Falling in love is an emotional process. You feel things you’ve never felt before. There’s an incredible rush of emotions—a feeling of well being, excitement, exhilaration, contentment, and more.
But a surprising number of people who fall in love also experience falling out of love. The spark disappears. The person who used to get your heart beating leaves you cold. You might not even like them anymore.
Scientists have an explanation for this, and it’s chemical, believe it or not. The explanation? Dopamine. When we’re in love, the chemical dopamine is released in the brain, and it makes us feel all the things we feel when we’re in love. Which is why love is blind.
There’s only one problem; it doesn’t last. At least for most of us it doesn’t. If it did, it would be difficult to explain the divorce rate or even the stagnation many couples experience in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or beyond. So many couples simply fall out of love.
What do you once the spark is gone? How do you get it back?
Enter Jesus. Who, I imagine, knew about dopamine long before we did, and didn’t think it’s presence or absence had much to do with human relationships anyway. Do you remember His central commandment? Think about it for a minute and let the irony hit you.
He commanded us to love each other. That’s right. He commanded love.
How is that Jesus commands an emotion? After all, if I commanded you to be euphoric right now, how successful would I be? Exactly.
Jesus understood something that every married couple needs to understand, particularly past the honeymoon: love is not an emotion. It produces emotions, but it is not an emotion.
Love is an act of the will.
It’s the only way Jesus’ teachings to love our enemies makes any sense. Jesus isn’t asking us to feel an emotion toward them—if so, it’s an impossible teaching. I’d be dead long before I felt happy thoughts toward enemies. After all, that’s why we consider people enemies—we have no good thoughts about them.
If you’re in a love-less spot in your marriage, here’s what you need to do. You need to decide to love your partner. You need to will yourself to love him or her. Yes it’s tough. Which is why Jesus commanded it.
But if you obey His commandment, you will likely discover a secret. Emotions eventually follow obedience. If you will yourself to love someone through a dry season—if you cultivate romance even when you are not feeling romantic—after a while, your feelings change.
Whether the old spark returns or not, new sparks emerge. Your emotions catch up to your obedience.
It’s true with enemies (because if you love them long enough, you will eventually forgive them), and it’s true for many couples in marriages.
Go love your spouse today. Even if you don’t feel like it. Actually, especially if you don’t feel like it.
Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and is author of several bestselling books. Carey blogs, podcasts, writes and speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership, change and personal growth. www.careynieuwhof.com
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