's not a choice. It's just whatever I feel at the moment. And what's so dangerous about that is the Bible tells us to not operate in our feelings. That's what's called carnal. Our carnal flesh is our feelings, the chemical reactions in our brain, which is exactly what feelings are. You get a burst of oxytocin, and you get a burst of all these different hormones that are good hormones that God created us with, and we define something very spiritual with a very fleshly reaction. And I think that spiritual things definitely bring those emotional reactions, which is why they're good: God made it that way. But love's not defined by those things. And a perfect example is if we're thinking about falling in and out of love, or when things are hard, I must not be in love anymore, or they must not love me anymore, or maybe they've fallen out of love with me or we're falling out of love with each other, I just think of Christ on the cross, you know? He goes into the Garden of Gethsemane, and he prays, Lord, let this cup pass from me. And he's praying that the suffering he was about to partake, that he was about to be obedient to endure, was for his bride. And he's saying, I don't know if I can do this, but I'm not gonna choose. Lord, you chose. And his will was that he went to the cross, because salvation was at hand, for the body of Christ, for the world. And so, if we look at Christ, would he fall out of love when he's on the cross? He's like, oh, this is too hard. I just don't love them anymore. No, he loved us beyond what his flesh wanted, and that's exactly what I wanna talk about. The power of love goes way beyond how we feel, because there was times that you didn't feel in love with me. [Jennifer] No, definitely. In those early years, when our circumstances were really hard, yeah, I didn't feel very much in love with you, and it even brought us to a point of seriously contemplating divorce and separation, but there were other factors involved. Walking in sin, just choosing to isolate from each other time and time again led to that in our marriage. [Aaron] Yeah, we tried. We stayed together. We were friends, to an extent, and there was areas of our marriage, intimacy, sexual intimacy, that wasn't exactly how we wanted it to be. It was actually the opposite of what we wanted. And it led to thoughts in us, sinful thoughts, and I remember me thinking, man, I should have experimented before I got married. I should have had more partners before I got married. [Jennifer] And I remember having thoughts of, well, maybe we're just not compatible, physically, emotionally, mentally. I just thought like, we're not for each other. [Aaron] And wasn't there even a season where you looked outside of our marriage? You didn't go actually do anything, but you desired? [Jennifer] Oh, for sure. [Aaron] Another man, and your heart wasn't with me? [Jennifer] Yeah. [Aaron] And that is what happens when how we feel is defining what we do. [Jennifer] Yeah, and I wanna get to some of those things that come up, reasons why people would feel as though they fell out of love with one another, because I think it's good for us to acknowledge them and address them, because we're all experiencing this thing called marriage, and if we're not willing to confront the hard things, then maybe our hearts would be prone to wanna avoid them or not confront them, and that's not good. [Aaron] Well, and before you get into that, I think the reason, again, going back of the beginning of this, of like, love being something that you fall into, it's accidental, it's I had no control over it, it leaves room, because that's what we believe about it, it leaves room for us to use that lack of control, like, it has nothing to do with me; therefore, when the things we're about to talk about come up, well, I'm just not in love anymore, and that, you know, that's what it is. You can't force me to love someone I don't love anymore. Unfortunate, but that's how it is. Thanks, God. [Jennifer] And that it's his fault for making us wrong or something. [Aaron] Yeah, or taking away the love or whatever it is, and now we have an excuse that's outside of us. Well, see, I mean, too bad I don't love him anymore. I would love to still love him, but it's just not working out. It's not where my heart's at anymore, and I'm moving on. And so it leaves a back door that you don't have to be responsible to go through. You just get brought through it, without any of your own control, when in reality, that's not true. [Jennifer] Yeah, we want everyone to hear this right now. We have an obligation to each other. [Aaron] It's called oneness. It's called a covenant. It's not just an earthly contract. It's not just like a, well, if you fulfill your end of the bargain, I'll fulfill mine. That's actually not what biblical marriage looks like, sounds like, smells like at all. It's a choice that we make to walk in, 'cause Christ chose to walk in his relationship, going to the cross regardless of how we responded to him. And that's our example. It's exactly the picture we get in Ephesians five. Like, hey, bride, you're the church. Hey, husband, you're Christ. You're the picture of Christ in this marriage, and this is how you act. And so, as long as it's something that happens to us, we have no control over it, we have no responsibility to it. [Jennifer] So, I've gotta bring this up real quick. This isn't in our notes, and it's not the direction we were gonna take it, but I think it's important to ask, and so I'm just gonna put it out there, and then maybe you guys can have a conversation about this with your spouses. We can even talk about it later. You talked about love being a choice. You talked about it being a powerful experience and not something that we don't have control over or based on feelings. My question is, do we fall in and out of love with God? Because I would look at Christian culture and say there's a lot of people that base their relationship with God off of how they feel. [Aaron] And what they get. [Jennifer] Or what they get out of it. [Aaron] Yeah, what they believe they deserve. [Jennifer] And so you see this tendency of flowing in and out of God during seasons of, I'm for him, I'm not, I'm for him, I'm not. And so I think that it's important to consider this question in light of our relationship with him. [Aaron] Well, before we move on to some of the reasons why people might feel like they fell out of love, let's talk about how we fell in and out of love with God, because of our marriage, because of the things that we were feeling and going through and experiencing, the hardships within our sexual relationship, the hardships with the sins that we were choosing to walk in and being unrepentant of, and walking in total immaturity and bitterness and anger that man, you had your own relationship dealings with God where you were just angry at him 'cause you were like, God, I deserve a good marriage. [Jennifer] Yeah, I felt like I did all the right things to equal a good marriage, like it was some sort of formula, so when I didn't get it, I was mad at him, because I believed that he was powerful enough to just make everything perfect, give me everything I want, and it be beautiful, and I believed this. I truly believed that. It wasn't just for my benefit that I had a perfect marriage, that it would be so that we can do ministry together for God. [Aaron] It was good reasons, yeah. [Jennifer] Yeah, there's always good reasons. [Aaron] Well, and we wanna be happy. We wanna have joy in our marriage. But this relationship with God was built on what he owed you. And like you said, you fell in and out of love with God the same way you fell in and out of love with me. I couldn't give you what you thought you deserved in a husband. I wasn't giving it to you. It's not that I couldn't give it to you. I was treating you the way you thought you deserved to be treated. I wasn't acting the way you thought I should act. I wasn't speaking the way you thought I should speak. And so your love with me was conditional. It was based on those things. Your love with God was conditional. And I was the same way. I thought that, all I wanted was a wife that I could love and be with and have sex with and enjoy and that would go and do amazing things for God together, and none of that felt like it was real. I was like, okay, God. I wait for marriage, I save myself, I try and be pure, which, in reality, I wasn't. My addiction to pornography, my other things that I was dealing with. I had a picture of who I was. I thought I was better than I was. And then I'm like, God, you owe me this thing, and you're not giving it to me. And so my relationship with God was transactional. Like, hey, I did this thing; now you do this thing. What are you doing? So I think that's a great thing you brought up, that we think our relationship with God is something outside of what we choose and something that happens to us, or our feelings. Like, I feel close to God, which is so dangerous, because I would imagine there's times when Paul, naked and beat in prison, did not feel close to God. I would imagine when Joseph was in the pit after being thrown in there by his brothers and then sold into slavery and then lied about by the wife and then put in prison and forgotten about by the baker, or the cupbearer, I believe there was times he did not feel close to God, but the truth would be is God was close and was doing something very specific in all of those situations. [Jennifer] Greater than what they could even have imagined. [Aaron] And so, we don't get pictures in those stories of them saying where's God, where are you. God was close, whether they felt him close or not. And that is the reality, that God is so close to us. He's not far off, even when we feel like he's far off. [Jennifer] Was he close to us when we were enduring those four hard years of our marriage? [Aaron] He was probably closer then. When I look back, I'm like, oh, God was there every moment. [Jennifer] But did it feel like it? [Aaron] No, it didn't feel like it. It felt like I was praying and he was just ignoring me. It felt like I was being picked on, or that he was being vindictive, like laughing at me. That's how I felt sometimes. But that's not true at all. So just like we're talking about this falling in and out of love, what I felt about God was false. My feelings were lying to me. [Jennifer] What changed? How did you go from that to being able to choose to love God and remain faithful to him, no matter what? [Aaron] Him confronting me with the truth that what he says is true and what I feel is false. I brought up Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He brought that story to my attention, and said, look what Jesus did for you. And then he was like, are you not willing then to do the very little thing of just loving your wife, even if you can't get what you want from her? Like, what it cost Christ on the cross is infinitely heavier than what it's gonna cost you to say yes to your bride and keep going. And he just revealed the fallacy in me that my feelings are true and that that's how I'm gonna dictate where I'm gonna go and the direction I go and what I believe, and they're wrong. The Bible tells us, and we'll get to that scripture in a minute, just to not walk in the flesh, but to walk in the Spirit. [Jennifer] Let's talk more about that. So, we're gonna first go through a brief list of why people feel as though they "fall," air quotes here, "out of love." [Aaron] So going back to things that don't feel good, and especially when it's in conjunction with your relationship with your spouse. So tough times. [Jennifer] Yeah, hard circumstances. [Aaron] Like, financial situations and pain and suffering and confusion and those sorts of things, crazy things like loss of children. The hard things can immediately make us not feel good. And you