“All of us have undoubtedly made the statement ‘I don’t feel like it’ a number of times. This expression in this particular instance has nothing to do with whether or not we are having a coronary or a migraine. It has to do with something that we need to do and should do but we don’t want to do it. So we simply say, ‘I just don’t feel like it.’ Our feelings lead our actions.
“There’s been an ongoing conflict between doing our own thing and not doing things we really don’t want to do because we don’t feel like doing them. But the question is whether we can trust those feelings.” (Zig Ziglar)
This is absolutely true! We hear from spouses all the time who feel disconnected from their wife or husband because little effort is made on their spouse’s part to connect with them in meaningful ways. Their spouse does not “feel” like doing certain things so he or she doesn’t do them. Their feelings (of not wanting to do anything at that time) are driving their actions.
Do Your Feelings Drive Your Actions?
Yes, there are times each of us feel the need to rest, or “chill out.” But when there is a continual pattern going on where “I don’t feel like it” is showing up in their actions, there is a problem.
We’re told in the Bible to “Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). “Serve each other in humility” (1 Peter 5:5). As it pertains to marriage, that means going “the extra mile” in making our spouse feel cared for. It means, “Constantly look for ways to ease your spouse’s burdens in life by helping with chores and sharing responsibilities. We are to take delight in doing the dirty work without being asked or begged to do it.” (Dr Gary Rosberg)
Serving one another in love in your marriage, beyond what you “feel” like doing is demonstrated in different ways. As Al Jansen states (in his book, Your Marriage Masterpiece):
• “It means biting my tongue when I’d rather defend myself against something she said.
• It means getting up in the middle of the night when a child cries rather than pretending I don’t hear anything.
• Sometimes it means putting down my reading material and really listening when she wants to talk.
• It means taking over some chores when she’s got a hectic day.
• It means cleaning the kitchen Sunday evening rather than leaving the mess for her to face on Monday morning.
• And it means that when I’m accidentally exposed to porn while channel surfing in a hotel room far from home, I shut off the television because I won’t allow any impure thoughts to invade my marriage.”
Loving Beyond Feelings
To “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us” as we’re biblically told to do, means your feelings shouldn’t be the driving force behind whether or not you show your spouse love. But what if you don’t FEEL like doing loving things for your spouse? Or, what if you don’t even have feelings of love at all for your spouse? Both of these instances can drive us to want to hold back from showing love by the things we say or the things we do for our spouse.
It’s important to know that every marriage goes through ups and downs, and ebbs and flows, as far as your feelings towards one another.
“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful.
“And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” (Timothy J. Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God)
In his book, Timothy Keller gives this insight into this matter:
“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”
Feelings of Love
As far as it concerns the “feelings of love” LEADING the ways in our actions, Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote the following in their devotional, The Experience: Day by Day with God: A Devotional and Journal. It brings to light a lot of what we’re trying to say here:
“The problem with love is that so many people don’t have a clue what it is. Love is NOT a feeling. It’s an ATTITUDE. Basing love on emotions, as the world does, has caused immeasurable pain to numbers of couples. It’s like building a sand castle on the beach. It might look solid. But when the high tide rolls in, the sand castle isn’t strong enough to hold up, and it washes away. That’s why it’s important that we are loving our spouse the same as Christ does.
“…The world gives love a staggering amount of attention. Movies, songs, and books about love generate billions of dollars in revenue. The problem is love is presented as something to be ‘fallen into’ and ‘fallen out of.’ There’s no solution given for what to do when the emotion fails you and the warm fuzzies are gone —other than bailing out and starting over with someone else. You can recognize worldly love by how unpredictable it is.”
Demonstrating Actions Beyond Feelings
And then on another devotional page the Blackaby’s write on this same issue. They state:
“There’s a difference between God’s love and the love that the world knows. If we aren’t careful, Christians can adopt the world’s way of loving instead of God’s. The world says love is a feeling. When you stop feeling love for someone, it means you no longer love him or her. The world encourages you to love the lovable. But it gives you permission to hate your enemies. Jesus said loving those who love you is no great feat; it’s loving your enemies that prove you are a loving person (Matthew 5:46).
“Jesus commanded those who wanted to be his disciples to follow HIS standard for loving people rather than the world’s standard. Jesus directs us to love others in the same way he loves us. When Jesus saw us hopelessly enslaved to sin, he didn’t say, ‘I don’t feel like dying on a cross for them. I think I’ll wait until the feeling comes.’ He didn’t say, ‘I’ve tried and tried to love them but they always reject me. I give up!'”
