All of you who follow us and watch us, you’re a special part of our extended online family. We’re glad to bring you joy as we continue to enjoy the relationships God gave us to nurture with Him and with each other. These relationships give a solid base for difficult times, and without them I would not be the person that I am — and we wouldn’t be the family that we are!
These relationships do not happen naturally — in fact for any good relationship to work well, there has to be loving commitment to each other. The closer you get to people, the more you see all their faults. The better they can see your faults too! This is where true love comes in. The feelings of love for others often fade over time, but a strong commitment to love one another can strengthen relationship ties even in the seasons when the feelings are not there. The fruit of healthy relationships is a joy for everyone — and it makes for great videos too!
The 3 Stages of Healthy Relationships
Recently I officiated a small ceremony to celebrate 30 years of marriage of good friends of our Side and Jaquie. They asked me to lead a ceremony and share a word about marriage so that they could invite their close friends and family and renew their wedding vows. I shared about the 3 stages of a healthy relationship, of which they exhibited.
Relationships (especially marriages) go through three major life-phases. There’s the Honeymoon phase — the one everyone loves and often thinks is the best phase (but there’s a better one). Everything’s new and the relationship is fun and personal. Everyday is like walking on sunshine and even if everything’s wrong in the world, you’re doing alright. You’re always thinking of the other person, meeting their needs and being considerate of them. Passion is hot. We all feel like we’d like to stay here, especially when we see the next phase.
The next phase is what I call the Desert of Normality where all the passionate feelings you had for each other cool off as years and years of everyday life wears you down. Throw kids into the mix and you often reach a point where you’re not even sure if you “love” the person anymore. Yes — this is normal, and actually an essential phase for building a true loving relationship that goes deeper than feelings.
God did not intend this phase as your final destination as a married couple, but unfortunately way too many people bail out on their spouse at this particular phase, before they can even make it to the best phase. They think somethings wrong with them, with their spouse, or perhaps they married wrong. They look for fulfillment in other places (food, work, pleasure, other relationships). Anyway you cut it, eventually they think that the best phase of marriage is gone and the only way to reclaim it is to strike up something with someone new and get back to that honeymoon stage. Unfortunately this is only ever a huge step backwards and will still lead you to this second stage with the new person you married.
Research shows it takes 10-15 years for a married couple to start thinking collectively, as a couple, instead of as individuals. If you stick out the difficult phase, learning how to make your relationship work and learning how to prioritize one another even with all of life’s challenges, you eventually arrive at the 3rd phase I like to call The Garden of Eden.
The Garden of Eden was the perfect place God made when He created mankind and there was no sin, sickness, curse or sin in the world. While it is impossible to escape all of the negative aspects of this current world, we can enjoy marriage as God intended it — to be so well unified as “one” that we have a little piece of heaven in our homes. Many couples married more than 30, 40 even 50 years say that their marriages have more passion, fulfillment, purpose and fun than ever before. This is possible because they have become one.
Ruth and I are moving into this 3rd phase, and it is really wonderful. There are still plenty of moments in that 2nd phase that we have to work out, but dealing with those things properly is what sets you up for a win in the 3rd phase. You can ignore the 2nd phase altogether, but that will only leave you with a passionless and stagnate marriage, or worse yet end in divorce.
No one enters marriage thinking it will end in divorce. Everyone would like to stay at the Honeymoon stage, but that’s not possible either. But the good news is that when we do marriage God’s way, we have a promise that the end will be even better than the beginning, and that’s something to celebrate.
If your marriage fell apart, my heart goes out to you. If your marriage is stuck and you think you might not survive, know that God is for you and wants to help you throw it. God is a God of second chances, Jesus proved that as He died on the cross on our behalf, so that we could have the ultimate 2nd chance. And although you may not be able to fix past, God can give you a better future when your life is in His hands, directed by his Holy Spirit and Word (the Bible). There is always hope with God.