When Romance Falls Short

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As I sat on the couch recently reflecting on my marriage, I wept and cried out to the Lord wondering, “What has happened? Why don’t I feel as pursued by him as I once did? Why do I long for greater intimacy in my marriage?”

This scene has not been uncommon in our five and half years of marriage. But why? Because my husband is selfish and unthoughtful? Absolutely not! My husband is genuinely a gift from the Lord. He is tender, compassionate, an amazing listener, and a man after God’s own heart. I am truly undeserving in many ways of such a companion! Yet, in nearly every season of married life, I go through bouts where I feel a deep ache in my soul, wondering what has happened to the romance and love we first felt. Why do I sometimes still feel lonely? 

These questions have driven me to seek some sort of resolution. And the answers have come, not from “How-To” marriage books or some special conference, but from another love story — the greatest love story ever told. A story about a marriage spanning from the beginning of time. And if you’re asking similar questions, whether you are married or single, maybe you, too, can find encouragement in this story.

The Original Design for Marriage

After creating the world, God planted a perfect garden in Eden and placed the man He had formed (Gen. 2:8). And this man, Adam, had perfect fellowship with God: no sin, no shame, only harmony and enjoyment of his Creator. Yet, God still saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so He created a helper for him, Eve. Now joined as one flesh in the first example of holy matrimony, Adam and Eve walked naked and unashamed before God and each other. It was quite literally perfection – a triune enjoyment of the relationship between God, male, and female.

Simply put, God created a world in which death, strife, and sin did not exist, and humans had faultless relationships, both with God and with each other. Can you imagine the bliss of such a design? No conflict or loneliness with your neighbor or spouse, no selfishness impeding your relationships, and most importantly, no shame of sin before each other and God. That desire in all of us for unblemished and unified relationships was not a mistake; it was God’s design for all people made in His image to enjoy such glorious fellowship with Him and one another. 

But this isn’t our reality, is it? So what happened? 

The Fall of Humanity

The story takes a dramatic turn for the worse when Adam and Eve distrust God’s perfect intentions for them and their happiness. Fueled by their distrust in God, they disobeyed Him and rebelled against His righteous rule. And what happens next in the story is truly devastating: Their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked, so they hid themselves from God’s presence (Gen. 3:7-8). This wasn’t some random game of hide-and-seek with God. This was evidence of the first broken relationship between humanity and their Creator, and broken relationship between husband and wife: they experienced relational shame for the very first time.  

Romans 5:12 says,

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”

From this point onward, all of God’s creation, including the relationships He had established, would be broken. Sin would spoil what once was perfect. Example after example, both in the Bible and in our own experiences, confirm this reality. And this reality bleeds into all our relationships, including our romantic ones.

The spouse you trust betrays you.

Your fiance changes their mind because you’re “not enough.”

You’re in your thirties and still not married like you thought you’d be. 

The spouse you cherish doesn’t love you back with equal intensity.

You desire to be fully known and loved but still feel ashamed.

The person you once longed to marry doesn’t delight in you like they once did. 

Your high school sweetheart tragically passes away unexpectedly. 

These examples, and countless others, are sadly now part of everyday life in a fallen world. As I already confessed, I, too, feel the effects of brokenness in my own marriage. I feel the pang of loneliness even when my husband sits right next to me on the couch. I feel the ache for more romance in our relationship because no matter what he does, it’s not quite enough. Or I feel the intense longing for someone to fully know and understand me. And if I feel these things, I can probably assume you do, too.

So, is that it? Because of the fall, are we all stuck in a forever cycle of longing for deeper intimacy in our romantic relationships but never ending up fully satisfied?

No, brother and sister, because God has been writing a better love story since the beginning. 

The True and Better Husband

Amid all the sin and brokenness, there is hope in a better narrative. The Bible is more than a collection of stories and events; it’s actually one story, a grand cosmic love story woven throughout all of history. Not a love story between a man and woman but one of God relentlessly pursuing reconciliation with His people. The Scriptures often speak of God as a husband and His people as a bride (Isaiah 62:3-5; Jer. 31:32). And at the climax of this story is God Himself, coming to reconcile His wayward bride. (Eph. 5:25-33). 

How does He do this? Through love. Even in the thick of man’s rebellion, sin, and brokenness, Jesus chose to love us. He came and lived a perfectly obedient life for us, He paid the debt we owed for our sin by dying for us, and He defeated death in His resurrection, making all things new. It is through this sacrificial love that Jesus reconciled all who believe to Himself. He took away the obstacle that stood in the way of our relationship with God: namely, sin and death. And anyone who trusts is now called the Bride of Christ. 

So, it’s because of Jesus that we, whether single or married, now have a better husband. 

Because Jesus was forsaken by God on the cross on your behalf, you will never have to feel that deep of a loneliness for yourself. He is the only husband who will never leave you nor forsake you (Matt. 27:46; Heb. 13:5).

Because Jesus died for you while you were yet a sinner and you had nothing to offer Him, you never have to worry about Him thinking you’re “not enough” (Rom. 5:8).

Because Jesus is spiritually married to the earthly single, you don’t have to fret that you may never get married. You already have the best Husband in Jesus (Eph. 5:25).

Because Jesus loves His bride with such voracious intensity, you don’t have to find your satisfaction in an earthly husband’s limited love (Jer. 31:3; Eph. 2:4–5).

Because Jesus knows every thought and intention of your heart and loves you anyway, you no longer have to be ashamed (Rom 8:1; 10:11).

Because Jesus exults over you with enamoured delight, you don’t need your finite spouse’s delight in you to bring you satisfaction (Zeph. 3:17; Is. 62:3–5).

Because Jesus has already died, risen from the grave, and lives eternally, you can find comfort in Him even when your earthly spouse passes away (Matt. 28:20).

Jesus is the true and better Husband who has come to redeem His bride and cherish her forever. 

There Is Hope

Through the lens of this narrative, we find hope in this greater love story when our earthly romance falls short (because it will). In every fault a significant other has, no matter how small or great it is, we can always find our needs perfectly met in Jesus. 

And, because we know that earthly matrimony will never fully satisfy our souls like a relationship with Jesus can, we can stop expecting our spouse to love us perfectly. We are freed to love them unabashedly because we have a true and better Husband who has loved us unto death. 

So the next time I find myself weeping over my marriage, I can mourn over the brokenness but rejoice in hope. When romance falls short, I can stop looking to my husband to fill my cup and instead look to the Maker of my cup and finally be satisfied in the way I was always meant to be. 

Now, this is good news. 

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