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Love Is Not Enough

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

In today's podcast, Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace dig deep into questions of faithfulness in regards to the topics of commitment issues, pornography, and drifting apart in relationships. They remind us that love is not enough for a relationship and suggest tips on when to pursue a relationship or when to back away from one. 

Speaker 1:    Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Chris Grace:    Well, Alisa it's fun to start another podcast on just listening to some of the people out there that have written in and asked questions. And that's a fun part of our job, isn't it?

Alisa Grace:    Oh, I love it. You never know what they're going to come up with.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. You have no idea sometimes. And even you right now have no idea what I'm about to ask you, do you?

Alisa Grace:    I don't. I'm sitting with bated breath.

Chris Grace:    Okay. There we go. So people have written in, when they talk about relationships and the idea that they're dating somebody who has a hard time making a commitment to the relationship. They're worried about, they've been dating for a while now, but they just can't seem to make up their mind and they're worried. And so one person seems to be a little bit more ready to go. And the other person seems to be holding back. And so the question is actually one that's a general question. What advice Lisa, would you give to a person who's been in a long term relationship with somebody and there still cold feet? One person feels more ready to make the plunge and the other person just isn't there and they use a variety of excuses. So in this case, they're talking about they just aren't feeling that way yet. They're worried that they're not completely convinced that God is calling them together, finances, they bring up all these other things. But the other person was like, wait a minute. At what point is it too much and just too long? And do I just kind of give up?

Alisa Grace:    Gosh, that's a great question. We actually get that one quite often. I guess my first question would be, how long have you been dating? Because some people can move very quickly. And within a couple of months they're like, oh wow, this is the person I'm going to marry. And I want to say, I love you. And let's go ahead and get engaged. Whereas someone else may need at least a year, maybe two under their belt to really feel like they know the other person well enough. So that would be the first question I would ask is, how long have you been dating?

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Okay. And so the reason you want that is because there's a certain amount of time in which it's normal, right? How long is appropriate to date? I mean, would you say anything under six months is not long enough to get to know somebody to go through the seasons. And I think an author named Deborah Fileta talked about seasons.

Alisa Grace:    At least going through at least a year, seeing a summer, fall, winter, and spring, through your relationship. Right. And why is that important? Well, it's important because you want to use this time to really get to know the other person. How are they at holidays? How do they interact with their families? How do they celebrate holidays or special days? How do they handle disappointments or maybe grief that comes into life? How do they handle anger and conflict? How do they handle money? How do they like to vacation? Or what's a great date night for the other person? A lot of this, it's just not going to occur, all of it during that six months. So you want to see at least a year go by on the calendar. And we have friends that would say two years.

Chris Grace:    Okay. So now it's exceeded that. So in this case, the person is clearly dragging their feet. They've been dating five years. They have different reasons why, for this going on, but it's now exceeding five years. Would you recommend they continue in this? The relationship's kind of been, it sounds like off on, mostly on, but the other person really isn't there. Is that too long? And what advice would you give? And so I would say this, I would say you start with, so now we know that length and it's been five years. To me what's happening, it feels as if the other person, and it's the guy that's kind of with cold feet, is having a hard time reconciling what it means to be fully committed to somebody that maybe isn't a perfect person. And he said that before, it sounds like. So he said, well, I just, I don't have everything together, but I just thought it'd be different or I'm not quite sure if I have everything worked out, but neither do you. And is my love 100%? And sometimes it comes and goes and he worries about that.

Alisa Grace:    Wow. Well, I would think after five years, I would hope that he would have that figured out on his part. Either you can take me and accept me the way I am and love me and be happy for the next 60 years. Or we just need to call this game because five years would be an awful long time to invest and not have this figured out yet.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, I agree. And so I think for this listener, and if you find out, if you're out there in that situation, if it's been one or two years, I think it's probably normal. You may start realizing that by this time though, when it exceeds a couple of years, and now there's this still hesitancy, sometimes it just takes, I would recommend, taking that break. And making sure that break is pretty solid in order for that person to kind of figure themselves out and to figure this out. And if they can't do it or don't want to, I know this person sounds like they very love each other and they express that. It's just maybe a fear of commitment that needs to be worked on.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. Another option might be to see if they're willing to go into couples counseling,

Chris Grace:    Yeah. I agree.

Alisa Grace:    And get down to the root of this fear of commitment.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, I agree. All right, Lisa that's great. We have another question and this one it's actually really similar. And that is the reason that they're struggling is because she is worried about something. And she says this. She's been dating a Christian guy now, but he has actually been struggling with porn for a number of years. In fact, she wrote, he's been struggling with porn for almost 14 years up until about six months ago.

    And he's slightly older than me she said, but he has recently fallen back. He was fine. I guess this time it almost looks like six months without a problem. But he experienced what she called a downhill when he said he's watched porn a few times this past week due to an emotional struggle. Here's her question. Is it good or healthy for me to stay in a relationship with someone who has struggled for porn for this long? Or should I call it quits even though both of us are Christians and are told to forgive like Christ? He said, he cannot promise me that he will never do it again, but he still tempted every single day. Is it possible that people who've been exposed like this can actually get better?