know what? When we don't feel good, Christ wants us to lean on him. He wants us to have his strength and his peace, you know, that surpasses all understanding, and when we don't go to God for those things and when we look to our spouse to fulfill them, which we did that. [Jennifer] Yeah, it's so dangerous. I remember feeling so disappointed in you and in our relationship, because you couldn't do the things that I wanted you to be able to do, which only Christ could do. [Aaron] To fulfill those desires in your heart or to take away the fears that you had, the insecurities, and only God gets to play that role in our life, because you know what, I'm a human. [Jennifer] Yeah, you will fail me. [Aaron] And I remember I tell you this, I even told you this when I asked you to be my wife. I said I'm going to fail you. [Jennifer] Yeah, I should have listened. [Aaron] I warned you. I gave you a little, what do you call it. [Jennifer] Framework, I don't know. [Aaron] Yeah, I gave you a pre-warning. This is what you're getting into. [Jennifer] Okay, so yeah, tough times definitely. Needs not being met. So I'm over here thinking, no, I need this from you and being convinced that I can't continue on in my part until I get what I need. [Aaron] Right, so in our situation specifically, we couldn't have sex. [Jennifer] Yeah, it was painful. [Aaron] And that was very painful. [Jennifer] For me. [Aaron] And I'm thinking, in my mind and in my heart, in my spirit, okay, the one thing that my spouse is supposed to be able to give me directly to me physically is sex, and she can't give it to me. Well then, I'm validated in my sin over here, or I'm allowed to be angry like this, or God, how dare you? And so my love for you was dictated by what you can do for me or what you're not doing for me, and vice versa. You put me on that pedestal of holding you up emotionally and being strong for you when you weren't strong, which husbands should do, but I'm not the main source of that. [Jennifer] Right. [Aaron] I can never fulfill that. That's called idolatry. We can actually put our spouses in a position of God, and what happens is because they're not God, you immediately translate that, we translate that to, oh, they must not love me. [Jennifer] But God is love. [Aaron] God is love, yeah. [Jennifer] Your spouse isn't love, although your spouse is called to love you. God is love. He's the only one that can truly fulfill that. [Aaron] So needs not being met spiritually, emotionally, physically, and I just wanna mention that there are some relationships. I think of veterans that have been hurt physically, or mentally, and they might not be able to fulfill a certain marital role, physically and emotionally and mentally. Does that mean they don't love you? Does that mean you've fallen out of love? No, that's a situation that God's allowed to happen, and that has to be navigated through the Word of God, through the Holy Spirit and patience and perseverance and recognize that those things don't define whether or not you're in love with your spouse or not. And that's a reality for some people. There's some people that will permanently never be able to have sex. [Jennifer] And that's just one thing. [Aaron] That's one thing, yeah. [Jennifer] There's other people who can't walk or can't talk. There's a lot of things. [Aaron] There's people that deal with postpartum depression, wives, moms that go through postpartum depression and might not be able to give emotionally, and that's gonna take a husband to step up more, be like, well, I'm gonna love more right now. I'm not gonna make them feel like I'm abandoning them and skipping out. [Jennifer] Yeah. Okay, so another one would be desiring a different kind of life because of unmet expectations, and you kind of touched on this before, but I struggled with this. I felt like I had these expectations of what marriage should be like. [Aaron] Yeah, what our life should be like, where we should be. [Jennifer] And after years of not receiving that or them being unmet, I started desiring a different kind of life. And that can easily feed a wandering soul. [Aaron] Right, so we fell in love, and we individually had unique pictures of what our relationship would look like, what our life would look like, what our marriage would look like. And so what we do is, well, so I have this picture, picture A, and my marriage is picture Z. Oh, we must not be in love. This must not be right. Something's wrong here. Let's throw this out, start over. And so we look over the fence, or we look other places. So, and this leads to happiness. [Jennifer] Desiring happiness. [Aaron] Desiring happiness. The Bible doesn't promise happiness, but being a Christian should guarantee, if we choose it, joy. [Jennifer] Right, which is more powerful. [Aaron] Which is more powerful, because Paul, when he was naked and beat and in prison, had joy. All the disciples, all of the missionaries and martyrs had joy amidst terrible things. But happiness is not something necessarily promised. Now, happiness can be a fruit of joy, but does lack of happiness equate to lack of love? Like, we're no longer in love, I'm not happy anymore. I wanna speak about this happiness for a second, Jennifer. [Jennifer] I was just gonna say, I hear it all the time. People say, doesn't God want be to be happy? [Aaron] Yeah, well not just doesn't God. They actually, and I don't know who has taught them this, but they literally, they start their message off to us about why they're leaving their husband with saying, God wants me to be happy, and I'm not happy. Therefore, I'm leaving. And so, what they've done is they've literally turned their disobedience and their sin into approval by God, because they've equated happiness to God's will. And that's not true. [Jennifer] Is there a scripture in the Bible that says God wants us to be happy? [Aaron] No. Not to my knowledge. But there's plenty about joy in all circumstances. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and that's something that can come amidst, so if happiness is God's will for us, take that truth, take that gospel, to all of the people suffering through terminal cancer. [Jennifer] Or famine. [Aaron] Or yeah, hunger, or loss of children or worse. I can't even come up with all the situations that a Christian might go through, or even a person, and go to them and saying, hey, God wants you to be happy, and then the moment they're not happy, God doesn't love me, or I'm outside God's will. It's a false gospel. The happiness is good, and it comes. But I think joy, the Bible talks of joy, which is a fruit of the spirit. Happiness is not a fruit of the spirit. So if we equate, again, if we take words and we equal them to other things, like happiness equals love, happiness equals God's will, the moment we're not happy, boom, we're no longer in love, we're not in God's will. We can make all sorts of crazy decisions based off of that equation. And it's just wrong. [Jennifer] So, moving down the list, we have two more. One is just experiencing overall discontentment in life. [Aaron] Right, I'm not happy with what I have. This isn't what I want, that I want more. [Jennifer] Just constantly, like you're playing that mental reel over and over and over again about all the things that make you not content, and then desiring a pain-free or comfortable life, which I think everybody, at the root of their heart, wants a pain-free life. But is that a reality? [Aaron] It's not that we need to pursue that. I don't think that's what our goal is in life. But if our goal is in our marriage, if that's our definition of a good, healthy, loving marriage, 100% of marriages are gonna be let down. But that's why we see such a high divorce rate in the church and in the world, because we've defined love with all of these terms. Comfort, happiness, fulfillment, contentment. And if I don't feel those things, boom, I must not be in love anymore. [Jennifer] Okay, so what's the bottom line? [Aaron] The bottom line is love was never intended to be just a feeling. God gave us these feelings as a gift to accompany our love, but when those feelings disappeared, love doesn't disappear. It's called the honeymoon phase. Like, you're enamored with your spouse. Everything's new and fresh. But what happens when it's not new wand fresh? What happens when life's boring? [Jennifer] Or hard. [Aaron] What happens when life's hard? Love in this situations should grow. [Jennifer] And endure. [Aaron] Yeah, because they endure. The relationship turns into one of stamina, endurance, perseverance. [Jennifer] I Corinthians 13:7 says love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Not some things, not the few things that I can handle. It's all things. So if we say that we love one another, we have to be able to bear all things and endure all things and have that kind of perseverance. [Aaron] And it comes down to, that's what Christ did. He endured the cross, because he loved us. And that's amazing. Even now in the church age, in the age that we live in now where God's grace and mercy is just poured out on the world and he's being patient, it says that his patience and kindness is to lead us to repentance, talking of love. Why doesn't he just strike us all down, because we are sinners, you know? He's righteous; we're not. But he's patient with us, and his love for us is in such a way that he shows us by example of how we should love, in forgiveness and patience and endurance, because that's what Christ did on the cross. He took the sins of the world, that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. That is love, and if Christ can love that way, and this is what God showed me, is if Christ can love you like this, Aaron, what has your wife ever done that's worse than what you or the world has done to me? Nothing. Literally it doesn't matter what you do to me. It's not unforgivable. So I guess I would just say, if love is based on something that we have no control over, something that happens to us, if love is a feeling, then we're literally basing the most beautiful thing that God has ever given us, love, which he is love, it's who he is, and we boiled it down to a fleshly thing. Like, that is a fleeting, like, oh, some might get it, some might not. And I think we should rather look at love as a muscle that needs to be strengthened. [Jennifer] I like that, exercised. [Aaron] Or, actually, here's a better analogy. Love is a seed. You plant a seed, and then you nurture it and you grow it. Our love started, I should say. We didn't fall in love. Our love started back when we were dating, when we were learning each other. [Jennifer] We were attracted to one another. [Aaron] We were attracted. [Jennifer] We chose to spend time with one another. [Aaron] Yeah, back then, our love was so, if you think about it, our love was so immature, because it was based on very vain things, how we looked, how we talked, how we spent time with each other, things that made us laugh. And now, our love is based on. [Jennifer] So much more. [Aaron] Oh my, so much more. Surviving hard things, flourishing in hard things, renewing in the way we think about each other, communication, knowledge. [Jennifer] Ministering to our kids. Ministering to others. [Aaron] Yeah, having children and learning how to become one in our parenting. So our love now is built, it's growing. I wouldn't say it's a big sycamore tree or something. But I would say it's a tree now, where it once was just this seed that could easily be stamped out if we didn't take care of it. So I think that is a more accurate way to take a picture, is that love was something we planted, we chose to plant. Hey, we're gonna take a risk on this seed. We're gonna love this, and let's grow it. So then, if that's the case, then "falling out of love," air quotes again, is really choosing to let the tree die. [Jennifer] Right, which, I