Screenshots taken from Netflix of Couple on the Backtrack

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Do you remember the last time your heart skipped a beat when you laid eyes on your spouse?

No, I’m not talking about the I’m-so-angry-with-you-I’m-going-to-have-a-heart-attack sort of heart stoppage, but the romantic I’m-so-in-love-my-heart-is-melting sort.

I confess . . . I can’t remember. I’ve been married for only five years, but the sizzle and spark of our relationship has already begun to wane, without me noticing.

Don’t get me wrong: I thank God for blessing me with a godly and loving husband who is also a good father to our son. But with time and familiarity, I’ve sometimes discovered myself forgetting all the reasons I said “I do” in the first place.

Which is where a Korean drama comes in.

Called Couple On the Backtrack, this 2017 show tells the story of a couple in their late 30s raising a toddler while struggling with marital strife and financial hardship. The husband faces immense pressure at work, the wife faces loneliness as a stay-home mother, and both feel isolated from one another.

When they reach a breaking point that culminates in divorce, both wake up one day to find that they are once again 20-year-old university students—the season in life when they first met and fell in love. Having a second shot at “true love”, the former lovers decide to each pursue other people.

Watching this show with my husband reminded me of three things about my marriage (spoiler alert!):

1. Why I fell in love with my husband in the first place

I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest K-drama fan. I tend to roll my eyes at the usual exaggerated falling-in-love scenes (cue romantic music as boy literally sweeps the girl off her feet to save her . . . their eyes lock, time slows, and they fall deeply in love).

But there was one thing about this show that resonated with me—the small moments of getting to know someone and observing his or her qualities.

In particular, two scenes stood out for me. In the first, a popular senior who is pursuing the wife shields her from the rain with his umbrella, getting his exposed shoulder soaked in the process. In the second, when the husband offers his arm to a ballet major whom he is pursuing, he secretly flexes his arm so that she can feel how muscular it is.

My husband and I laughed along to these scenes—before he sheepishly admitted that these were things he had done when we were dating. I was surprised—and reminded of how I used to admire his chivalry, protection, and willingness to forgo his comfort for mine. These are qualities he still possesses, but which I now take for granted.

It was just like in the show, where, over time, the husband and wife take each other’s help and presence as a given, instead of something to admire and love about each other for.

Perhaps it is an experience familiar to many married couples: when our feelings of tenderness for our spouse’s thoughtfulness fade away and are replaced by familiarity and routine. When we no longer see their acts of love and sacrifice as something special and to be cherished, but something they simply do. When we treat them as a housemate and co-helper to our children, forgetting that they are also our lover and best friend.

Over time, the husband and wife take each other’s help and presence as a given, instead of something to admire and love about each other for.

Perhaps that’s why there’s an entire book in the Bible dedicated to celebrating love and romance in marriage. Song of Solomon opens with this heady profession of love: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine” (1:2). Throughout the poem, the strong passion and admiration for each other are evident and, I believe, instructive to those of us who have been married for some time, for us to remember why and how much we love our spouse.

These days, when my husband shields me from the rain or holds my hand to support me, I try to consciously remember that he does so out of love, and to express my adoration and gratitude for him.

2. Why I need to listen first rather than react

In the show, many of the couple’s disagreements, and ultimately their divorce, stem from them feeling misunderstood and unappreciated. Not addressing these feelings can lead to a build-up of resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness that remain unresolved.

In one scene, the wife resents her husband for not answering her call when their son falls ill because he was entertaining an important client late at night; the husband is under immense pressure to please his client at all costs, but his wife suspects him of adultery. Both then express their hurt and exhaustion through unloving ways and words.

As believers, we may be familiar with James’ warning to us: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (1:19–20).

But when our husband forgets (again) to do what we’ve asked of him, or when our wife nags (again) about something that needs to be done, we may allow our anger to loosen our tongue, which “corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (3:5–6).

What does being quick to listen, and being slow to speak and anger look like?

For my husband and me, it means taking turns to talk—and to listen. It means sitting down when we’re both calm, setting aside our own ego and feelings, and hearing what the other has to say. It means laying down our pride and self-righteousness, and genuinely trying to see and understand each other’s point of view—even if it differs radically from ours.

Honestly, this is one of the hardest things for me to do, especially when I feel like I’m right. But as I ask the Lord for self-control to help me listen without speaking, this practice has borne much fruit. Not only does my husband feel heard and respected, but I have also started to see things from his perspective, and I now find it easier to understand and affirm him.

As I ask the Lord for self-control to help me listen without speaking, this practice has borne much fruit.

In the show, the couple learn this when they are 20-year-olds again no longer bound by the same trying circumstances. Having the space to listen not just to the words of the other, but also to the feelings simmering beneath the surface, they can address each other’s felt needs. For the wife, it’s her feeling that her husband is never there for her; for the husband, it’s him feeling unappreciated for being the breadwinner.

When they finally understand, empathise with, and apologise to each other, reconciliation begins to take place.

3. Why I must not look to my spouse to meet all my needs

The show has a happy ending, of course: the husband and wife forgive one another, reunite, and return to the present day with a stronger relationship, having resolved the underlying tensions in their marriage.

But I can’t help but wonder as the credits played: What happens when the husband has another difficult client to please, and the bills continue piling up? What if the wife’s urgent calls to her husband continue to go unanswered late into the night, and she begins to feel alone in raising their son once more? What if they face a crisis that their spouse cannot save them from?

Paul’s description of married life, about how we can get bogged down by the “affairs of this world” and the need to please our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:33–34), is apt here. The burdens of family and expectations of marriage are real: our children’s studies and future, financial matters, work pressures, health issues—the list goes on.

Unfortunately, we can feel like we’re alone when our partner is also fighting his or her own daily battles, and shouldering his or her own unique responsibilities in our marriage.

Yet, Jesus reminds us that we’re not alone. In Matthew 6:31–33, He calls us to look to our heavenly Father and to do His will: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Because God is with us, we don’t need to go through life alone, expecting our partner to always be there. Because God is able to meet all our needs, we don’t need to soldier on in our own strength, expecting our partners to save us and fulfil us.

We already have a great, powerful, holy, sovereign, and loving Father whom we can turn to—and who has given us His words so that we can grow closer to Him.

Because God is able to meet all our needs, we don’t need to soldier on in our own strength, expecting our partners to save us and fulfil us.

When we face financial strain, we can depend on and trust in His providence. When we worry over our children’s development and future, we can surrender them to Him, and also teach our children to trust in our heavenly Father.

The Big Picture of Marriage

Do you remember how and why you fell in love with your spouse and chose to get married?

Unlike the characters in the show, we don’t have the opportunity to renew our relationship outside the constraints of time—and we don’t need it.

This week, we can take some time, or even just a few minutes, to recall the tenderness and thankfulness we have for our spouse and all that they do for us and our family. We can slow down to listen to what they have to say, and to prioritise our own relationship with God before our marriage.

After all, the purpose of marriage isn’t just to survive the daily grind, ensure our kids get good grades and jobs, and secure the next promotion and bigger car. The big picture for all of life is to know, love, and glorify God, as Colossians 3:17 exhorts:

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wendy is a writer, wife, and mother. She was a TV journalist and radio producer once upon a time, but has since traded in the newsroom for the quiet joys of family life and writing for the Lord. She hopes that God will use what He’s given her to glorify Him through her life and words. Her perfect day includes peanut butter, spending time with Jesus, and having a good cuddle with her husband and son.
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