When a couple begins to date, there is a lot that happens. The couple is often times inseparable and their new partner is the only thing they can talk and think about. This is so normal! There is even a word for it: limerence.
In 1979, Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for the first stage of love, characterized by physiological symptoms, excitement, intrusive thinking, obsession, fantasy, sexual excitement, and the fear of rejection. There is a cascade of hormones and neurochemicals that have such an impact on the individual that make it very easy to connect and difficult to be distant or disconnect. Falling in love can be quite easy for most, but staying in love is much different and more difficult.
If you have not read my article of establishing a foolproof foundation for your marriage, you can read that here.
While falling in love can be easy for couples, getting into second stage where most relationships fail. For instance, girl boy and he seems like a really nice guy. They talk for a week or two and she getting sucked into limerence. A couple weeks later, while at his house, she finds out that he never brushes his teeth = instant turn off = no more limerence = no more relationship. Now this is a hypothetical scenario, but this happens all of the time in new or beginning relationships. Limerence can last anywhere from a couple hours to a couple years. This is why it is so important to engage in pre-martial education or counseling before tying the knot.
Building a relationship and marriage of committed love, trust, respect and honor is always the goal, but what happens when we don’t feel like it in a given moment or season of life and marriage? Inevitably there will come a time where we will have to choose to love and extend grace when it doesn’t come natural, but remembering this:
What came naturally to you during dating will have to be intentional during marriage.
Limerence sometimes makes it difficult for us to see the red flags we “swear are not there” that someone from the outside looking in clearly sees. We just don’t want to see it because we are enamored with this other person. When we “fall out of love” we falling into a very intentional state of love. Paul Tripp in his book “Marriage” prompts us to think about 3 truths about our marriages:
- We get married in and live in an evil / fallen world
- This always seems like an obvious answer or a easy excuse, but it is nonetheless true. We look around our cities, states and country (and world) and we can think that everything is simply no good. This can definitely seep into our homes and our marriages which is why the article above is so important to creating such a solid foundation for the rest of your lives together.
- We are a sinner married to a sinner
- We all sin. Our need for grace is just as evident as our spouse’s need for grace. John Piper stats, “If we look at [our spouse] and think don’t deserve grace, that is the end of grace in their life and ours.” Something that I see couples struggle with the most is the idea of their spouse’s mistakes equate to sin. They hold their spouse to such a high standard or expectation that even mistakes are seen on the same level of sin. This can make it so difficult to show grace or even forgive because our standard and expectation (along with impatience) overwhelms and overrides our abilities to extend that grace
In his book, Paul Tripp talks about how God is “powerful, faithful and willing.” It would be a mistake to try to pull from our own abilities and capabilities to be able to extend grace, and while grace should absolutely be the standard of our marriage, it should not be the expectation.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:1-4
It is because we have been given this grace, we are compelled to act in obedience to Christ who died for you and your spouse – “Be[ing] kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32). I do not act knowingly against my wife and marriage expecting grace. Therefore:
Grace is our standard in marriage, but grace should always be the exception, not the expectation.
Choosing grace in marriage does and will not come naturally because we live in a fallen world married to a sinner, but God is powerful, faithful and willing.