What do you want others to say about you and your sweetheart as a couple? Do you want to be known as the fun couple? The exciting couple? The well-travelled couple? The hospitable couple? We all have an ideal picture of how we want our relationship to appear to others. When people look at Eric and me, I would love for them to see a couple who loves God and each other, who is committed to each other, who enjoys being together, and (perhaps most importantly) a couple who is… content.
Contentment may not sound very exciting, but it is one of the greatest emotional places a couple can be. Drama may be fun for a season, but it gets old quickly. It is inspiring to see sweet, older couples holding hands and looking at each other lovingly. They may not be planning a two week Hawaiian vacation or excitedly anticipating the birth of a child, but they are content – not impatiently longing for more. Maybe life has taught them that they already have everything they have ever wanted.
Have I been a content spouse? Has my marriage glowed with gracious warmth and ease? No. It has not – at least not all the time. Eric and I have experienced our share of disappointments and wondered why the other just could not get it! We have both tried to change each other (perhaps one of us more than the other ~smile~), and we have both pointed the blame finger at each other over the years.
As we continue in our marriage, my prayer is that we can be like the precious older couples who exude contentment regardless of circumstances. Below are four marks of a content couple. Does your relationship exhibit these traits?
- Experience Few Intense Arguments. Every couple disagrees at times. Even the closest, most loving couples will have the occasional tiff. The presence of some conflict is not a cause for concern, but where the conflicts go once they have begun matters a great deal. Content couples may disagree; but, couples who experience angry, highly emotional fights on a regular basis have a deeper problem. Such displays of frustration and division show that one or both parties desperately want more something – more power, more money, more fun, more attention, and the list goes on. If our heart is at ease and we want for little, we will have little need to stir up strife.
- Can Find Entertainment in Most Any Situation. Content couples are not in need of constant amusement. A weekend of cleaning can be pleasant if both people simply enjoy each other’s company. A content couple can take a walk together, drive to Walmart, or simply watch I Love Lucy reruns and be happy. Why? Because they enjoy being together. They have conversations. They are comfortable being quiet together. Many married couples can remember a time in their relationship when it did not matter what they did as long as they were together. The more baggage of life a couple collects, the less enjoyable it becomes to just hang out.
- Not Constantly Filling Their Relationship with New Distractions. Poker Mondays. Choir practice Tuesdays. Bible study Wednesdays. It is one situation to have many hobbies and another to fill your life with activities for the sole purpose of pushing away your significant other or spouse. It is common for discontent couples to pour themselves into work, hobbies, socialization, or even good deeds to escape the despair they feel in their relationship. “The more I do, the less I have to think about how unhappy I am in my relationship – and the less time I have to spend with my ‘special’ someone.”
- General Acceptance of Each Other. Content couples do not waste much time nitpicking and nagging. Discontent couples spend many pointless hours trying to drag change out of each other. (Hint: You cannot change anyone other than yourself.) Maybe she is discontent with his appearance, and thus nags him about buying better clothes and acting more sophisticated in public. She is obviously not content. Maybe he thinks she is ignoring her health, so he reminds her – constantly – to eat salads and pushes her to exercise regardless of how tired she feels. He is obviously not content. Though content couples do make suggestions, they do not feel the need to harp on each other’s flaws. At the end of the day, they are happy with each other.
I sincerely hope you and your sweetheart are enjoying a warm, content relationship. In the past eleven years, Eric and I have shared times of contentment and times of extreme discontentment. Do not be surprised if you experience some seasons where you are not as happy in your relationship as you once were. This does not mean your love story is over. It simply means you are at a crossroads. When those moments come, it is important to look at your relationship as objectively as possible. Jot down areas where you have dropped the ball, and ways you can improve. If you act like you love each other, slowly but surely those affectionate feelings will return – along with the contentment you once enjoyed.
You will experience mountains and valleys. Thank God for the grace He has given you to stay together. Many more mountains and valleys are coming. Keep smiling. Keep hugging. And, keep your eye on the prize.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14, ESV
Are you and your sweetheart a content couple?