What are you choosing that’s not your spouse?
Have you ever thought about how many options we have to choose from today? You can drive through downtown and notice a strip of restaurants and bars to eat and drink at. The same is true for boutiques and other retail stores if you’re looking for new shoes. At home, you can flip on the TV and scroll through the thousands of options of entertainment. Even waiting at a doctor‘s office, you simply pick up your phone and are faced with several apps to keep you occupied. We have no shortage of options and things to keep us happy and distracted. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it can be. In a world where more is better, we continue to see increasing rates of addiction and decreasing amounts of time actually spent with people, spouses included.
This time of year is an especially relevant time to think about this. We are more than halfway through the Lenten season and Easter is right around the corner. Lent is a season of detaching from the pleasures of the world and turning toward what’s important. As you can see it’s twofold. It’s not just giving up sweets or social media - the second part is equally, if not more important - the turning toward and attaching to something of greater value. Primarily, we should be working to detach from things so we can nurture our attachment to God. But it’s also important to detach from things so we can nurture our attachment to our spouse! It’s so easy to depend on food, alcohol, shopping, TV, or our phones. We do it because we get that quick dopamine hit. It feels good. Instant gratification never lets us down (in the moment). We do it out of habit, or because we “deserve it” after a long day, or because we want to numb out and ignore whatever is going on inside us that feels hard.
Relationships can be harder and less predictable. They can require effort, and selflessness. The gratification of relationships isn’t always immediate. It can be hard to see the benefit at times. It can be painful to choose to look inside at what’s hard and face it, and risky to be vulnerable and turn toward your husband or wife and share it. Choosing relationships over things can be the more difficult option, but it’s also the more rewarding option. Food is digested, shoes get worn, TV and our phones leave us feeling unfulfilled and disconnected, and that thing inside us that we’re trying to ignore doesn’t go away. Meanwhile, your relationship with your spouse that you’re neglecting, the one that gets put on the back burner while you choose all the other things, continues to become strained and distant. The more distant you become, the harder it will be to choose this option.
What would it be like to use the remainder of lent to choose your spouse? Is there something you choose that could be replaced with time spent together? Instead of reaching for your phone or that glass of wine after a challenging week, could you reach for your spouse instead? In a world full of choices, can you choose your spouse?