mean, going back to that quote by Gary Thomas from Sacred Marriage, biblical love isn't hate; it's apathy. [Aaron] Letting it die. [Jennifer] Letting it die. [Aaron] Stop watering it, stop feeding it, stop giving it sunlight, smother it, and it can even be worse than that, intentionally harming the love because you want out, because you're not happy, and now doing very hateful, wicked things within the marriage. [Jennifer] Being disrespectful, letting your anger lash out. [Aaron] Cheating. [Jennifer] Cheating. [Aaron] Yeah, unfaithfulness with your heart, eyes, physically. [Jennifer] All things that are lack of self-control, because you're not exercising that muscle of self-control. [Aaron] So here's another quote from Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, and it says this: "Christian love is an aggressive movement, "an active commitment. "In reality, we choose where to place our affections," which goes back to, are we gonna choose to nurture our love seed? Feels so weird. But this tree that we're growing together, as we're being weaved together and we're growing this love. And I just love that picture of that. It's an aggressive movement, an active commitment, that we are not going to just whimsically and apathetically see if love continues on without us doing anything, that we're gonna recognize that it's no, no, I'm going to choose again to love you today, and then when something happens, actually, I'm gonna choose right now to love you anyway. [Jennifer] Yeah, and I like that. This quote, you know, when it says in reality, we choose where to place our affections, I think sometimes we can choose to place our affections on what we see outside the marriage. [Aaron] So, let's just give 'em some practical ways, 'cause now we've dispelled it. You don't fall in and out of love. It's a lie the enemy uses to break up marriages all the time, and as mature Christians, we're gonna pursue loving our spouses the biblical way and saying, yes, Lord, I'm gonna choose to love, because you are love, and I wanna love like this. So what are some practical things that the couples listening can start thinking about, start pursuing and saying, oh, we're gonna invest in this seed that we've planted, at whatever point that seed was planted. [Jennifer] Okay, so first thing I would say is intimacy. I think I had this idea in our marriage that intimacy just happened, and it was something that was natural. [Aaron] It was always gonna be magical. [Jennifer] Yeah, I came to find out, it's actually something that needs to be planned for and prepared for. [Aaron] Sought after. [Jennifer] And requires intentionality. And so, I would say, be intentional in pursuing one another in those ways. And intimacy is a lot of different things. It's not just physical. It's also in the way that you communicate and just being thoughtful of one another. [Aaron] Yeah, but intimacy, the physical intimacy cannot be neglected. [Jennifer] Sure, so important. [Aaron] But the emotional intimacy can't be neglected either. [Jennifer] Either, yeah. [Aaron] The Bible, I just wanted to bring this up, it uses the word knew or knowledge when it comes to physical intimacy in the Bible. It says so-and-so knew so-and-so, and it's talking about sex. This intimacy we're talking about, it's radical transparency, radical openness, that you're not afraid to be naked emotionally, naked physically, naked spiritually before your spouse, and that you know each other, and that's a lifelong pursuit. So, and that combats falling out of love, or feeling like you're falling out of love, or in the truth, choosing to not love anymore. [Jennifer] Yeah, and if you do feel like, you know, not that you're apathetic towards one another, but that you just have some isolating tendencies going on in your marriage, be the first one to initiate intimacy. [Aaron] Yeah, go open those doors, go open those windows. Let light in. [Jennifer] Okay, another one is have an eternal perspective and a hope that fuels your heart so that you can persevere. Having a hope for why we're doing this thing called marriage and what we have to look forward to changed the way that we were able to persevere in our relationship. [Aaron] Yeah, and so recognizing that my wife is also my sister in the Lord. Like, the Bible tells us how to interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then I get to see her and say, well, I'm gonna treat her well. She's my closest neighbor, so I'm gonna love her as myself. I'm gonna use the gifts that God's given me to bless her and to serve her. And so if we recognize that, that we are both part of the body, then we're not gonna mistreat and take advantage of and do things that we wouldn't do to another believer. So, another one is discipline yourself in walking faithfully and humbly. [Jennifer] So real quick, I just wanna read one another quote. I know this is a heavy Gary Thomas episode. [Aaron] Well, this book was hugely influential on our marriage. [Jennifer] Yeah, if you guys haven't read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, you should definitely go grab a copy. But on page 156, it says this: "One of the great spiritual challenges for any Christian "is to become less self-absorbed. "We are born intensely self-focused. "The discipline of Christian marriage "calls us into the Christian reality of sharing "and enjoying fellowship in a uniquely intimate way. "Maintaining an interest in and empathy for someone else "is by no means an easy discipline to maintain, "but it is a vital one. "It is a skill that must be learned." I love this quote, because I think it's so important to recognize that there is discipline required of us, and there's an obligation, like I said earlier, to one another, to love one another, but to also enjoy fellowship with each other, which is what Gary's saying right here, and to maintain an interest for, an empathy for each other, and again, he says this isn't easy, but it is vital, and it's something that we need to learn. Like you said, it's a muscle that we should be exercising. [Aaron] Yeah, a lot of times, the Bible uses the term walk in love. So it's something that you walk out on a daily basis. In I John, it says practice righteousness. So these are things that we get to practice toward each other, with each other, for each other, on a daily basis, on a moment by moment. And even if you're in a super, super hard situation and season of your marriage, you can right now choose to walk in love with your spouse. [Jennifer] And truly, this is walking in maturity. This is what makes us mature, is by choosing to walk this way. [Aaron] Yeah, so again, walking in maturity. I would say be okay with hardship, and ask God how it can be used to mature you, to mature us? So God, this season's hard. God, I don't feel in love. I don't feel close to my spouse. Help me, show me how I should see correctly. Show me where I can change. Show me how I can love my wife still, love my husband still. How can I serve them? Help me do it in your Spirit. And then another one is the last one, actually, is recognize there's something greater at risk. It's what we talk about in the Marriage After God book, is that our marriages are meant for more than just happily ever after. Having a good, strong, healthy, mature, growing, thriving, loving, intimate marriage isn't for that alone. That's not the end. It's the means to the end. The end is that we are witnesses for Christ, that we are preaching the gospel with our words and our lives, that our marriages are pictures of the gospel to the world, that the husband represents Christ, that the wife represents the church, that their relationship represents an unconditional love that Christ had for his church, and how we interact with each other and how we raise our children and how we treat each other. And so, and not just that, but in I Timothy chapter three, it talks about the ministry of an overseer in a church and how it's a noble task, it's a noble thing for any believer to pursue, any man in the church, and it talks about having one wife and managing their home well, and it says, how can you manage the household of God if you can't manage your own home, right? If there's no self-control within me, if there's no love between me and my wife, if my children don't honor me and cherish me, those are things that the Bible says are results of how we choose to walk with our spouse. And our authority, our power, our message gets diluted or destroyed when we don't love that way. When love is something that we can just fall out of, what it essentially is saying is God can just fall out of love. Like, oh, today I don't love you anymore. And that's just false. He is love. He cannot not love us. And so, we need to show that. And so the greater thing that's at risk is the gospel. And when we don't have a correct understanding and definition of love in our marriage and what that looks like, we show an incorrect gospel to the world. And we need to recognize that. [Jennifer] So, the beginning of this episode started with can you fall out of love in marriage. That wouldn't be the right way to say it. It would be, are you choosing to not love your spouse anymore? And so I think that this is a really important topic, and it's something that we should address, even if maybe you're not feeling this way. If you feel like you love your spouse and you're walking the way you should be biblically, I think it's still important to address some of these things and these practical things that we've brought up and just see, you know, evaluate your marriage and see, are you walking the way that God wants you to be walking, and are you choosing love, regardless of your circumstances and regardless of anything else that's going on? [Aaron] Yeah, and maybe you're not, like Jennifer said, not at that place of not in love anymore, but are you choosing apathy? Are you just not caring? [Jennifer] Are you being lazy? [Aaron] Yeah, are you being lazy? And I think that's something that we should be aware of and repent of if we are. If we're being lazy in our marriage, then we're not loving. We're kind of being self-focused and hoping that our husband or our wife is gonna love us the way we wanna be loved, but we're not gonna give the love the way we wanna be loved. I just don't think that's the way a Christian should walk, and I think we need to, I mean, I'm guilty of this sometimes and need to change. Like, I'm being lazy, I'm gonna step up, I love you. Let's work on this, let's grow, let's water this tree. [Jennifer] I love it. Okay, we wanna invite you guys to join us in prayer. Dear Lord, may we always choose love. May we always have hearts that are motivated by love to be unified, pursuing intimacy and peace in marriage. Thank you for equipping us and empowering us by your Holy Spirit to choose to love unconditionally and sacrificially. We pray against our flesh from getting in the way, and we pray against our selfish ways. Please continue to sanctify us and transform us so that we would be more like you. Protect our marriage from the threats of the enemy and his evil desire to tear us down. Lord, please help us to be unified as one and help us to love each other in the way we interact with each other every day. May our commitment to remain steadfast in our love for each other glorify you in our marriage. In Jesus's name, amen. [Aaron] Amen. Hey, we just wanna thank everyone for listening this week, and we pray that this episode blessed you. We pray that it's gonna cause some good conversations, and we look forward to having you next week. Did you enjoy today's show? If you did, it would mean the world to us if you could leave us a review on iTunes. Also, if you're interested, you can find many more encouraging stories and resources at marriageaftergod.com and let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