Alisa Grace:    And they're dating or married?

Chris Grace:    They are dating.

Alisa Grace:    Ooh. Okay. Because that, for me, that really changes it. I think when you're talking about a dating situation, you are not called to love unconditionally in a husband, wife kind of way. You are still in a relationship where you are evaluating and judging, is this person a good match for me? Is this person going to be a good partner, a good husband, a good wife, a good parent down the road. And so what do you have to look at except patterns. And so what we always tell people who come in with these kind of questions is that you have to look at patterns, not potential because potential, you don't have any guarantee that they're going to meet that potential and rise to the occasion. So what you have to do is fall back and look at the patterns of behavior. And if a struggle with pornography, pornography use has been a pattern of behavior for 14 years, I'm saying that's probably not going to be a good match for you long term. What do you think?

Chris Grace:    Well, yeah. No, I agree with you. It's not going to be. Just, in general it seems like our culture does a whole lot better with telling people how to start relationships rather than how to end dating relationships.

Alisa Grace:    Good point.

Chris Grace:    It's like, oh, start this, do this, go out and date. But there times in which it's appropriate to end. And again, it sounds like this questioner is really struggling with the idea of ending this because they love them and they want to be with them. And they're hoping that this person gets better. I would say the best thing you can do in a situation like this is to actually call it out as the reason and hold the person accountable. So they've been off for six months and now all of a sudden, just a week or two ago, they've fallen. And they've told you that.

    To me, I think there needs to be I think, light brought to the situation and to be held accountable. And I think what you could have done six months ago is say, listen, if you struggle again, this is not going to be good for me. And I know that times you're going to fall, but you're actually, are they seeking help? Are they working on this? Do they have people in their lives? Do they have a accountability partner? Does he or she or he, in this case, does he have someone that he can turn to? And then why, we're all going to have emotional struggles, does he turn to this?

    And so I think the person probably needs to say, I need to see more than this. I need to see you not only make these commitments to counseling, commitments to going and seeing this for what it is. And you're going to need to held accountable. And therefore for me, we need to stop dating. And that's part of the accountability process, right? That means if you do fall during this time, then it's not giving me any confidence that either you're not working on it or not making progress. And so,

Alisa Grace:    And I think the bottom line is that there are times that love just is not enough. It's not enough to form a long lasting, healthy marriage.

Chris Grace:    What does that mean? Love is not enough. What...

Alisa Grace:    Well, you said that, like, yeah, well we've dated for this long. And I really love him and so I don't want to break up, I don't want to call it quits because I love him. And love can overcome all challenges. And there's just sometimes that just love is not enough. What I'm saying is agreeing with you, that seeing actual steps towards health, towards change and seeing it long term. Again, look at the patterns. Six months out of 14 years is not a long enough time to see a pattern. And what you saw is you saw them fall away from a pattern.

Chris Grace:    Yeah.

Alisa Grace:    And so yeah, I would be very wary.

Chris Grace:    And I think it was something you said there Alisa is really helpful. So you hold them accountable, but you also need to see behavior and actions falling in line with this commitment. And until then you're really doing is, I would think you'd be making a mistake if this person really isn't attempting to do this if they're not showing this pattern for you.

Alisa Grace:    Right. Long term.

Chris Grace:    And I think six months could be long enough if during that process, they put into place a number of these other things that I don't see that they've done. Right. Counseling and finding a accountability partner.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. I mean, but you want to see a longer term pattern if you're going to make a long term, lifelong commitment. You want to see more change. You want to see a longer pattern of the ability to overcome this addiction or whatever it is,

Chris Grace:    Yeah.

Alisa Grace:    Then six months.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. That's great. I think this is a bigger issue and we did do a podcast on this. And so go look for that. That way we just wanted to make sure we got this question in. Let's take one more question, right, that we're getting from listeners and something that we're hearing a lot at, when it comes to just, what is it like? It certain this, but in life, they talk about the challenges that they have. And they just didn't realize how busyness was impacting their relationship.

    And this person wrote in says, it feels like they're almost dating a stranger or sorry, married to a stranger. And while they were dating, they kind of knew a lot of each other. They talked a lot and they just well, have gone isolated. And so they feel isolated. What would you say to a couple who write in and say, I no longer feel as if I know my partner or I'm excited even when they come home, I feel like we're drifting, we've drifted to isolation. We used to talk and do everything together. Now we don't, and we not even been married that long. And I feel like we're falling away from each other.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. Gosh, that's good. And I think there's probably a couple of answers we would give. I would say, first of all, date your spouse again, date your husband, be your husband's girlfriend again. If you're the guy be your wife's boyfriend again. What did you do when you dated each other? You used text throughout the day. Connect that way. You used to do special things for them. You used to carve out time together from your busy schedules, because it was a priority to be together, right? It's like, gosh, no matter what's going on, I am carving out time this weekend to be with you because I've missed you all week. And so we need to carry that into marriage and continue dating and being the kind of spouse you would want to come home to.

