I was editing a video recently and came across the predictable “Romantic Effect” video editing tool. You know the one. It puts a dreamy blurry weepy air around the person in the shot. The effect tries to give the impression that you are viewing the world through tears of joy. It’s the look that you (you, not me) see on Hallmark movies in the middle of the day when you are sick and no one else is home.
Confession: The video I was editing was a short clip of me talking into the camera, so I put the Romantic filter on myself just to see what it looked like. Creepy.
But the “Romantic” special effect annoyed me for another reason. A more important reason. The very fact that we’ve created such this special effect and given it the title “Romantic” is bothersome. Romance is not a fuzzy fluffy furry moment of spontaneous affection. Our definition of romance needs an upgrade.
Romance isn’t a Relational Special Effect
One of the reasons that so many relationships fail is that they are built upon the “The Romantic Effect.” When a relationship begins, a couple strings together a series of “romantic” moments: first date, first kiss, first birthday gift, first time to watch Gladiator together, first Christmas. As long as they have a fuzzy film moment once a month or so without major interruption, things are good. Or seem to be.
Adolescent relationships are built on this stuff. That’s why we call it teenage romance. In those years, your life is filled with open spaces and open calendars. You have time to unintentionally wander into romantic moments.
The problem with teenage romance is that you have to keep the romantic effect moments happening in new and fresh and different ways. But life just doesn’t allow for a never-ending number of these types of experiences. Far too often, when the newness wears off and the “romantic” moments slow, people trade one partner in for another. Then, they start the romantic filter cycle all over again.
Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing up. We find ourselves in a nation of adult adolescents, growing older but still seeking teenage romance.
Fast-forward a few years into marriage for those who make that commitment. If we are lucky (and disciplined), we manage a long weekend away each year where we can create a few moments that are truly special moments as a couple. But there are 361 other days in the year. Try simply adding the Romantic Filter to the picture once you’ve added a few kids, a few sleepless nights, and a few budget line items that are way out of whack. It is going to take more than spontaneous sweetness to maintain the romance as you move through the seasons of life.
We need a stronger love, a more rugged romance.
Fighting for a More Rugged Romance
This is a blog post and not a book, so I don’t have time to go into all the complexities of relationships and marriage. I’m not trying to cover it all. For the sake of this post, I want to offer a single encouragement to you: be tenacious.
Ephesians 5 instructs us about marriage: “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife” (italics mine).
I love the phrase “hold fast.” To hold fast means to secure a thing in place.* It is to bolt something in place so tightly that it can’t be loosened. We are told to make our wives secure in their relationship to us, so secure that you can never be separated from them.
If we are to hold fast to our spouses, we must fight for our togetherness. When I conduct a wedding ceremony, I always tell the couple to “guard the oneness of their relationship.” We go to battle to protect the union we were intended to enjoy.
Or, at least we should.
John Piper wrote, “When historians list the character traits of America in the last third of the twentieth century, commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve, and perseverance will not be on the list…We all need help here. We are surrounded by, and are part of, a society of emotionally fragile quitters.”**
We are now a decade into the next century, and we are no better off. In fact, I think the pace of rapid fire technology and constant digital play has further deteriorated our ability to focus on the important things and deliver day-in and day-out with determination. When we face difficultly, we assume “there’s an app for that” and hope the problem takes care of itself. And our marriages suffer for it.
That is why tenacity has become an increasingly important part of the conversations I have about marriage. In fact, I would list it as the number two requirement behind the gospel.*** Communication is important. Learning to appreciate differences is helpful. Being able to work out a budget makes a big difference. But tenacity trumps technique. Tenacious couples stick it out when things stink. They work on things when things aren’t working. Tenacious couples find romance in both the peaks and valleys of life.
Men, we are called to love our wives as Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). That means that we should love with the strongest, most tenacious love imaginable.
One of the most profound and most comforting statements in all the Bible, speaks of the tenacious love of Jesus:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Let me restate these verses and relate them to marriage…
Since we are called to love like Jesus, let me ask you: what shall separate you from loving your wife? Shall success or debt or dishes or laundry or hobbies or television or hardship or unemployment or cancer or kids or lust or anger? I am sure that none of these things, past or present or future, nor anything else in all creation should be able to separate you from loving your wife.
Husband, hold fast to your wife. Do not let anything separate you from her. Be tenacious about togetherness.
Our world does not need more short-lived scenes with romantic filters applied. But we do need more couples holding fast to one another with a rugged romance that lasts.
What God has joined together, let no one separate.
Is there anything that is driving a wedge between you and your spouse? Is there anything you need to repent of and confess to your spouse? Is there any activity you need to initiate to foster togetherness? Is there a routine of dating and time together that you need to protect as vital?
* Random House Unabridged Dictionary
** John Piper, The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Willberforce
*** By gospel, I mean the acute awareness and belief that you are broken and in need of God’s love and forgiveness that is only available through the finished work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.