When We Are Not ‘In Love,’ We Choose Love

His text message read, “I am so, so, so, so, so in love with you.” There were about 50 “so’s” in it. I smiled to myself and rolled my eyes. When we were dating, my husband would never say, “I love you,” because he only wanted to say those words to one person… his wife. He went on and on about how it is easy to be in love with someone, but marrying someone means choosing to love them for the rest of their life. I understood what he was trying to say, but thought it was a little silly that he wouldn’t tell me he loved me, even though it was completely obvious.

Carrie and her husband on a date.
Carrie and her husband on a date.

Fast forward 3 years. We had 2 beautiful daughters, a dog, and bills to pay. When we got married—and especially when we had children—everyone told us to make sure we kept dating each other. “It’s important to go on dates,” “make time for each other,” “don’t forget why you fell in love,” rang the advice in our ears. We heard it. We agreed with it. We didn’t budget for it. We didn’t make time for it. So, we didn’t do it. Bad plan. We were over-tired, over-stressed, and blamed each other for every little thing not going our way. It wasn’t fun. We weren’t in love anymore. One night, when our six week old baby was refusing to sleep, we both stepped back and took an honest look at what was going on.

“We don’t have fun together anymore,” I observed while bouncing our baby on my hip and pacing the room. In the day-in and day-out of life, we had set aside the wise advice we received when we were first married, and now we were paying for it. The problem got worse because I wanted to talk until we fixed the problem, and then have fun together. But that meant, even if we got time alone, we were using alone time to share our thoughts on why things weren’t going well. The problem solving was productive, but ultimately, we still weren’t having fun together. So we made a change. We found another couple interested in exchanging monthly babysitting so we could go on one date a month without having to pay a babysitter. Our dates weren’t fancy (going for a walk, playing a pathetic game of tennis at the park, going on a picnic, or browsing Target). We also set up Friday night at-home dates—the night-owl baby often crashed the party, but we were trying!

During our breakthrough conversation, Nate also commented on how nice it was that even though this sucked, neither one of us was thinking about divorce. I think that’s the key. When we got married, both of us knew it was forever. So in the middle of our rough patch we both wanted to work to improve things because we knew we didn’t want to live like that for the rest of our lives. Committing to love is more important than being in love. Being in love is great, and highly preferred, but a commitment to love no matter what is what gets you through the not-so-in-love slumps.

Our relationship has slowly gotten stronger again and I’m happy to report that we are in love, as well as choosing to love each other. It’s a beautiful thing. In a weird way I’m thankful for that struggle because it feels like our love is a little more tried and true. Maybe I’ll send him a text tomorrow with 51 “so’s” in it…

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