Chris Grace:    Well, that's yeah, I like that. I would answer it very similarly. In social psychology there's this finding that says, people always wonder do our attitudes, they believe our attitudes, what we think, what we feel, what we believe actually influence and lead to our behavior. But what social psychology has found is our behavior oftentimes leads to our attitudes, our values. And so by putting that into practice, you would say, well, I'm feeling isolated they write. I don't feel as connected. I feel like we're drifting apart. And the question is for me, okay, what behaviors, like you said, did you used to do that have led you to this point where you... What would you have done or what would you do today if you were still feeling strongly in love and intimate and close and connected? Like, for example, would you run and meet them at the door or greet them with a kiss and a hug whenever you had been apart for a little while? Would you say it's so good to see you?

    Now go and do that. Try that. And in other words, sometimes we just do a behavior even though it doesn't feel like it. So Lisa I remember you gave advice to a friend one time and they said, this very question was like this. And you told her, what did you used to do when he came home? Or if you got home, what happened? He goes, well, I'd go up and we'd greet each other. And I'd say, I missed you and hug them.

Alisa Grace:    Exactly. And so what we told her to do, because she was the one that was talking to me, I told her then for the next 30 days, every day, when you get home before him, when he walks in the door, you run over to the door. Stop, whatever you're doing, set it aside, go over to the door and then give him a big hug, a big smooch and just say, oh, I'm so glad you're home. I missed you.

Chris Grace:    Now she said, by the way, there's no way. I don't feel that. I remember. I would feel like I'm not being authentic or real.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah, exactly. And maybe you don't, but follow the science is the big saying right now. Right. So I want you to behave, I told her. I want you to behave as though you feel that way and do what you would do if you did feel that way. And what she found is within a week, Chris, within a week, she began to look forward to him coming in the door where before she was just like very ambivalent and didn't even acknowledge it. Slowly she began to feel that excitement.

Chris Grace:    I remember you said that it was a week into this and all of a sudden she heard either him coming in, or I guess she heard him coming in and all of a sudden her heart kind of jumped a little bit and she went, oh, he's home.

Alisa Grace:    I am looking forward to him getting home is what she began to realize. And then she also began to see a change in him where he used to just come in, set his briefcase down or whatever it is and or backpack, go back into the room. Now he actually walked in and he looked for her because now he was expecting her to come up. Now he's looking for her and has an expression of eager anticipation that she's going to greet him with a hug and a kiss. And he kind of likes that. And so now she's actually receiving that facial feedback of, oh, wow. Now he's smiling coming in looking for me. That actually makes me want to do this a little more.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. So it wasn't immediate. They felt, I remember, it felt stilted or not really real, but they started to recreate what they used to feel like and what it was like when they were dating. And they just simply took those steps. And then it seemed like after their behavior, their feelings,

Alisa Grace:    Their feelings. Yeah.

Chris Grace:    Started to follow.

Alisa Grace:    Dr. John Gottman calls this rituals of shared meaning. And so he talks about how important it is to emotional connection, to have these rituals that you go through each day, the way you say goodbye to each other at the beginning of the day, if you're both leaving for the day for work or school. And then how you greet each other when you come home. What you do before you go to bed and that you reinforce those each time by doing those shared meanings. So what he recommends is before you leave each day, and then when you arrive home that you hug and you give each other a six second kiss.

Chris Grace:    Oh, okay.

Alisa Grace:    All right. That six second kiss. Because what he says is that it establishes, when you do it in the morning, it establishes the tone for the day of how you feel about each other. And when you come home and you do it, it sets the tone for the rest of the evening.

Chris Grace:    Well, that's good. Yeah. I'm sure some of you out there are like we never kiss for six seconds except for well, but the idea. So it's just a suggestion. There's other ways. You hug for a while. Maybe you're not really a hugger, but you just kind of look at each other or you just ask a question, what's on your plate for today? And how can be-

Alisa Grace:    How can I help you?

Chris Grace:    How can I help you? How can I be praying for you? And sometimes you can text them certain things that like you used to do. Hey, I'm thinking about you.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. Or I know you have that big meeting that you're going into this afternoon and I'm praying for you as you present your project.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Things that recapture that whether they are just those things you used to do, the cool things that now you can start doing and recapture some of those feelings and that could help and.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Alisa, good answer, man. I love that. Good question from the listener.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. So if you have a question that you would like for us to answer on the podcast, just send it to us. You can contact us through, and just click on the contact us link.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. And you can go to that website if you want to hear, like I said, we speak in lots of different places. And if you want to go hear wherever, certain parts of the country, and sometimes in Southern California at churches and schools, you're more than welcome to come attend some of these events that we do.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. This spring we're going to be in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Omaha, Nebraska, where else? Atlanta, Georgia.

Chris Grace:    Right.

Alisa Grace:    And so, gosh, we would love for you to come and join us at some of those marriage conferences.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. And even in the summer of 2022, up at forest home and,

Alisa Grace:    Oh yeah. Christian Conference Center.

Chris Grace:    Christian Conference Center. Check it out.

Alisa Grace:    Here in California.

Chris Grace:    All right. Well, it's good talking with you all and answering these questions has been fun. Keep writing them in.

Speaker 1:    Thanks for listening to the Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners, just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at and make a donation today.