I knew my check-up had taken a strange turn when my doctor wrote down the name of a personal device on a prescription pad, while giving me a knowing look and assuring me, “It’s made in Denmark.” “Oh, Denmark,” I repeated, unsure of how we ended up on this particular topic. Maybe I looked overly tense that day? What makes it even better is that my doctor’s last name is “Love.” I am literally getting marital advice from Dr. Love. I couldn’t wait to call my husband and tell him. After I texted you, of course.
The dreaded Dry Spell. Many marriages go through periods where physical intimacy is not a priority. We have certainly struggled with this. While the rest of our friends are empty nesting, we are still in elementary school and exhausted. Toss in mutual medical issues, sandwich generation stress, and a job where the political maneuvering rivals Game of Thrones and you have a perfect storm, wiping out any desire for romance. When one spouse pulls away, it is natural to feel rejected. At a time of life when you are not feeling your most attractive, you can dig yourself in even deeper. Luckily, we are prepared to tough it out. I am always reassured by a painting we prominently placed in our house called “Partners,” which has special meaning for us. Ironically, it is of two fat cows, which I think makes us both identify with it even more.
It dawned on me that dry spells can happen in every area of your life, even spiritually. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who has become the poster child for spiritual crisis, went through a fifty-year period of spiritual darkness. Some of the excerpts from her six thousand letters on the topic, published in Come Be My Light, sound like a wife in distress: “The more I want him, the less I am wanted. I want to love him as he has not been loved, and yet there is that separation, that terrible emptiness, that feeling of absence of God.” God wants us in an intimate relationship with Him but there are plenty of times we don’t feel that close. We may even feel rejected by God if we don’t feel He is listening to us or can’t see His hand in anything we do. Saints such as St. John of the Cross opined that the purpose of such darkness is to deepen love. Mother Teresa came to see her separation from God as a gift that helped save her from pride and kept her humble.
Our view of God is relational and we are limited by our human understanding. Maybe that is why God had to send His son to us in human form before we could really begin to understand Him. Problems with your parents? We turn to God the father and Mother Mary. Conversely, if you did not have great parents, it can be hard to understand God as a loving father. For women, it’s pretty easy to turn to Jesus when your husband is distant. At least you know there is one guy who loves you. Men who feel rejected by their wives may turn to Jesus, too, but I imagine it’s more of a bromance.
I think St. Teresa’s solutions to her crisis work in all situations, too. She acted in a faithful manner, even when she didn’t feel her faith. She never gave up on her relationship with God. Nor did she give in to her feelings of isolation. She continued to live in community and serve all those who came to her. She was constantly engaged in the world around her, rather than withdrawing in self-pity and despair.
Similarly, I am pretty sure the cure for a marital dry spell is not more isolation or solitary activity. It might be easy to treat a symptom but the cause requires a different type of solution. We must continue to engage with each other, even if it is just a simple act like just sitting together. Wasn’t it St. Teresa who also said, “Do small things with great love”? Is it possible that going through a tough period will deepen our love? I am willing to give it a shot. So, for now, my contributions to the Danish GDP will be limited to ham, cheese and Lego. There is just something about those blocks…
Have det godt,
Like the YNJ blog? There’s more to love this Lent as Susan and Anne team up with friends to bring you Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, available now on Amazon.