Thank God (literally) that Jesus did not allow His feelings to drive His actions to tend to our needs. Additionally, remember that we are told (in Philippians 2) that “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” In other words, God is calling us to mature love, rather than worldly love.
“In Love” Feelings
We came across the following that was posted on a marriage counseling web site, which talks further on this issue. We agree with the author when she wrote:
“Without the intense ‘in love’ feelings, it’s not as easy to behave lovingly. [For some spouses, it may be that they do have “in love” feelings for their husband or wife, but they just don’t want to do what they should do for their marriage partner.] However, mature love means that you’ll give to your spouse when you don’t feel like giving. It means you can set your feelings aside to do what is best for the relationship.
“People who experience mature love hug and kiss their partner regardless of whether or not it gives them butterflies in their stomach. They set aside time for the spouse even when they’ve got a hundred and one other things they could be doing. They are willing to set aside money to go on dates. Plus, they do the things they used to do when they were first falling in love, regardless of whether or not they feel like it.
“They make a conscious decision every day to behave lovingly toward their spouse. And they don’t keep score about who contributes the most to the relationship. Instead, they give willingly without becoming resentful about what they are or aren’t getting back.
Demonstrating Mature Love
“People who experience mature love don’t indulge themselves in thoughts that aren’t productive to the relationship. They don’t focus on thinking about how difficult the marriage is, how their spouse isn’t the same person they married or how much better life would be if they were with someone else.
“Instead, in mature love, people can think about the positive aspects of their relationship. They focus on looking at what they can do to make their spouse’s day a little better. They think about what they can contribute to the relationship.” (Amy Morin, LCSW in the Marriagecounselingblog.com article, “The Truth about Falling Out of Love”)
In a healthy, love-driven marriage, spouses do things for each other whether they feel like it or not. Here are a few suggestions that we’ve come up with that we hope you will do. Steve will address the wives and I will address the husbands. But we hope you will flip the pronouns around and apply the same advice whether you are the husband or wife. Cindy will go first:
Loving in Action Beyond Feelings
• You and your wife are both tired and yet dinner needs to be cooked. Don’t slink away to watch TV or play video games, leaving her to do it alone. Instead, cook dinner yourself as a gift to your wife or at least ask her “what can I do to help?” and then help her. Or take her (and the family) out to dinner. Another alternative is you can order in.
(This same advice applies to doing house cleaning, cleaning the garage, lawn work, folding laundry, etc. Pull up the strength to get in there and join your spouse. Since Steve started doing this in our marriage, I feel more love from him than I ever could have felt otherwise.)
• You get up out of bed and don’t feel like making it. Even though you’re the last one to get up, it’s easier just to let the wife do it. Here’s our motto, “If you’re the last one out of bed; you’re the one to makes the bed.” Get up and make the bed. Do it whether you feel like it or not. Don’t just leave it for your wife to do.
(If your wife is the last one out of bed… consider making it as a little gift to start her day in a “feeling loved” kind of way. The same principle applies if the husband is the last one out of bed.)
Here are Some More Examples:
• You just want a little time to yourself. But you know your wife would love some time to herself too. However, the children need attention. Don’t put your needs above hers. Make a deal with your wife. We suggest that you flip a coin and whoever wins gets the first half hour to him or herself. After the half hour is up, you switch out spending time with the kids, giving the other an “alone time break.” It’s a win/win for both of you. Plus the children get quality time with one parent at a time.
• Your spouse’s love language (something you can do that speaks love to her) is receiving gifts. Find a small gift you can give to her and surprise her with it. Do it “just because” —not because it’s a holiday. Or perhaps her love language is acts of service. Find something you can do for her that would make her feel cared for because now she doesn’t have to do it.
Perhaps her love language is words of affirmation. Make it a point to say something nice TO her. Also, say something nice about her to others when she’s within earshot. Brag on her. If physical touch is what she longs for, go ahead… touch, smooch, and/or hug. Do something that will curl her toes in a “I feel good way.” Do what it takes to make her feel loved and cared for by you.
If it’s quality time that speaks love to her, look for something you can do WITH her that will fill her love tank. If you can’t think of anything, look in the Romantic Ideas topic. Or, you can suggest to your wife some things you can do together that she would enjoy, and then let her pick. Spend the time with her that would mean so much if you did. Invest the time and effort in showing your spouse, “I love you” in ways that are meaningful to her [or him].
