Does absence really make the heart grow fonder or does it turn cold during separation? I recently got to test this old adage out with two back-to-back weekends of separation from my husband.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to Austin, TX alone to meet up with friends. I left behind 2 sick children and one brave dad. All weekend, my mind wandered back home. I imagined a fussy baby, a sassy tweenager, and dishes piled high. I considered what a sacrifice it was for my husband to take care of things back home as I enjoyed a weekend away.
With each phone call, I collected more evidence of his chivalry. The only remaining well child came home from school sick. The battery on the family car died while they were out to lunch. SEC football started and daddy had 3 kids to watch. Ants invaded the pantry. They missed church because the car battery died (again). He handled it all in stride without a complaint.
I enjoyed my time away. But, I really couldn’t wait to get home. I wanted to love on my sick kids. My desire to show my husband appreciation was strong. Absence, when accompanied by appreciation, did indeed make my heart grow fonder.
The following weekend, my husband went out of town for the state tennis tournament. He packed up his bags and tennis racquets and headed out for the weekend. He was gone the same number of days as me. He pursued a personal passion, just as I had done.
However, when met with difficult circumstances, I felt my heart growing cold instead of fond. I struggled through the weekend with a persistent cough. Barrett started some kind of clingy stage where any separation from me–even going to the bathroom–led to huge tears pooling up in the lenses of his glasses. I worked two long shifts. I didn’t sleep well because of my cough and clingy kid. And, I missed a night out with friends because of my single-parent status.
The longer I dwelt in my misery in light of his absence, the colder I became. I did not look forward to his return with the same longing as the previous weekend. Instead, I thought of all the ways he let me down. Absence, when coupled with disappointment, made my heart grow colder.
Similar scenarios on two different sides of the coin. Each of us spent a difficult weekend at home; each of us enjoyed a relaxing weekend away. Why did one cause love to grow hot, and the other, cold?
It is a battle fought in the mind.
If I can keep my thoughts directed at the positive things in our marriage while we are separated, I find myself looking forward to the time we can be together again. Conversely, if I focus on the things that are out of balance in my marriage, I no longer look forward to our reunion. I start to think about the disappointments and regrets. That is a very dangerous place to linger.
Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” The negative thoughts that created the cold shadow in my heart were little foxes. They threatened to spoil the blossoms and sour my love.
By recognizing my trending thoughts and their negative influence, I was able to shift my thoughts to all that is right and good about my man. My heart began to warm slowly until I was, once again, ready to meet my husband with affection.
Do you and your husband spend time apart? A work day, a business trip, or an extended leave–any absence is an opportunity for foxes to run through our garden. Capture them today; let your vineyard grow!
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as he grave.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7