Episode Notes

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READ TRANSCRIPT
[Aaron] Hey, we're Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God.

[Jennifer] Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

[Aaron] And today, we're gonna be tackling the question, can you fall out of love in marriage? Welcome to the Marriage After God podcast, where we believe that marriage was meant for more than just happily ever after.

[Jennifer] I'm Jennifer, also known as Unveiled Wife.

[Aaron] And I'm Aaron, also known as Husband Revolution.

[Jennifer] We have been married for over a decade.

[Aaron] And so far, we have four young children.

[Jennifer] We have been doing marriage ministry online for over seven years through blogging and social media.

[Aaron] With the desire to inspire couples to keep God at the center of their marriage, encouraging them to walk in faith every day.

[Jennifer] We believe the Christian marriage should be an extraordinary one, full of life.

[Aaron] Love.

[Jennifer] And power.

[Aaron] That can only be found by chasing after God.

[Jennifer] Together.

[Aaron] Thank you for joining us in this journey as we chase boldly after God's will for our life together.

[Jennifer] This is Marriage After God.

[Aaron] Hey, thanks for joining us on another episode of the Marriage After God podcast. We just wanna invite you at the end of the podcast or anytime, really, to leave us a star rating and a review. That helps other people find our podcast, and we also love reading those reviews. So if you wanna take a minute, and again, the easiest way to do that is just to hit one of the stars at the bottom of the app, and that will just give us a rating right there, or you can leave us a text review. We love reading those, so we just wanna invite you to do that.

[Jennifer] Another way you can support the podcast is by shopping on our online store, shop.marriageaftergod.com. We have a ton of resources that we've wrote for you guys, including some prayer books, but also, I wanna take a minute to highlight our newest book that we wrote for you, Marriage After God. In fact, today's episode, we're gonna be sharing from Gary Thomas's book, but he read Marriage After God, and this is what he had to say about it: "Marriage After God is not your typical marriage book. "Rather than focus on the common symptoms "of marriage dysfunction and lack of intimacy, "Marriage After God dives into and focuses "on the root causes: the need for faith, biblical truth, "fellowship, ministry, and God-ordained vision. "The Smiths take the wise path of urging us "to grow a better marriage by focusing first "on growing closer to God."

[Aaron] Yeah, so we just wanna invite you to pick up a copy of that. We wrote it to encourage your marriage, to find out what God's purpose for your marriage is, and we believe God has a purpose for every one of us in the body, especially your marriage. So please pick up a copy of that book today, and we'd love to get it in your hands.

[Jennifer] All right, as always, we're gonna jump into our icebreaker question. Aaron, why don't you start by answering this? What is your favorite game or activity to do with the kids right now?

[Aaron] I think I really like wrestling on the ground with the kids. They all climb on top of me. Partly, it lets me lay down for a little bit. Or building forts with our huge, big couch pillows. I think that's awesome. With Elliott specifically, I like practicing drawing. We put on a YouTube show and learn how to draw a dragon or a dinosaur or something like that, and that's a lot of fun.

[Jennifer] Yeah, some other games that I would say we've been really into lately is Blokus or Blokus, I don't really know how to say that.

[Aaron] Oh yeah, I just played with that them.

[Jennifer] So that's super fun, super easy to catch onto, and we've been playing Battleship a lot.

[Aaron] Oh, that's a good one.

[Jennifer] Yeah.

[Aaron] But he gets frustrated when I win.

[Jennifer] Everybody gets frustrated when they don't win. So we're working through some of those things, but yeah, those are some games.

[Aaron] That was a good question.

[Jennifer] That we love with the kids right now.

[Aaron] So before we get into our topic, discussing whether or not we can fall out of love in our marriage, I wanna read a quote from Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, on page 157. "The opposite of biblical love isn't hate; it's apathy. "To stop moving toward our spouse "is to stop loving him or her. "It's holding back from the very purpose of marriage."

[Jennifer] Well, I feel like that answers the question right there.

[Aaron] Yeah, and well, it's a great start to the conversation, because I feel like people might think, of course, yeah, you can't fall in and out of love, but that's kind of where our world's gone, in the secular world and in the Christian world, and we see it often in emails we get, in messages we get on our social media. We just thought it's a very pertinent topic to bring up with our communities. It's something that we've had to deal with in our own marriage, just feeling that like, well, maybe this isn't gonna work, maybe this isn't right, and just maybe dispel some of the lies about it, think biblically and clearly about it, so that those that might be feeling this way can think better and pursue God in the decision.