• You’re going to a party or a family gathering together. Instead of going off to a separate room to spend time with the guys, find ways to connect with your wife. Flirt with her across the room. And/or make it a point to be with her sometimes where she is during the gathering. Hold hands; give a little kiss here or there. Make sure you connect with other people, but don’t neglect your wife during that time either. You can do both. (And the same is true for you wives.)
I (Steve) thought I’d write to the wives from the man’s perspective of a few things that can be very important to us — and when you override your feelings, or natural tendencies to do them for us, it blesses us beyond measure.
Note: This is my list; and while most husbands would agree, I realize not every husband would necessarily agree.]
Showing Love to Your Spouse
Number One: When you don’t feel like it you still show that you respect us. (You thought it was going to be sex, didn’t you?) I know the argument that if a man doesn’t “act” respectful then he doesn’t “deserve” respect. But something I learned a long time ago was the more Cindy treated me with respect (even when I didn’t deserve it) the more I wanted to act respectful. And I know she didn’t always feel like doing this.
She followed the principle in Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love and Respect:
“You practice love or respect because beyond your spouse you see Jesus Christ and you envision a moment when you will be standing before Him at the final judgment, realizing that your marriage was really a tool and a test to deepen and demonstrate your love and your reverence for your Lord.”
Number Two: Spiritual Oneness. It has always been important for me to know that Cindy and I are on the same page when it comes to our personal walk with Christ. In our 46+ years of marriage there have been things that could have rocked us to the very core of our relationship. They were things that could have taken us down. But because I knew Cindy’s walk with Christ was solid I also knew she wouldn’t let her feelings dictate her actions.
Here Are More:
Number Three: Side-by-Side Time. For me it has always been important to have some time every day to have Cindy just to physically be next to me. Sometimes we hold hands; sometimes we don’t. It is just having the physical presence of my wife that warms my heart. It makes me feel loved without ever having to say it.
Along, with this it has always been important to me to have Cindy go to bed with me at the same time. And earlier in our marriage this was hard for her because she really didn’t feel like it. This was especially true in the days when I had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to get ready for work. Often I would be in bed by 8:30. Sometime she’d have to read for an hour or two until she got tired, but she still did it because she loved me.
Number Four: Intimacy (most guys would just say, sex). Ladies, I know that for some of you this is the last thing in the world you ever feel like doing. I can understand that because for a number of years earlier in our marriage that’s the way it was for Cindy due to a very painful background. But eventually she came to realize she was punishing me for something I had no control over. She worked through these issues and allowed God to help heal our physical relationship. Over our 46 years of marriage I know there have been many times Cindy didn’t feel like “doing it,” but realized that I “needed it;” and I never felt like she was just doing it out of a sense of duty. And that’s what all husbands need.
Number Five: Focused Attention (if even for a few minutes). Before I retired it was common for me to come home from work after a stressful day and have Cindy come up and greet me with a kiss and ask me about my day. She wouldn’t accept, “fine” or “good” as an answer. She wanted to really know about my day and how I was doing. Five minutes of this really lifted my spirits and helped to dissipate any stress I carried into the house.
Now, we know there are exceptions to most aspects of life. Perhaps your spouse has been taking you for granted. Don’t let your feelings drive your actions. Quit nagging, and/or enabling your spouse to do what he or she shouldn’t. Ask God to show you how you can bless your spouse, but also bless your marriage by getting your spouse to invest time and effort into your relationship. Make it a matter of prayer and care, and being wise in your approach.
If you’ve tried all you know to do, then talk to a marriage-friendly counselor to help you come up with other strategies. Search, and keep searching for the answer. Enabling his or her bad behavior isn’t good (especially if abusive behavior is involved). Let God’s love compel you to help your spouse in the ways he or she TRULY needs it. Ask for and search diligently for help, if it is needed. The question is, what would Jesus do?
Love As God Does
But concerning this issue, we love how Ephesians 5:1-2 is worded in The Message:
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.“
In the ESV it is worded like this: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Again, don’t let your feelings drive your actions within your married life. “Be imitators of God” …realizing that demonstrating sacrificial love is all a part of what God expects of us.
Marriage involves doing many, many things that we don’t feel like doing for the sake of our marriage relationship. Don’t let your feelings drive your actions. Lead in love and love like God does. Most often your loving, sacrificial actions will produce feelings of love immediately, sooner, or later.
And whatever you do, make sure you do them with a good attitude. A bad attitude can taint even the best of actions. As we’re told in Philippians 2:14-15:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
May God richly bless your marriage.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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