Earlier this year, our church parish hosted a date night for couples, which included dinner, dancing, and a talk by a married couple. During their talk, the speaker couple explained that marriage goes in a cycle – from the Honeymoon Stage to Disillusionment. When you’re in Disillusionment, you have to make a choice or decision – to divorce, separate, or stay. Assuming you choose to stay and manage to work things out, you eventually reach True Joy.
According to Google’s dictionary, disillusionment is “a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be”. The first time I felt that in my marriage was not long after the wedding, ironically enough. But just a couple months later, we were back in True Joy.
That talk at my church was a big epiphany for me, because I can look back and see several times when were were in Disillusionment, and just as many times that we were in True Joy. It really is true – marriage has a cycle.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to say in True Joy forever. But I’ve realized that when we’re in Disillusionment, it’s the perfect time to challenge ourselves to do more and put more effort into our marriage. So many couples get so discouraged in Disillusionment that it leads to divorce, and while I know there are exceptions, I do think that many marriages could be saved by just doing simple things. If you’re at a loss as to what to do for your spouse, focus on their love languages. You really can’t go wrong.
Logan and I always seem to really struggle when I’m pregnant, and then we struggle again when our babies are around 6 months old. By that point, I’m pretty burnt out on breastfeeding and trying to keep up with everything. When our middle son was around that age, Logan and I hit a rough patch. I felt overwhelmed with trying to keep up with the kids, bills, housework, etc., and it seemed like Logan was expecting too much of me. Basically, we were not on the same page about anything.
One night, we had a tiff over something – I’ll spare the details but let’s just leave it at this: I totally understood why people divorce. I had never felt so under-appreciated and distant from the one person who was supposed to be my partner in life. (Logan has felt the same way about me at times, too, because it’s definitely a two-way street.)
We’ve had several other times like that in our marriage, and it always feels the same – like we’re complete strangers. I wonder why the heck we got married, why we’re even together, and wonder if it’s always going to be this way. It’s a pretty miserable feeling, and I cannot imagine having another issue to go along with that, like abuse or addiction. (But I know those situations are much more common than we think.)
The couple who spoke about the cycle of marriage was right – it’s a cycle. Just like you can’t stay in True Joy forever, you don’t stay in Disillusionment forever. You have a choice. You can run away – which often feels like the easiest solution, I’m not going to lie – or you can stick it out and make it work.
Like I said before, a lot of times it doesn’t take much to turn things around. Sure, it feels like a lot of work, but it’s not. Sometimes the hardest part is acknowledging how prideful I’m being in a certain situation, or to realize I’m subconsciously keeping score when it comes to how many responsibilities we each have, or to just go to Confession because I’m being so bitter and resentful I can’t think rationally.
Just start with one small thing, and go from there. Don’t believe the lie that you’re stuck in an unhappy marriage or that there’s no possible way to reach True Joy. It’s definitely possible, and it does take work, but once you’re over that “hump”, so to speak, you’ll have a hard time remembering why you were ever disillusioned in the first place.
Once you realize that marriage really does continue in this cycle – a vicious cycle, it seems sometimes – you’ll be prepared for the next time Disillusionment rolls around. You will know from experience that although it feels like it will last forever, it won’t, and that you will make the decision to stay in it together until you finally reach True Joy again.