The Love Your Spouse Challenge and a Peek into Marriages

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Lately the #loveyourspouse challenge has taken off in my Facebook newsfeed. I see posts daily from people who have decided to share things they love about their husband or wife, tagging others to do the same. And in some ways, I like it more than a lot of the husband/wife stuff on social media.

It’s easy to be cynical about social media and romantic relationships. Surely it has set the bar high—but not always in healthy, authentic ways.

Sometimes the only side of romantic relationships that we see on social media is the flashy, romantic side. I fell down the rabbit hole of an engagement story website the other day, and it made me thankful Jonathan and I got engaged before engagements became such a big deal.

True—there have always been women who wanted to have their nails done before the photos of the diamond ring, but it’s nothing like the girls of today whose soon-to-be-fiances plan elaborate scavenger hunts leading up to the proposal that often include a chance to get hair, makeup, and nails done (and sometime even the perfect outfit). It makes me a little sweaty just to think about it.

When we were dating (way back in 2008), we paid about fifteen cents for each text (although there was a price difference between the incoming and outgoing, right?). When I went to New York for an internship, Jonathan would text me, and it was a big deal. We crammed as much as we could into those little texts because we had to pay for them. We saved most stuff for the phone (flip phones, so no email). And AIM combined with lengthy Facebook messages at the start of our relationship.

Things are different now. You see a very tiny peek into most people’s relationships though social media. Some couples almost live out their relationship on social media, sharing pictures and stories constantly. For others, the only proof that they are together is the group shots posted by friends. And then there are the “three years ago today” flashback posts where you can actually see the first social media evidence of the couple—a milestone in itself.

And even in our posts, we praise the big gestures, the ones we can show with pictures—the bouquet of flowers after a rough day, the romantic dinner he made, the perfect gift she bought him. Husbands praise their wives for their hot bodies and women praise their husbands for taking the kids for a few days so they can get away. These are all absolutely wonderful things. But sometimes they are just snapshots and don’t show the depth of a relationship. Sometimes they leave us wishing our own relationships were just flowers and favors and appreciation. Sometimes we want to edit out the arguments or the times we just feel “blah” about our own relationships.

And then there are the birthday and anniversary posts—the ones where boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, praise one another in sweeping statements. I’ll admit—I really like these. They almost seem like the Proverbs equivalent of city gates—a place where people sing one another’s praises. I’m sure there’s also the gift dilemma when it comes to these posts—the guy who mocks these posts mercilessly while secretly wishing his girlfriend would post one for him. But overall, I like these little glimpses of praise and happiness that pop up in my newsfeed.

These loveyourspouse challenge is more interesting though because it forces people to dig a little deeper. I’ve been encouraged and challenged by some of the stories people tell. I like this slightly more nuanced glimpse into relationships.

Some of the couples I’ve seen get divorced in the last few years seemed to have rock solid marriages and to be exemplary individuals. In most cases, if you told me only one spouse was at fault in the divorce, I wouldn’t know which one to pick. I almost wish that people  had to publish a brief explanatory sentence when they got divorced.  Divorces force us to look twice at our own marriages. If that divorced couple was so happy three years ago, it decreases my certainty a little bit. So there’s a part of me that wants to know a brief version of what happened so I can buttress my own marriage or make changes in myself or maybe just stop worrying because it doesn’t apply to me.

Anyway I’ve appreciated this particular challenge because it has shown me all the different varieties marriages take. I’ve seen glimpses into people’s first dates and the daily sacrifices they make for one another. I’ve gleaned little tidbits of advice at times.

I don’t have tons of marriage advice, and while I’m happily married, I can’t help but have doubts as marriages around me fail. I don’t think we should share all the intimate details of our marriages or all the negative things about our spouses (or ourselves), but I do think seeing what other people love about their marriage and their spouse can make us look at our own marriage for the things we love.

There’s an old saying that if we put everyone’s problems in a hat and could choose whichever ones we wanted, we would still probably pick our own. I think the same is usually true in happy marriages—we would still choose our spouse with all his or her failings and annoying habits. I read an article a while back about how women in their forties were often having affairs, but then they always wanted to go back to their own spouse. They say you have to focus on the 80% that’s good if you want a happy marriage, instead of spending your energy on the other 20%. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praising that 80% on social media.