[Jennifer] Yeah. So, when I thought about this topic to discuss today, the first thing that came to my mind is we need to be aware of the things we're saying, the phrases that we use to describe the life that we're living, the things that we're choosing. And so I just kind of went back to the beginning of like, okay, so where did this phrase come from? What does it mean?

[Aaron] Yeah, 'cause we grew up, this is like.

[Jennifer] This is what we know.

[Aaron] I wanna fall in love. Everyone wants to fall in love.

[Jennifer] Yep, or people ask you, oh, when did you fall in love with each other?

[Aaron] Right, like it was a day.

[Jennifer] Yeah. So, I Googled where this phrase came from, and Wikipedia says this: "falling in love is the development of strong feelings "of attachment and love, usually toward another person. "The term is metaphorical, emphasizing that the process, "like the physical act of falling, is sudden, "uncontrollable, and leaves the lover in a vulnerable state, "similar to fall ill or fall into a trap."

[Aaron] I love how it uses those negative phrases.

[Jennifer] I know, I was gonna say, as I kept looking into this, I found other phrases like fall asleep or fall behind. Someone else likened it to a surprise, like falling down the stairs.

[Aaron] Yeah, there are all these negative connotations with falling, which is really unfortunate, that one of the most, supposed to be the most euphoric and most powerful and magical things that we get to experience is love with another person, and we've turned it into, with our common language and how we describe things, it's so weak, in my opinion.

[Jennifer] Yeah, that's exactly what I was gonna say. It kind of strips the beauty of one, knowing what true love is, and then choosing it, because here it's making you sound like it's just happening to you, that there's no control in any of it.

[Aaron] Yeah, and I think that one of the traps of the enemy, you know, falling into the trap, like you said, that's he's taken something so beautiful that God invented and created and something that he's given as a gift to his children, and boiled it down. You know, if he can change the terms and the words and the definitions, then he can change the meanings of thing. And so, I think that's the first thing that our listeners can start to think about, is if they fell in love, right, and I know people are really thinking, like, I think you're just going overboard. What's the big deal? It's just a phrase. But it's not just a phrase, because like you said, if we're not aware of the things that we're saying, we don't realize that we define things by the things we say. Words do have meaning, and if we say them over and over and over again, they have meaning, and if we believe them, like, if I believe we fell in love, then it's not hard to believe that we can fall out of love.

[Jennifer] Right.

[Aaron] Because the definition, it's something that happened to me, I had no control over it. We were just in this whirlwind, and oh my gosh, the passions, and you're beautiful, and I love you, and oh, we have similar things that we like, and oh, and the way you think, and you're so funny, and all these things, which are totally good things, and they totally add to my attraction to you or attraction to another person and draw us, and actually do invoke emotions in us and feelings. And those are all given to us by God. But if we boil down love to just those things, those feelings, then the moment those things change, the moment those things disappear, the moment those things that we used to be enamored by now bug us, because that happens. Like, oh, it was so cute the way you would say that one thing, and now that way you say that all the time really bugs me, and I don't like it.

[Jennifer] Yeah. So, here's the other just sad, sad part about all of this, is that in marriage, we come up against this very thing that you're talking about, is if things change. So let's say there's hard circumstances, or you really get to know each other after years and years of marriage, and there's just things like, as you said, bug you. If we say that we fell into love with one another and that goes back to this sudden thing that there's no control over, who's to say that we can't fall in love even after we're married?

[Aaron] Right.

[Jennifer] And someone else comes along, and no, I've done it again. I've fallen in love again, but not with you. That's dangerous.

[Aaron] Yeah, and you know what, I had no control over it. We've actually heard this. I'm sorry, I love you still, but this other person came along, and they're feeding my love tank.

[Jennifer] It becomes a justification for sin, and nobody's taking responsibility. That's shat I'm trying to get at.

[Aaron] Right, and I think that's what we wanna talk about in this, and where we're gonna try and go with this, is to take away the decision and the control and the thoughtfulness in love is to take away the power of the love in the first place, of what God's doing. The Bible says that God is love. So he invented it, he designed it. It's his creation. It's something that, something that he is love. It existed with him. And so for us to boil it, like, oh, I fell in love, oh, I fell out of love, it's something I go in and out of, and it's not a choice. It's just whatever I feel at the moment. And what's so dangerous about that is the Bible tells us to not operate in our feelings. That's what's called carnal. Our carnal flesh is our feelings, the chemical reactions in our brain, which is exactly what feelings are. You get a burst of oxytocin, and you get a burst of all these different hormones that are good hormones that God created us with, and we define something very spiritual with a very fleshly reaction. And I think that spiritual things definitely bring those emotional reactions, which is why they're good: God made it that way. But love's not defined by those things. And a perfect example is if we're thinking about falling in and out of love, or when things are hard, I must not be in love anymore, or they must not love me anymore, or maybe they've fallen out of love with me or we're falling out of love with each other, I just think of Christ on the cross, you know? He goes into the Garden of Gethsemane, and he prays, Lord, let this cup pass from me. And he's praying that the suffering he was about to partake, that he was about to be obedient to endure, was for his bride. And he's saying, I don't know if I can do this, but I'm not gonna choose. Lord, you chose. And his will was that he went to the cross, because salvation was at hand, for the body of Christ, for the world. And so, if we look at Christ, would he fall out of love when he's on the cross? He's like, oh, this is too hard. I just don't love them anymore. No, he loved us beyond what his flesh wanted, and that's exactly what I wanna talk about. The power of love goes way beyond how we feel, because there was times that you didn't feel in love with me.

[Jennifer] No, definitely. In those early years, when our circumstances were really hard, yeah, I didn't feel very much in love with you, and it even brought us to a point of seriously contemplating divorce and separation, but there were other factors involved. Walking in sin, just choosing to isolate from each other time and time again led to that in our marriage.

[Aaron] Yeah, we tried. We stayed together. We were friends, to an extent, and there was areas of our marriage, intimacy, sexual intimacy, that wasn't exactly how we wanted it to be. It was actually the opposite of what we wanted. And it led to thoughts in us, sinful thoughts, and I remember me thinking, man, I should have experimented before I got married. I should have had more partners before I got married.

[Jennifer] And I remember having thoughts of, well, maybe we're just not compatible, physically, emotionally, mentally. I just thought like, we're not for each other.

[Aaron] And wasn't there even a season where you looked outside of our marriage? You didn't go actually do anything, but you desired?

[Jennifer] Oh, for sure.

[Aaron] Another man, and your heart wasn't with me?

[Jennifer] Yeah.

[Aaron] And that is what happens when how we feel is defining what we do.

[Jennifer] Yeah, and I wanna get to some of those things that come up, reasons why people would feel as though they fell out of love with one another, because I think it's good for us to acknowledge them and address them, because we're all experiencing this thing called marriage, and if we're not willing to confront the hard things, then maybe our hearts would be prone to wanna avoid them or not confront them, and that's not good.

[Aaron] Well, and before you get into that, I think the reason, again, going back of the beginning of this, of like, love being something that you fall into, it's accidental, it's I had no control over it, it leaves room, because that's what we believe about it, it leaves room for us to use that lack of control, like, it has nothing to do with me; therefore, when the things we're about to talk about come up, well, I'm just not in love anymore, and that, you know, that's what it is. You can't force me to love someone I don't love anymore. Unfortunate, but that's how it is. Thanks, God.

[Jennifer] And that it's his fault for making us wrong or something.

[Aaron] Yeah, or taking away the love or whatever it is, and now we have an excuse that's outside of us. Well, see, I mean, too bad I don't love him anymore. I would love to still love him, but it's just not working out. It's not where my heart's at anymore, and I'm moving on. And so it leaves a back door that you don't have to be responsible to go through. You just get brought through it, without any of your own control, when in reality, that's not true.

[Jennifer] Yeah, we want everyone to hear this right now. We have an obligation to each other.

[Aaron] It's called oneness. It's called a covenant. It's not just an earthly contract. It's not just like a, well, if you fulfill your end of the bargain, I'll fulfill mine. That's actually not what biblical marriage looks like, sounds like, smells like at all. It's a choice that we make to walk in, 'cause Christ chose to walk in his relationship, going to the cross regardless of how we responded to him. And that's our example. It's exactly the picture we get in Ephesians five. Like, hey, bride, you're the church. Hey, husband, you're Christ. You're the picture of Christ in this marriage, and this is how you act. And so, as long as it's something that happens to us, we have no control over it, we have no responsibility to it.

