“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Have you ever sat down and listed the many things that you love, as well as like, about your spouse? It could be a good thing to do. It would be a pretty easy thing to do just before your wedding —after all, that’s probably what led you to marry each other — the many things you loved about him or her. But how about later, after the wedding? It can become more difficult sometimes, can’t it? However, you might find it to be helpful.
One of the saddest things we see in so many marriages is that later — beyond the wedding and honeymoon period, the things you love(d) about each other become clouded over by the everyday distractions of life. These distractions (and differences that arise) can eventually pull us away from each other and work against our love if we aren’t careful.
And once this starts happening, LOVE is the last thing you find yourself communicating with your spouse. In fact, many married couples eventually treat each other as strangers or even as enemies.
We bring this up because of a movie called, “Fireproof.” The premise of the movie is that you “don’t leave your partner behind.”
Now that can apply to those who are Firefighters, in the midst of a raging fire, as well as those who are married, in the midst of raging trials. When a fire (or time of trial) breaks out (sometimes beginning with a slow burn and eventually growing), and the smoke (or distraction and irritation) starts to cloud you from seeing each other —in the confusion of the situation, you can find yourself going your own separate ways and eventually “leaving your partner behind.” It takes intentionality to make sure that doesn’t happen.
We highly recommend you seeing the movie for many different reasons but especially because of the many principles you can learn about marriage that it brings into the open.
We also recommend the book that they discuss throughout the movie titled, The Love Dare (published by B and H Publishing Group), which takes you on a 40 day Love/Dare journey. It’s a book that dares you to love your spouse as God shows throughout the Bible, and it can help you to once again communicate love to your marriage partner as well as help you to put your priorities back into place in your relationship with our God.
One of the “dares” that they pose in the book is that “instead of following your heart, you choose to lead it.” As they say, “The world says to follow your heart” but “the Bible says that ‘the heart is more deceitful than all else‘ (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will pursue that which feels right at the moment.”
A portion of what they write in this book on Day 14 says,
“One of the most important things you should learn on your Love Dare journey is that you should not just FOLLOW YOUR HEART. You should LEAD IT. You don’t let your feelings and emotions do the driving. You put them in the back seat and tell them where you’re going.
“In your marriage relationship, you won’t always feel like loving. It is unrealistic for your heart to constantly thrill at the thought of spending every moment with your spouse. Nobody can maintain a burning desire for togetherness just on feelings alone. But it’s also difficult to love someone only out of obligation.
“A newlywed takes delight in the one they now call their husband or wife. Their love is fresh and young, and the hopes for a romantic future linger in their hearts. However, there is something just as powerful as that fresh, new love. It comes from the decision to delight in your spouse and to love him or her no matter how long you’ve been married. In other words, love that chooses to love is just as powerful as love that feels like loving. In many ways, it’s a truer love because it has its eyes wide open.
“Left to ourselves, we’ll lean toward being disapproving of one another. She’ll get on your nerves. He’ll aggravate you. But our days are too short to waste in bickering over petty things. Life is too fleeting for that.
“Instead, it’s time to lead your heart to once again delight in your mate. ENJOY your spouse. Take her hand and seek her companionship. Desire his conversation. Remember why you fell in love with her personality. Accept this person —quirks and all —and welcome him or her back into your heart. Again, choose what you treasure.”
“Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life“ (Ecclesiastes 9:9 HCSB). “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God“ (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV). Ask the Lord to show you how to communicate love to your spouse with and without words. Consider these acts of love as “care packages for the heart.”
I (Steve) have to admit it is sometimes very difficult to know how to love Cindy the way she wants and needs it. Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages has revolutionized my approach. Cindy’s main “Love Language” is “Acts of Service” —meaning “doing things you know your spouse would like you to do.” This can mean cooking a meal for Cindy, vacuuming, or washing the dishes, to name just a few. One of the most direct routes to Cindy’s heart is when I take her care and fill it with gas and wash it (without being asked).
And I (Cindy) learned that Steve has two main “Love Languages” that are equally important to them. He feels especially cared for and loved by “Words of Affirmation” —verbally affirming him for even little things he does that no one else might notice, but when I tell him how much I appreciate and notice them, it is a great “care package” for his heart.
And also “Physical Touch” is important to him —when I do the initiating in big and small ways —to physically show him that I love him, it speaks his love language and bonds us together all the more in communicating love. These are not as important to me —but they are to him, so out of my love for him and my love to express the love God shows me, I do them. That’s part of what being marriage partners is all about.
What about your spouse? What can you do that will communicate love to him or her? If you’re stuck for ideas, look into the “Romantic Ideas” topic on the Marriage Missions web site. For husbands we have posted 100 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife HER Way, and for wives we have posted 100 Ways to Show Love to Your Husband HIS Way. They should give you many good ideas to help those of you who are romantically challenged (plus we have many other articles and web site links for additional ideas posted as well).
Steve and Cindy Wright
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