The movie that made Marilyn Monroe famous was The Seven Year Itch. The idea was that about every seven years most married people begin to itch where they can’t scratch. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know what, let alone what to do about it. Often they have an affair around that time.
Of all marital problems, that which I have confronted the most often in my pastoral counseling is, “I just don’t love her anymore.” While there is a vast difference between being “in love” and loving someone, we still crave to be in love.
Couples have been coming to me with marital problems ever since my first pastorate. Ninety percent of them have been married from two to seven years, though some as long as 30. All had the same problem—lost love.
What the Bible has to say
After hearing this repeated literally hundreds of times in serious counseling sessions, I began to search the Bible for the answer. I found it in Revelation 2:1-5.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
In these verses, Jesus Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, is dictating a letter through the Apostle John to His bride, the church at Ephesus.
In the first verse He reminds her that He is the glorious Son of God, Creator of the World, and Upholder of the Law. He says that He has not changed through eternity. He is to her as He has always been. In verses two and three He commends her for her fidelity to Him, her work, her patience, her disdain for evil, her doctrinal integrity, and her tireless labor on His behalf.
At the beginning of the fourth verse, however, the whole tenor of the conversation begins to change. “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Her love for the groom has cooled. It is not the vibrant thing it once was. She has fallen out of love.
How will the loving bridegroom, the master marital authority, deal with the problem?
The first overtones of the fourth verse give a surprising, subtle hint as to the approach He will use. He is understanding and patient, yet He is upset as well. It is not a small thing! A grievous wrong has been done, and He will deal with it directly and rather severely. “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken you first love.” I have something against you! I am charging you with a serious offense. This expression, “against you,” is heavy terminology. It is a serious charge, but not one without remedy. In verse five, He gives His perfect three-point prescription on how to fall in love again.
“Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”
1. Repent. Why does Jesus say such a thing as “Repent”? Why is falling out of love treated, in part, as a sin? It can only be because falling out of love is a symptom of a spiritual problem. Because God is love and the author of love, God alone can give real love. When the process of the integration and selfless meshing of two personalities has begun to collapse, it is because God’s love—agape love—is gone.
To fall in love again you must be absolutely honest with yourself and go back to your relationship with God. Where did it jump the track? When did you first begin to fall out of love with Him? When did your heart first begin to grow cold? You will usually be able to trace your lack of love for your mate to a short time after the beginning of your loss of love for the Lord. The hardest thing you may ever have to do is ask God’s forgiveness for the sin of falling out of love. However, it is such an essential part of the prescription that it won’t work without it. Go ahead, confess, come clean with God. Admit it. Let His love begin to flow into you. Only then will it flow out from you to your spouse.
Biblical repentance also entails a change of direction. It means to get back on the track and start doing again what you were doing. Get back to where spiritual growth occurs: in the church, in the Bible, and in prayer. We may be assured His promise is secure, that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
2. Remember. “Remember the height from which you have fallen.” The next part of Christ’s prescription to the loveless bride is to enlist all the power of the mind as an ally in her effort to regain lost love.
The New Testament writers taught positive thinking long before this generation ever heard of it.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. —Philippians 4:8-11
That’s good, positive thinking, and Jesus commands it as part of His prescription for falling in love again.
Relive every word, incident, date, kiss, and touch as you were falling in love with this person. Remember the wedding moment by moment, flower by flower, promise by promise. Remember the joy as you drove away from the church, the thrill of your wedding night, the ecstasy of your honeymoon. Remember that first apartment, the first time you went grocery shopping together.
Recall it again and again in your mind. Remember how you felt, all of your hopes and dreams. Focus on that, and there will come gradually to your heart the desire to relive it, to pick up the pieces of a broken love affair and love again.
3. Repeat. Knowing what pleases my wife proves our close relationship. Choosing to do what pleases her demonstrates my love.
To “do the things you did at first” is the clear requirement of this part of the prescription. Some of you are probably saying, “Do you mean that I am to play a game, to put on an act, to respond where I am unresponsive, to say what I do not mean and do what I do not really feel?” The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Don’t focus on feeling something about your spouse—do something for your spouse. Love is something you do!
You can fall in love again
What happens psychologically and therapeutically when the soul addresses the Lord, the mind addresses itself, and the bodily actions address the injured spouse? You can fall in love again.
As your whole being is thrust into the role of rebuilding the broken relationship, you will notice two responses in you spouse. The first may well be suspicion. The second response will be your spouse’s attitude toward the new you. Your spouse will become a new person that you can more easily love.
If a relationship has grown sour, then neither party is acting as they once did. They are both only reacting. A chicken-egg cycle occurs, and there is no easy solution. Someone must take the initiative to break the cycle.
Is it worth it to you? Is the salvation of your home, the stability of your children, the sacredness of your commitment, and the sanctity of your own well-being and relationship with God worth the effort?
No one can answer that question but you. You can fall in love again, but the medicine is hard to take. The prescription is strong, but it works if you think it is worth it.
Adapted excerpt from Love Is Something You Do ©2010 by John R. Bisagno. Published by Lucid Books (www.lucidbooks.net). Used by permission.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.