[Jennifer] So, I've gotta bring this up real quick. This isn't in our notes, and it's not the direction we were gonna take it, but I think it's important to ask, and so I'm just gonna put it out there, and then maybe you guys can have a conversation about this with your spouses. We can even talk about it later. You talked about love being a choice. You talked about it being a powerful experience and not something that we don't have control over or based on feelings. My question is, do we fall in and out of love with God? Because I would look at Christian culture and say there's a lot of people that base their relationship with God off of how they feel.

[Aaron] And what they get.

[Jennifer] Or what they get out of it.

[Aaron] Yeah, what they believe they deserve.

[Jennifer] And so you see this tendency of flowing in and out of God during seasons of, I'm for him, I'm not, I'm for him, I'm not. And so I think that it's important to consider this question in light of our relationship with him.

[Aaron] Well, before we move on to some of the reasons why people might feel like they fell out of love, let's talk about how we fell in and out of love with God, because of our marriage, because of the things that we were feeling and going through and experiencing, the hardships within our sexual relationship, the hardships with the sins that we were choosing to walk in and being unrepentant of, and walking in total immaturity and bitterness and anger that man, you had your own relationship dealings with God where you were just angry at him 'cause you were like, God, I deserve a good marriage.

[Jennifer] Yeah, I felt like I did all the right things to equal a good marriage, like it was some sort of formula, so when I didn't get it, I was mad at him, because I believed that he was powerful enough to just make everything perfect, give me everything I want, and it be beautiful, and I believed this. I truly believed that. It wasn't just for my benefit that I had a perfect marriage, that it would be so that we can do ministry together for God.

[Aaron] It was good reasons, yeah.

[Jennifer] Yeah, there's always good reasons.

[Aaron] Well, and we wanna be happy. We wanna have joy in our marriage. But this relationship with God was built on what he owed you. And like you said, you fell in and out of love with God the same way you fell in and out of love with me. I couldn't give you what you thought you deserved in a husband. I wasn't giving it to you. It's not that I couldn't give it to you. I was treating you the way you thought you deserved to be treated. I wasn't acting the way you thought I should act. I wasn't speaking the way you thought I should speak. And so your love with me was conditional. It was based on those things. Your love with God was conditional. And I was the same way. I thought that, all I wanted was a wife that I could love and be with and have sex with and enjoy and that would go and do amazing things for God together, and none of that felt like it was real. I was like, okay, God. I wait for marriage, I save myself, I try and be pure, which, in reality, I wasn't. My addiction to pornography, my other things that I was dealing with. I had a picture of who I was. I thought I was better than I was. And then I'm like, God, you owe me this thing, and you're not giving it to me. And so my relationship with God was transactional. Like, hey, I did this thing; now you do this thing. What are you doing? So I think that's a great thing you brought up, that we think our relationship with God is something outside of what we choose and something that happens to us, or our feelings. Like, I feel close to God, which is so dangerous, because I would imagine there's times when Paul, naked and beat in prison, did not feel close to God. I would imagine when Joseph was in the pit after being thrown in there by his brothers and then sold into slavery and then lied about by the wife and then put in prison and forgotten about by the baker, or the cupbearer, I believe there was times he did not feel close to God, but the truth would be is God was close and was doing something very specific in all of those situations.

[Jennifer] Greater than what they could even have imagined.

[Aaron] And so, we don't get pictures in those stories of them saying where's God, where are you. God was close, whether they felt him close or not. And that is the reality, that God is so close to us. He's not far off, even when we feel like he's far off.

[Jennifer] Was he close to us when we were enduring those four hard years of our marriage?

[Aaron] He was probably closer then. When I look back, I'm like, oh, God was there every moment.

[Jennifer] But did it feel like it?

[Aaron] No, it didn't feel like it. It felt like I was praying and he was just ignoring me. It felt like I was being picked on, or that he was being vindictive, like laughing at me. That's how I felt sometimes. But that's not true at all. So just like we're talking about this falling in and out of love, what I felt about God was false. My feelings were lying to me.

[Jennifer] What changed? How did you go from that to being able to choose to love God and remain faithful to him, no matter what?

[Aaron] Him confronting me with the truth that what he says is true and what I feel is false. I brought up Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He brought that story to my attention, and said, look what Jesus did for you. And then he was like, are you not willing then to do the very little thing of just loving your wife, even if you can't get what you want from her? Like, what it cost Christ on the cross is infinitely heavier than what it's gonna cost you to say yes to your bride and keep going. And he just revealed the fallacy in me that my feelings are true and that that's how I'm gonna dictate where I'm gonna go and the direction I go and what I believe, and they're wrong. The Bible tells us, and we'll get to that scripture in a minute, just to not walk in the flesh, but to walk in the Spirit.

[Jennifer] Let's talk more about that. So, we're gonna first go through a brief list of why people feel as though they "fall," air quotes here, "out of love."

[Aaron] So going back to things that don't feel good, and especially when it's in conjunction with your relationship with your spouse. So tough times.

[Jennifer] Yeah, hard circumstances.

[Aaron] Like, financial situations and pain and suffering and confusion and those sorts of things, crazy things like loss of children. The hard things can immediately make us not feel good. And you know what? When we don't feel good, Christ wants us to lean on him. He wants us to have his strength and his peace, you know, that surpasses all understanding, and when we don't go to God for those things and when we look to our spouse to fulfill them, which we did that.

[Jennifer] Yeah, it's so dangerous. I remember feeling so disappointed in you and in our relationship, because you couldn't do the things that I wanted you to be able to do, which only Christ could do.

[Aaron] To fulfill those desires in your heart or to take away the fears that you had, the insecurities, and only God gets to play that role in our life, because you know what, I'm a human.

[Jennifer] Yeah, you will fail me.

[Aaron] And I remember I tell you this, I even told you this when I asked you to be my wife. I said I'm going to fail you.

[Jennifer] Yeah, I should have listened.

[Aaron] I warned you. I gave you a little, what do you call it.

[Jennifer] Framework, I don't know.

[Aaron] Yeah, I gave you a pre-warning. This is what you're getting into.

[Jennifer] Okay, so yeah, tough times definitely. Needs not being met. So I'm over here thinking, no, I need this from you and being convinced that I can't continue on in my part until I get what I need.

[Aaron] Right, so in our situation specifically, we couldn't have sex.

[Jennifer] Yeah, it was painful.

[Aaron] And that was very painful.

[Jennifer] For me.

[Aaron] And I'm thinking, in my mind and in my heart, in my spirit, okay, the one thing that my spouse is supposed to be able to give me directly to me physically is sex, and she can't give it to me. Well then, I'm validated in my sin over here, or I'm allowed to be angry like this, or God, how dare you? And so my love for you was dictated by what you can do for me or what you're not doing for me, and vice versa. You put me on that pedestal of holding you up emotionally and being strong for you when you weren't strong, which husbands should do, but I'm not the main source of that.

[Jennifer] Right.

[Aaron] I can never fulfill that. That's called idolatry. We can actually put our spouses in a position of God, and what happens is because they're not God, you immediately translate that, we translate that to, oh, they must not love me.

[Jennifer] But God is love.

[Aaron] God is love, yeah.

[Jennifer] Your spouse isn't love, although your spouse is called to love you. God is love. He's the only one that can truly fulfill that.

[Aaron] So needs not being met spiritually, emotionally, physically, and I just wanna mention that there are some relationships. I think of veterans that have been hurt physically, or mentally, and they might not be able to fulfill a certain marital role, physically and emotionally and mentally. Does that mean they don't love you? Does that mean you've fallen out of love? No, that's a situation that God's allowed to happen, and that has to be navigated through the Word of God, through the Holy Spirit and patience and perseverance and recognize that those things don't define whether or not you're in love with your spouse or not. And that's a reality for some people. There's some people that will permanently never be able to have sex.

[Jennifer] And that's just one thing.

[Aaron] That's one thing, yeah.

[Jennifer] There's other people who can't walk or can't talk. There's a lot of things.

