Tag Archives: love

Marriage That Lasts: The Happy Factor

There have been a couple of blogs recently floating around about marriage. In reading them, I noticed the word “happy” is getting a lot of use.

One blog submits, in part, that marriage it not for you, it is for the other person (which I don’t entirely disagree with)—to make the other person happy. The other post asserts that you should marry a person who makes you happy.

This word “happy” is what gets me.

Personally, I believe the word “happy” is why so many people split up. Some people believe they are entitled to a life filled with happiness. Unicorns and rainbows. And that they should never, ever be unhappy.

I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 24 years. Have we had moments of happy? Yes, we have. Lots of happy. Do I feel like it is my job to make my husband happy? No, I most certainly do not. Do I feel like it is his job to make me happy? Absolutely not.

Happiness is an emotion and you cannot base a relationship solely on emotion. Maybe emotions brought you together initially, but emotions wax and wane. Happy is not 24/7. Happy is temporary. And Happy should not be a pre-requisite to love.

Love is something different.

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People do feel love, but to me, love is not an emotion. Love is a choice. It is a verb, requiring action by both people in the marriage. It is a thing you DO and I am not just talking about what you DO in the bedroom.

If you spend your married life demonstrating love to your spouse, I believe you will find yourself in a long lasting marriage. If you spend your time worrying about your happiness, or the happiness of your spouse, you will be sorely disappointed. I promise you.

What does this mean? This means that you have to ignore toothpaste splatters, toilet seats left in the upright position, how he loads the dishwasher or diapers the kid. It means you will have hardships. It means that sometimes you will feel like you are giving more to the relationship. Other times, you will be the needy one. It means sometimes he will really get on your nerves and hurt your feelings and you will not be happy at all. You will have to do things you do not want to do. So will your spouse. That is just how it is. That is called relationship. You will be happy and you will be unhappy. That is the reality of marriage.

Marriage that lasts is about love, but it is also about forgiveness, which, like love, is not an emotion, but a verb. Oh, and there are those other verbs: commitment and work.

I have heard people say, “I love him/her, but I’m not IN love with him/her anymore”, which is basically code for “he/she doesn’t make me happy anymore.” If I had based my marriage satisfaction only on whether or not I was happy, honey, I’d have been out of here long ago!

Marriage isn’t about the Happy Factor, people!

Marriage is about love, forgiveness, commitment and the work it takes to make a life together and honor each other. It is about wanting the best for your spouse and being the best you can be for your spouse. Marriage isn’t just about you and it isn’t only about him. There will be times of happy and there will be hard times, but you can’t just bail because the thrill is gone.

So, maybe you want to ask me, “Joell, are you happy in your marriage?” My answer would probably depend on the day, because my Happy Factor varies. But if you ask me if I love my husband, my answer is this:

Unequivocally, yes. I love him differently today than I did when I met him 30 years ago. I love him more deeply and more completely than I did on the day we married. I am wholly committed to him—on the days that he annoys me and on the days he seems too needy and on the days he gives me a can-opener for Christmas (yes, that happened). I love him on the days he rubs my feet, just because. And on the days he works extra hard to do a good job at work, because he loves his family and wants to provide for us. And on the days he puts a blanket on me when I fall asleep in the recliner. I choose to love him every day, regardless of how I am feeling at the time. I love him because he loves me, even on the days I am a moody, hormonal, straight up pain in the butt. I will never regret my decision to love and marry such a good man.

I believe we need to take our example from Christ and how He loves us—freely and without condition. Then, work each day to demonstrate that same kind of love to our spouses, which is no easy task. And which is why people get tired and unhappy about having to do that day in and day out. I get it. It is hard work. Guess what? Sometimes you just have to dig down deep and love anyway. Even when you aren’t feeling happy. I am pretty sure there is nowhere in the scriptures that says, “Thou shalt always feel happy.”

So, I encourage you to press on, my married friends. Enjoy those happy moments, and embrace the not-so-happy ones too, for they are what enduring marriages are made of.

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NOTE: Please don’t take this the wrong way, y’all. It is great to be happy, to feel happy, but don’t base everything on that. Also, I am not saying you should stay with your abusive spouse—if you find yourself in that situation, please get help and get to where you are safe, for yourself and for your children. And I am not saying you should tolerate unfaithfulness either. Just want to clear those things up!

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I am a screw up.

It is confession time.

I went to the gym this morning and then promptly came home and decided to live dangerously and totally negate my morning workout by eating a big ole spoonful (okay, two) of raw cookie dough, even though the packaging clearly states not to do it. Ooooh, living on the edge!

You should also know that I talk to other drivers when I am driving. Other drivers in other cars. Yes, I realize that they cannot hear me. (Emma is good at reminding me of that fact.)

cray cray mom

I ask them (kinda loudly) what the heck are they doing?! I tell them to pick a lane. I suggest that they get off my road. I demand that they go at least the speed limit. (Is is really too much to ask??) I am especially annoyed by the drivers who refuse to speed up on the off ramp as they are merging onto the highway. In the past, I have discussed the fun I have at the four-way stops here in my state.  I also tell other drivers that I am going to “chop” them, while making a chopping motion with my hand, which is code for “You don’t know it, but I am totally flipping you off right now.” (Thanks, Mom, for giving me that one to use. You are so busted!) And I have been known to drop a choice word or two on them occasionally.

I’m just being for real here.

I think it’s fair to say that I have an issue that needs some work.

Okay, I have a lot of issues that need some work. But hey, don’t we all??

I am not perfect. I don’t claim to have it all together. I have done things I am not proud of. I behave badly at times. And there are lots of other things I won’t confess to…here, anyway.

