The Marriage Journey—Part Two: Pain and Disillusionment

Review Stage One: 

Enchantment (Previous Blog)

The first stage of the Marriage Journey is called enchantment and the attitude that best describes it is, “All I can see is what's good about you.” That’s because our longing to matter to someone is being touched by the other. We feel wonderful. We can’t help but “fall in love.”

The enchantment phase is characterized by optimism and blindness. We have high hopes that the feelings of love will last forever but our hope is built on blindness. We are unaware of the lies and baggage we bring into the relationship. Sooner or later our expectations will be disappointed. We get hurt. Anger grows. It is then that we enter the second stage of the marriage journey.


The second stage of the marriage journey—Pain and disillusionment—is represented by a wall. As Unresolved conflicts and hurts pile up so do the walls of resentment and self-protection. 


Stage Two

Pain and Disillusionment

Key Attitude: “All I can see is what’s bad about you.”

Wounds and disappointments come in marriage. They’re inevitable. Whether it takes weeks, months or years. No exceptions. We’re fallen, finite people. We can’t fill the God-shaped hole in a person’s heart. We will disappoint one another’s expectations.

Hurts and wounds come in all shapes and sizes—a harsh tone of voice, an unkind word, a shaming put-down, forgetting your anniversary again, her constant nagging, he’s caught with porn. Wounds fester. We rehearse them in our minds, “He's so selfish. All he thinks about is himself.” “She never says, ‘I’m sorry.’” We nurture our pain and marinate our anger. We unplug, disconnect and withdraw emotionally. Therefore, sooner or later, the enchantment fades. Disillusionment sets in. And the routines and boredom of everyday life drift in like a dark, cloudy day. He once loved to spend time with her. Now he’s preoccupied with work, sports and TV. The only time he shows her attention is when he wants sex. She tells him how used and alone she feels. He only hears criticism. Anger grows. Walls go up. She nags more. He keeps avoiding—longer hours at work, more time watching ESPN. The chasm of distance and bitterness widen. They’ve gone from being allies to enemies, from, “All I can see is what’s good about you” to “All I can see is what’s bad about you.”

Characterized by Pride and Pessimism

Stuck. That’s the feeling. Some stay stuck for years, some for decades. Some never get out. Pain fuels stubborn pride—finger-pointing and blame shifting give a false sense of power over the other. They ruminate on each other’s faults and failures. “What’s happened to you? You don’t make me feel the way you once did!” Optimism erodes into pessimism. The pain of unmet needs for love and respect feels unbearable. Rage. Slamming doors. Someone has an affair. Getting relief and revenge feels justified. Separation or the once unthinkable word, divorce loom on the horizon.  We want that enchantment feeling again. But there is another way. That’s the next stage. 

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Can you describe some of the disappointments you’re struggling with in your marriage? Can you see how those disappointments involve your longing for love and respect? Do you acknowledge those longings to yourself and to God or do you just get angry, ignore them, or something else? The longings are not selfish, it’s what we do when our spouse doesn’t give them to us. What do you do when you don’t get what you want? Do you believe your longings for love and respect could ultimately be a longing for God? How do you pray when you get hurt or disappointed or do you even think of God as the One who could meet your needs in those times of pain and disillusionment?