I repeatedly referred to love and affection separately whenever I speak. That’s intentional—because love and affection are not the same thing.
Love is a biblical mandate and is foundational to a successful marriage. I’m convinced every reasonably healthy person is equipped to love others the way God designed. You choose to love someone else by putting their needs above your own. It’s a commitment of your will.
Affection, however, is a step beyond love. Affection takes the loving relationship between a man and woman in marriage into the deeper realm of tender expressions that result in feelings of closeness, passion, and security. Affection takes work because it requires knowledge of what makes the other person tick.
You show affection when you perceive and appreciate what your spouse needs and meet those needs in a way he or she can understand. Affection results in marital contentment, intimacy, satisfaction, anticipation, and joy all wrapped into one package.
• Affection isn’t sexual, but it naturally leads to sexual satisfaction.
• Affection isn’t time, but it requires time to accomplish.
• Affection isn’t communication, but without communication there can be no affection.
• Affection isn’t romance, but it typically involves romantic spontaneity, creativity, and fun.
Moreover, when affection is present in your relationship, you just know it. If you don’t feel it, you probably don’t have it. Here’s my definition of affection:
Affection is the kind of love that leaves you feeling close, safe, and cared for. In marriage, you feel the passion, and the loving acts become person specific. Affection is also important between parent and child. An affectionate family makes a child feel close, safe, and cared for as well. Affection must be an ingredient in all healthy personal relationships, including those with friends and extended family.
The Bible describes love in terms of action, not feelings. Look at the familiar description of love from 1 Corinthians 13, and notice all of the actions required:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails“ (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV).
I like to say (though it may be grammatically flawed) that affection is “love as actions” —actions that leave your spouse feeling really good about you and your marriage. Affection is one of the out-workings of love: Love is the commitment and the action, and affection is the safe, secure feeling that results. Strong marriages thrive when both the behavior of love and the feelings of affection are present. This “love as actions” is what moves you the eighteen inches from your head to your heart:
• Love is patient. Affection is empathetic.
• Love is kind. Affection is tender.
• Love is not rude. Affection thoughtfully apologizes for its words.
• Love is not self-seeking. Affection rubs the back of a discouraged spouse.
• Love does not delight in evil. Affection carefully and privately uncovers sin and helps the person back onto his feet.
• Love never fails. Affection under-girds and confirms your unfailing love for your spouse.
The above article comes from the book, Starved for Affection, written by Dr Randy Carlson, published by Tyndale House Publishers. In this book you’ll find practical help and encouragement to strengthen your connection with your mate in all aspects of your relationship. And in doing so you’ll find the table spread with a banquet of blessings that God as prepared just for you.
Dr Carlson is a licensed marriage and family therapist and is the CEO of Family Life Communications. He hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, Intentional Living with Randy Carlson. The web site for this program is Theintentionallife.com.