[Aaron] There's people that deal with postpartum depression, wives, moms that go through postpartum depression and might not be able to give emotionally, and that's gonna take a husband to step up more, be like, well, I'm gonna love more right now. I'm not gonna make them feel like I'm abandoning them and skipping out.

[Jennifer] Yeah. Okay, so another one would be desiring a different kind of life because of unmet expectations, and you kind of touched on this before, but I struggled with this. I felt like I had these expectations of what marriage should be like.

[Aaron] Yeah, what our life should be like, where we should be.

[Jennifer] And after years of not receiving that or them being unmet, I started desiring a different kind of life. And that can easily feed a wandering soul.

[Aaron] Right, so we fell in love, and we individually had unique pictures of what our relationship would look like, what our life would look like, what our marriage would look like. And so what we do is, well, so I have this picture, picture A, and my marriage is picture Z. Oh, we must not be in love. This must not be right. Something's wrong here. Let's throw this out, start over. And so we look over the fence, or we look other places. So, and this leads to happiness.

[Jennifer] Desiring happiness.

[Aaron] Desiring happiness. The Bible doesn't promise happiness, but being a Christian should guarantee, if we choose it, joy.

[Jennifer] Right, which is more powerful.

[Aaron] Which is more powerful, because Paul, when he was naked and beat and in prison, had joy. All the disciples, all of the missionaries and martyrs had joy amidst terrible things. But happiness is not something necessarily promised. Now, happiness can be a fruit of joy, but does lack of happiness equate to lack of love? Like, we're no longer in love, I'm not happy anymore. I wanna speak about this happiness for a second, Jennifer.

[Jennifer] I was just gonna say, I hear it all the time. People say, doesn't God want be to be happy?

[Aaron] Yeah, well not just doesn't God. They actually, and I don't know who has taught them this, but they literally, they start their message off to us about why they're leaving their husband with saying, God wants me to be happy, and I'm not happy. Therefore, I'm leaving. And so, what they've done is they've literally turned their disobedience and their sin into approval by God, because they've equated happiness to God's will. And that's not true.

[Jennifer] Is there a scripture in the Bible that says God wants us to be happy?

[Aaron] No. Not to my knowledge. But there's plenty about joy in all circumstances. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and that's something that can come amidst, so if happiness is God's will for us, take that truth, take that gospel, to all of the people suffering through terminal cancer.

[Jennifer] Or famine.

[Aaron] Or yeah, hunger, or loss of children or worse. I can't even come up with all the situations that a Christian might go through, or even a person, and go to them and saying, hey, God wants you to be happy, and then the moment they're not happy, God doesn't love me, or I'm outside God's will. It's a false gospel. The happiness is good, and it comes. But I think joy, the Bible talks of joy, which is a fruit of the spirit. Happiness is not a fruit of the spirit. So if we equate, again, if we take words and we equal them to other things, like happiness equals love, happiness equals God's will, the moment we're not happy, boom, we're no longer in love, we're not in God's will. We can make all sorts of crazy decisions based off of that equation. And it's just wrong.

[Jennifer] So, moving down the list, we have two more. One is just experiencing overall discontentment in life.

[Aaron] Right, I'm not happy with what I have. This isn't what I want, that I want more.

[Jennifer] Just constantly, like you're playing that mental reel over and over and over again about all the things that make you not content, and then desiring a pain-free or comfortable life, which I think everybody, at the root of their heart, wants a pain-free life. But is that a reality?

[Aaron] It's not that we need to pursue that. I don't think that's what our goal is in life. But if our goal is in our marriage, if that's our definition of a good, healthy, loving marriage, 100% of marriages are gonna be let down. But that's why we see such a high divorce rate in the church and in the world, because we've defined love with all of these terms. Comfort, happiness, fulfillment, contentment. And if I don't feel those things, boom, I must not be in love anymore.

[Jennifer] Okay, so what's the bottom line?

[Aaron] The bottom line is love was never intended to be just a feeling. God gave us these feelings as a gift to accompany our love, but when those feelings disappeared, love doesn't disappear. It's called the honeymoon phase. Like, you're enamored with your spouse. Everything's new and fresh. But what happens when it's not new wand fresh? What happens when life's boring?

[Jennifer] Or hard.

[Aaron] What happens when life's hard? Love in this situations should grow.

[Jennifer] And endure.

[Aaron] Yeah, because they endure. The relationship turns into one of stamina, endurance, perseverance.

[Jennifer] I Corinthians 13:7 says love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Not some things, not the few things that I can handle. It's all things. So if we say that we love one another, we have to be able to bear all things and endure all things and have that kind of perseverance.

[Aaron] And it comes down to, that's what Christ did. He endured the cross, because he loved us. And that's amazing. Even now in the church age, in the age that we live in now where God's grace and mercy is just poured out on the world and he's being patient, it says that his patience and kindness is to lead us to repentance, talking of love. Why doesn't he just strike us all down, because we are sinners, you know? He's righteous; we're not. But he's patient with us, and his love for us is in such a way that he shows us by example of how we should love, in forgiveness and patience and endurance, because that's what Christ did on the cross. He took the sins of the world, that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. That is love, and if Christ can love that way, and this is what God showed me, is if Christ can love you like this, Aaron, what has your wife ever done that's worse than what you or the world has done to me? Nothing. Literally it doesn't matter what you do to me. It's not unforgivable. So I guess I would just say, if love is based on something that we have no control over, something that happens to us, if love is a feeling, then we're literally basing the most beautiful thing that God has ever given us, love, which he is love, it's who he is, and we boiled it down to a fleshly thing. Like, that is a fleeting, like, oh, some might get it, some might not. And I think we should rather look at love as a muscle that needs to be strengthened.

[Jennifer] I like that, exercised.

[Aaron] Or, actually, here's a better analogy. Love is a seed. You plant a seed, and then you nurture it and you grow it. Our love started, I should say. We didn't fall in love. Our love started back when we were dating, when we were learning each other.

[Jennifer] We were attracted to one another.

[Aaron] We were attracted.

[Jennifer] We chose to spend time with one another.

[Aaron] Yeah, back then, our love was so, if you think about it, our love was so immature, because it was based on very vain things, how we looked, how we talked, how we spent time with each other, things that made us laugh. And now, our love is based on.

[Jennifer] So much more.

[Aaron] Oh my, so much more. Surviving hard things, flourishing in hard things, renewing in the way we think about each other, communication, knowledge.

[Jennifer] Ministering to our kids. Ministering to others.

[Aaron] Yeah, having children and learning how to become one in our parenting. So our love now is built, it's growing. I wouldn't say it's a big sycamore tree or something. But I would say it's a tree now, where it once was just this seed that could easily be stamped out if we didn't take care of it. So I think that is a more accurate way to take a picture, is that love was something we planted, we chose to plant. Hey, we're gonna take a risk on this seed. We're gonna love this, and let's grow it. So then, if that's the case, then "falling out of love," air quotes again, is really choosing to let the tree die.

[Jennifer] Right, which, I mean, going back to that quote by Gary Thomas from Sacred Marriage, biblical love isn't hate; it's apathy.

[Aaron] Letting it die.

[Jennifer] Letting it die.

[Aaron] Stop watering it, stop feeding it, stop giving it sunlight, smother it, and it can even be worse than that, intentionally harming the love because you want out, because you're not happy, and now doing very hateful, wicked things within the marriage.

[Jennifer] Being disrespectful, letting your anger lash out.

[Aaron] Cheating.

[Jennifer] Cheating.

[Aaron] Yeah, unfaithfulness with your heart, eyes, physically.

[Jennifer] All things that are lack of self-control, because you're not exercising that muscle of self-control.

[Aaron] So here's another quote from Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, and it says this: "Christian love is an aggressive movement, "an active commitment. "In reality, we choose where to place our affections," which goes back to, are we gonna choose to nurture our love seed? Feels so weird. But this tree that we're growing together, as we're being weaved together and we're growing this love. And I just love that picture of that. It's an aggressive movement, an active commitment, that we are not going to just whimsically and apathetically see if love continues on without us doing anything, that we're gonna recognize that it's no, no, I'm going to choose again to love you today, and then when something happens, actually, I'm gonna choose right now to love you anyway.