I am a Christian. And I screw up on a daily basis. Ask my husband and my kids.

I realize that there are people in this world who are looking for me to screw up—who are looking for professing Christians to screw up—so they can say, “See, I knew you weren’t really a Christian.”

They won’t have to look too long or too hard if that is what they are basing my Christianity upon, because in my human-ness, I am going to screw up. And if that is all Christianity is—not screwing up, being “good”, behaving a certain way so that other people can judge that I am a “good Christian”—then what is the point? It just becomes a bunch of rules. Being a Christian is not about rules; it is about the heart.

In my heart, I want to do better—I don’t want to curse at the other drivers on my the road, or my trash can after I’ve run it over because it got left at the end of my driveway. I pray each day for God’s help to be the woman He wants me to be. 

But it is out of love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for me, that I want to love more, give more and do more—for Him. I don’t want to just do good things or be a good person because some people think that is what Christianity is.

What I want more than to be a “good person,” though, is to know God more and be more like Him. It is out of that loving relationship that good works, good attitudes, will come. Not the other way around.

Love. Mercy. Grace. Relationship. Good stuff.

There is nothing I can do to be good enough for God. I can only rely on the fact that God loved me first and saved me by grace. His gift of grace. And it is His mercy alone that allows me live another day.

And boy, am I thankful, because, I am pretty sure I will continue to just stink things up—trust me, I can be a hot mess. Only Jesus is good enough, was good enough, to redeem all my mess. Nothing other than my faith in Him and His willing sacrifice for me, makes me acceptable to God.

And so, we all find ourselves in desperate need of mercy and grace.

You. Me. Everyone.

The man who was rude to you in the grocery store check out. The cheeky teenager who stole your space in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The frazzled mom who was yelling at her kid inside the Wal-Mart. The smarmy politician. The drug addicted prostitute. The kid down the street who hurt my kid. The murderer on death row.

And me. Because I am no better.

God has mercy and grace available for them, for you, and for me. And if God can withhold judgment from me and pour out kindness on me that I do not deserve, then I need to work a little harder to pour that out on others as well.

And I do have to work at it. Somehow, for some reason, it seems really hard to withhold judgment and pour out kindness while I am driving. Why is that?? But I’m working on it and praying that I can screw up less (not just in the driving department!) and love Him—and everyone else—more. I want my kids, and those on the outside looking in, to see and know that even though I am a screw up, God still loves me and gives me grace and mercy. And that same love and grace and mercy can be theirs too.

21 Yet there is one ray of hope: 22 His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.                         Lamentations 3:21-23, Living Bible

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Being real with God.

“Lord, all I’ve got today is tears.” He said, “Then give me your tears.” ~Bob Sorge, The Fire of Delayed Answers

I try very hard in my life to be real. To be transparent. And I am always drawn to others who are.

Some people might look at me and say, Oh, that Joell, she is so funny or she is a positive person…and I really am those things, most of the time. That is real, but I tend to keep the not-so-happy stuff to a minimum. To put on my happy face and press on. Nobody loves a Debbie Downer.

There are times when I feel so downcast, and I don’t want to dump that on people. I don’t want to be a whiner. And truly I don’t want to seem too needy. And so, I will hold back. There are times when it is just too painful to be completely bare, and so I save that for the quiet times when I am alone with God and pour that out to Him. He is always my soft place to fall, the lap to crawl up into, a safe place where I know He is always willing to hear me cry. He doesn’t mind if I get whiney from time to time.

Truly, I have struggled with depression in my life. I have had my ups and downs just like everyone, and though I always try to find the silver linings and figure out what God is teaching me, I have still found myself really down in the dumps at times, and sometimes for no apparent reason.

I think of David, who feared for his life and was driven to live in a cave—for years—as a fugitive, and who must have experienced the very darkest despair. I read his songs to God in the book of Psalms—the way he cried out to Him and begged God to have mercy—and I am comforted.

I have often heard it said that God’s Word is His love letter to us, and it most certainly is. It is also his letter of “Hey, I know what you are going through. I’ve been there. Read this. Hear my voice. Stick with me, because I am sticking with you. You are going to get through this.” It is His book of comfort and encouragement. It is also a demonstration of the lives of men and women who walked with God through unimaginable circumstances: Job’s suffering, Joseph being sold into slavery and his subsequent imprisonment, David’s depression and loneliness. God never left them.

He will not delay His love

Because David was in tune to God’s great love for him, David was, as Bob Sorge says in The Fire of Delayed Answers, “secure enough in himself to give honest expression to his real feelings and emotions.” Sorge speaks of his own struggle with depression, and in his emptiness, felt he had nothing but his tears to give back to God. Sorge says, “He doesn’t ask us to give Him something that we don’t have. When you feel empty give Him whatever you have within you, little as it may seem.”

Even if it is your tears. Or your anger. Or your frustration. Or your fear.

Give it to Him. He wants it all.

And what he wants more than anything is your heart and my heart. That is what He is after. He wants it whether we are feeling on top of the world or whether we are living in the cave, like David. God is always real with us. He wants us to know that we can be real with Him.

Even when we don’t understand what is happening or where we are headed or when the fire will be over, He does, and though He may delay his answers, He will never delay His love.

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I am excited to be joining in on a weekly book discussion led by Jason Stasyszen  and Sarah Salter. Please visit them to see other posts in response to The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge, at Jason’s blog—Connecting to Impact, and Sarah’s blog—Living Between the Lines. And even if you are not reading the book, please feel free to jump into the discussion!

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