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What Can a Hallmark Movie Teach Us about Starting Up the Energizing Cycle?

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Have you noticed how hugely popular Hallmark movies become during the holiday season at the end of every year? Though it’s not hard to find blogs and others online poking fun at the same basic storyline that seems to be the premise for every one of them—a career woman too busy for love, a handsome bachelor in a small town, spontaneous snowfall, and a dog—nevertheless, watching Hallmark movies seems to have become a holiday tradition up there with peppermint mochas and gingerbread houses.

But if all these movies are basically the same and their plot lines so predictable, why do so many people watch them?

Could it be that they feed the longing we have in our hearts for a loving and respectful relationship, the same longing we had and found fulfilled when we were first dating our eventual spouses?

In courtship, the love and respect in a relationship oftentimes comes much more naturally than it does later, years after the wedding, doesn’t it? Why is this? Similar to why we still watch these Hallmark movies over and over, it’s because we are acting on a longing that we recognize in our hearts.

She longs to respect and admire a man who loves and cares for her, therefore she looks for such a man. He wants to love and care for a woman who respects and admires him, therefore he looks for such a woman. They meet and it happens! It feels so natural! 

This is triggered by the other's initiating behavior of love and respect. That's what makes it easy. They view the other person as perfect for them! Though men do not naturally love unconditionally, they still long to do so, and their new love’s initiating behavior of respect for them makes it that much easier. And though women do not naturally lean toward showing unconditional respect, they still long to do so, and their new love’s initiating behavior of unconditional love for them makes it that much easier. 

Men and women truly are the perfect puzzle pieces created by the perfect Designer. Her longings meet his needs, and his longings meet her needs. These specific needs of men and women are addressed directly in Ephesians 5:33, which says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Though men and women both need love and respect, God designed in each one a need toward one specifically—she with a need for love and he for respect. And as already shared above, he also craves to give this love to a woman who shows him respect, and she longs to respect and admire a man who loves and cherishes her. We are a perfect match, per God’s design! It’s no wonder our courtship, wedding, and honeymoon days are so exciting! Should we do this independent of what the other person does, yes! The Rewarded Cycle.

But then the honeymoon comes to an end . . .

Unlike the conflict three-fourths of the way through the Hallmark movie that barely registers as a blip because the couple seems to overcome it in barely more than a commercial break, the real-life marital conflicts we go through are much more pressing—and half the time lead to a very unhappy ending for the couple.

Because after marriage, after the honeymoon wears off, when he begins to fall short of loving her in the ways that are meaningful to her and is harsh and angry with her, she loses admiration and respect for him. Likewise, when she begins to fall short of respecting him, and displays disgust and disdain, he loses fond feelings of love and affection for her.

And now they enter the Crazy Cycle. Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love. Ad nauseam. The Hallmark movie is over.

But does he still have a need to be respected and she a need to be loved and cherished? Certainly. And does he still desire to love and care for a woman who respects him, and she a desire to admire and respect a man who loves her? Without a doubt. Our Designer gave us these vulnerabilities and desires that no amount of progressive-leaning culture can wash us of. It’s who we are as men and women.

So what happened? Why do the two perfect-fitting puzzle pieces continue resisting each other, despite their desires and vulnerabilities matching so well?

Do we dare take a lesson from the clichéd Hallmark movie at the couple’s preordained moment of conflict an hour and a half into its running time? The resolution typically begins when one of the two decides to be mature enough to show respect even though she’s not feeling loved or make a gesture of love even though he’s not feeling very respected.

And by the time credits roll (and a fresh snow falls), her respect has motivated his love, and his love has motivated her respect—the Energizing Cycle!

In Romans 3, Paul makes it clear that no one is perfect: “There is none righteous, not even one. . . . All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vv. 10, 23). Why do we so often act as though this only applies to sins against God and not sins against each other? No one is perfect, and that means no one is perfect in a relationship. Even during the wonderful courtship that “felt perfect,” it actually wasn’t. Because it involved two imperfect people.

The biggest differences between the “perfect” courtship and the conflict-riddled marriage is the amount of grace we offer to each other and our willingness to be mature enough to love even when not feeling respected and to respect even when not feeling loved. When we are mature and offering more grace, our Crazy Cycles stop quickly. When we are less mature and not feeling as forgiving, our Crazy Cycles keep spinning and spinning.

Will you be mature and forgiving enough to get off the Crazy Cycle and start up the Energizing Cycle once again? 

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Emerson wrote, “She longs to respect and admire a man who loves and cares for her, therefore she looks for such a man. He wants to love and care for a woman who respects and admires him, therefore he looks for such a woman.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  2. Was there an “initiating behavior” of love and respect during the early stages of your relationship? How has that changed since? Why?
  3. We all know that no one is perfect, so why do we often expect perfection from our spouse when it comes to making us feel loved and respected? Is that fair?
  4. Does the Energizing Cycle need to be started up again in your marriage? Are you mature enough to start it up, independent of your spouse’s response?