[Jennifer] Yeah, and I like that. This quote, you know, when it says in reality, we choose where to place our affections, I think sometimes we can choose to place our affections on what we see outside the marriage.

[Aaron] So, let's just give 'em some practical ways, 'cause now we've dispelled it. You don't fall in and out of love. It's a lie the enemy uses to break up marriages all the time, and as mature Christians, we're gonna pursue loving our spouses the biblical way and saying, yes, Lord, I'm gonna choose to love, because you are love, and I wanna love like this. So what are some practical things that the couples listening can start thinking about, start pursuing and saying, oh, we're gonna invest in this seed that we've planted, at whatever point that seed was planted.

[Jennifer] Okay, so first thing I would say is intimacy. I think I had this idea in our marriage that intimacy just happened, and it was something that was natural.

[Aaron] It was always gonna be magical.

[Jennifer] Yeah, I came to find out, it's actually something that needs to be planned for and prepared for.

[Aaron] Sought after.

[Jennifer] And requires intentionality. And so, I would say, be intentional in pursuing one another in those ways. And intimacy is a lot of different things. It's not just physical. It's also in the way that you communicate and just being thoughtful of one another.

[Aaron] Yeah, but intimacy, the physical intimacy cannot be neglected.

[Jennifer] Sure, so important.

[Aaron] But the emotional intimacy can't be neglected either.

[Jennifer] Either, yeah.

[Aaron] The Bible, I just wanted to bring this up, it uses the word knew or knowledge when it comes to physical intimacy in the Bible. It says so-and-so knew so-and-so, and it's talking about sex. This intimacy we're talking about, it's radical transparency, radical openness, that you're not afraid to be naked emotionally, naked physically, naked spiritually before your spouse, and that you know each other, and that's a lifelong pursuit. So, and that combats falling out of love, or feeling like you're falling out of love, or in the truth, choosing to not love anymore.

[Jennifer] Yeah, and if you do feel like, you know, not that you're apathetic towards one another, but that you just have some isolating tendencies going on in your marriage, be the first one to initiate intimacy.

[Aaron] Yeah, go open those doors, go open those windows. Let light in.

[Jennifer] Okay, another one is have an eternal perspective and a hope that fuels your heart so that you can persevere. Having a hope for why we're doing this thing called marriage and what we have to look forward to changed the way that we were able to persevere in our relationship.

[Aaron] Yeah, and so recognizing that my wife is also my sister in the Lord. Like, the Bible tells us how to interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then I get to see her and say, well, I'm gonna treat her well. She's my closest neighbor, so I'm gonna love her as myself. I'm gonna use the gifts that God's given me to bless her and to serve her. And so if we recognize that, that we are both part of the body, then we're not gonna mistreat and take advantage of and do things that we wouldn't do to another believer. So, another one is discipline yourself in walking faithfully and humbly.

[Jennifer] So real quick, I just wanna read one another quote. I know this is a heavy Gary Thomas episode.

[Aaron] Well, this book was hugely influential on our marriage.

[Jennifer] Yeah, if you guys haven't read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, you should definitely go grab a copy. But on page 156, it says this: "One of the great spiritual challenges for any Christian "is to become less self-absorbed. "We are born intensely self-focused. "The discipline of Christian marriage "calls us into the Christian reality of sharing "and enjoying fellowship in a uniquely intimate way. "Maintaining an interest in and empathy for someone else "is by no means an easy discipline to maintain, "but it is a vital one. "It is a skill that must be learned." I love this quote, because I think it's so important to recognize that there is discipline required of us, and there's an obligation, like I said earlier, to one another, to love one another, but to also enjoy fellowship with each other, which is what Gary's saying right here, and to maintain an interest for, an empathy for each other, and again, he says this isn't easy, but it is vital, and it's something that we need to learn. Like you said, it's a muscle that we should be exercising.

[Aaron] Yeah, a lot of times, the Bible uses the term walk in love. So it's something that you walk out on a daily basis. In I John, it says practice righteousness. So these are things that we get to practice toward each other, with each other, for each other, on a daily basis, on a moment by moment. And even if you're in a super, super hard situation and season of your marriage, you can right now choose to walk in love with your spouse.

[Jennifer] And truly, this is walking in maturity. This is what makes us mature, is by choosing to walk this way.

[Aaron] Yeah, so again, walking in maturity. I would say be okay with hardship, and ask God how it can be used to mature you, to mature us? So God, this season's hard. God, I don't feel in love. I don't feel close to my spouse. Help me, show me how I should see correctly. Show me where I can change. Show me how I can love my wife still, love my husband still. How can I serve them? Help me do it in your Spirit. And then another one is the last one, actually, is recognize there's something greater at risk. It's what we talk about in the Marriage After God book, is that our marriages are meant for more than just happily ever after. Having a good, strong, healthy, mature, growing, thriving, loving, intimate marriage isn't for that alone. That's not the end. It's the means to the end. The end is that we are witnesses for Christ, that we are preaching the gospel with our words and our lives, that our marriages are pictures of the gospel to the world, that the husband represents Christ, that the wife represents the church, that their relationship represents an unconditional love that Christ had for his church, and how we interact with each other and how we raise our children and how we treat each other. And so, and not just that, but in I Timothy chapter three, it talks about the ministry of an overseer in a church and how it's a noble task, it's a noble thing for any believer to pursue, any man in the church, and it talks about having one wife and managing their home well, and it says, how can you manage the household of God if you can't manage your own home, right? If there's no self-control within me, if there's no love between me and my wife, if my children don't honor me and cherish me, those are things that the Bible says are results of how we choose to walk with our spouse. And our authority, our power, our message gets diluted or destroyed when we don't love that way. When love is something that we can just fall out of, what it essentially is saying is God can just fall out of love. Like, oh, today I don't love you anymore. And that's just false. He is love. He cannot not love us. And so, we need to show that. And so the greater thing that's at risk is the gospel. And when we don't have a correct understanding and definition of love in our marriage and what that looks like, we show an incorrect gospel to the world. And we need to recognize that.

[Jennifer] So, the beginning of this episode started with can you fall out of love in marriage. That wouldn't be the right way to say it. It would be, are you choosing to not love your spouse anymore? And so I think that this is a really important topic, and it's something that we should address, even if maybe you're not feeling this way. If you feel like you love your spouse and you're walking the way you should be biblically, I think it's still important to address some of these things and these practical things that we've brought up and just see, you know, evaluate your marriage and see, are you walking the way that God wants you to be walking, and are you choosing love, regardless of your circumstances and regardless of anything else that's going on?

[Aaron] Yeah, and maybe you're not, like Jennifer said, not at that place of not in love anymore, but are you choosing apathy? Are you just not caring?

[Jennifer] Are you being lazy?

[Aaron] Yeah, are you being lazy? And I think that's something that we should be aware of and repent of if we are. If we're being lazy in our marriage, then we're not loving. We're kind of being self-focused and hoping that our husband or our wife is gonna love us the way we wanna be loved, but we're not gonna give the love the way we wanna be loved. I just don't think that's the way a Christian should walk, and I think we need to, I mean, I'm guilty of this sometimes and need to change. Like, I'm being lazy, I'm gonna step up, I love you. Let's work on this, let's grow, let's water this tree.

[Jennifer] I love it. Okay, we wanna invite you guys to join us in prayer. Dear Lord, may we always choose love. May we always have hearts that are motivated by love to be unified, pursuing intimacy and peace in marriage. Thank you for equipping us and empowering us by your Holy Spirit to choose to love unconditionally and sacrificially. We pray against our flesh from getting in the way, and we pray against our selfish ways. Please continue to sanctify us and transform us so that we would be more like you. Protect our marriage from the threats of the enemy and his evil desire to tear us down. Lord, please help us to be unified as one and help us to love each other in the way we interact with each other every day. May our commitment to remain steadfast in our love for each other glorify you in our marriage. In Jesus's name, amen.

[Aaron] Amen. Hey, we just wanna thank everyone for listening this week, and we pray that this episode blessed you. We pray that it's gonna cause some good conversations, and we look forward to having you next week. Did you enjoy today's show? If you did, it would mean the world to us if you could leave us a review on iTunes. Also, if you're interested, you can find many more encouraging stories and resources at marriageaftergod.com and let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.