Early in a relationship, there is often very little discontentment. That “in love” feeling can get us through horrible work days, killer tests, financial woes, and even the flu. Regardless of our trials, we mentally focus on that flutter of excitement and suddenly all is right with the world. This feeling is not wrong; however, it just does not last. It’s not that love gets boring after the initial butterflies leave; rather, love matures, deepens, and takes on new forms.
Before I got married, my mom told me that the way I feel about Eric would change, but it would be a deepening of love. Eric and I were a paradigm of the classic butterfly couple. There are many people that experienced our excessive sweetness – some found it endearing while others found it nauseating. I can relate to both sides now that I’ve been married for a while. There is just nothing like that new “in love” feeling, but that feeling alone won’t carry your relationship through the tough times. Your decision to marry someone should be postponed until the butterflies have gone and you have given time to allow real life problems and circumstances to develop to understand how you both will work through them. It is wise to experience some difficult things together before committing to go through everything together for the rest of your lives.
Imagine: You’ve been married a few years, you have a few kids, and you are tired all the time. Romance is not what it used to be because children are in constant need of your love and attention. You and your spouse would love some alone time, but it seems like a distant dream. This is an example of a time when discontentment can creep into your relationship. After all, you didn’t sign up for this! (… or did you?) You thought you signed up for the trip that would continually bring the love, respect, and attention of your spouse… not the “up all night, no time for a shower, and cleaning up your child’s vomit” trip.
Ladies, in that scenario, you may be craving for that butterfly feeling to return. Men, you may be dreaming of your former life when you and your beautiful bride could jump in the car at a moment’s notice and travel wherever the wind blew you. As tempting as it is to fantasize on such things, it is dangerous. For you ladies, it may begin with watching a romantic comedy which then germinates a seed of emotional discontentment and blossoms into occasionally flirting with a co-worker or neighbor. You may even eventually find yourself contemplating an affair simply because you are dying to feel wanted and desirable again. Your husband will see you with the spit up rag on your shoulder and the dark circles of weariness under your eyes; whereas, the fantasy man will only see you at your prettiest… unless you give into the fantasy, leave your spouse, and then realize that the fantasy man now gets to see you with your spit up rag and dark circles. And the cycle could start again. Fantasy is not real, but the enemy likes to place doubts in our minds and tempt us with the idea that things could be so much better… only if things were different. A statement my husband often says to our clients is this: “The grass is not greener on the other side… the grass is greener where you water it.”
Discontentment is always waiting to creep in to all areas of our lives. If we don’t purposely guard against it, we can find ourselves discontent with our job, our finances, our kids, our church, and our spouse. In Philippians 4:11, Paul says “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul was continually being persecuted for his faith and yet he still wrote about being content… while he was jailed for his faith.
In Christ, we can always be content with our circumstances because His grace is sufficient for our every need. Discontentment can creep in when we allow our minds to wonder “What if…?” What if I had married my high school sweetheart? What if I had accepted that other job offer? What if I had selected a different college? How would my life be different? How would it be better? James 1:4 says that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. It begins in our minds and then creeps into our actions.
One other thing about discontentment to consider is what it is saying about your relationship with God. When you have an attitude of discontentment, you are arrogantly implying: “God, You’re not providing well enough for me and You need to do better.” Yet, whatever you have, He has allowed you to receive. Even if you have worked hard for what you have (which is good and noble), He is the one who has given you the breath, health, and ability to do so.
To guard against discontentment, you must have an attitude of gratitude – verbally thank God daily for at least three blessings in your life. You may even want to start a thankfulness journal. Additionally, renew your mind daily by studying God’s Word. Better yet, study His word with the one to whom you are dating, engaged, or married. Having a thankful attitude and studying God’s Word are the only effective cleansing agents that can kill discontentment in our lives.
How has discontentment played a role in your life? What are you doing to nourish it or kill it?