Love looks like gumballs. My husband and I are in that stage of marriage where most marriages die. We completed a cross-country move a year and a half ago where we are completely separated from all relatives. We are also going on seven years of marriage this year and have three children, three and under.
You could say life is hectic.
Did you know that census data show most marriages in America end around year eight? Though some call it the “seven-year itch”, around this time in married life the honeymoon phase begins to wear off. Children are typically introduced or are still in toddler years (in a traditional family development model) and new stressors start entering the family life. Financial stress, establishing new routines, and family roles amongst many other stressors can add up.
And as human nature would have it, our ability to keep patience and serve one another in love begins to wain.
My husband and I have definitely experienced many of those new transitions and stressors. Between taking on new jobs, living in a new place, learning how to parent, and create a family routine has definitely taken its toll. It hasn’t been easy. New opportunity means new responsibility and our characters are challenged. Will we adapt? Will we have grace with each other?
The gumballs connection
Recently, I communicated to my husband that I wanted gumballs in our front yard to be raked up before a social gathering happening the following weekend. We have this awful American Sweetgum tree that produces thousands of ugly, spiky brown gumballs that cover our entire yard in the wintertime. Other than just being an eye-sore, they were also dangerous as I would trip or lose my footing when I got out of my car or walked in the yard. I missed being able to walk to my mailbox barefoot without stepping on one of these spiked golfballs from hell.
So I asked him-
“Can we rake up the gumballs before the party?”
He sighed and responded, “I don’t really care about them. They’re fine.”
I proceeded to tell him my concerns and desire for them to be raked, but he really did not seem too interested in raking them up because we still had a thousand or two left on the tree. Why rake them up twice?
Immediately, I felt frustrated and thought- You know what, if he won’t do them, I’ll just do it myself or pay a teenager to.
I decided to let the conversation go.
I mentioned it a couple more times throughout the week but didn’t really receive much response and I didn’t want to nag him. In my mind, I planned to get it done whether he did it or not. Even from a young age, depending on someone else to do something for me wasn’t my strong suit. Growing up, I was used to people not following through on requests and having to do them myself so I went into autopilot without even realizing it.
My event was only a few days away. After a long day with my three toddlers, while my husband worked from home upstairs, I decided to take a nap for a little bit in the afternoon. I vaguely remember hearing our front open and shut and the garage door open, but I thought nothing of it. Then I heard:
SCHRAT, SCHRAT, SCHRAT.
What is that? I thought to myself half asleep. Right then, my phone buzzed and it was a text from my husband:
In the front.
Then it clicked. He was raking up the gumballs.
Oh. My. Gosh.
Not that my husband wasn’t a man of character or regularly selfish, but I was genuinely surprised.
He was being selfless.
After a hard day’s work, his first thought was to bless me and rake up the hated gumballs in our front yard. Was I dreaming?
My heart was so full and so blessed that he did this for me and it made me realize something: this heart posture is what will make our marriage last.
Raking up gumballs is not sexy. It’s not romantic, it’s not flowers or diamond jewelry. But it is love. It is selfless. It is serving your spouse and the little things they care about, even if it doesn’t seem as important to you.
It’s not about the action that is important, but how important you believe the person is that you are doing the action for.
Ladies and gents- we have a choice every day of our marriage:
Will we protect ourselves, ignore the communicated needs of our spouse, and protect our comfort over protecting our marriage?
To make a marriage last, your selfishness must die or your marriage will.
I believe that if we both have the heart to serve one another in selfless love, our marriage will not just survive, but thrive.
I decided to keep a couple of gumballs and display them as a reminder of my husband’s love for me. To remember a time where he could have been selfish, but wasn’t.
We didn’t get into this marriage because of what we could get out of it, but what we could give; what we could build together.
God knows we aren’t perfect, but I believe if we focus on what we can do to bless our spouse, it will bring a new life to our marriages like never before.
And we won’t even think to consider divorce during the seven-year itch.