“Affection is the kind of love that leaves you feeling close, safe and cared for.” That’s what an “expert” told us. So, that must mean that misguided affection could make a spouse feel the opposite. You feel distant, unsafe, and not cared about.
One of those ways is that some spouses devote so much of their time, energy and affection to their children, they don’t leave enough for their spouse. Their marriages become child-centered to such a degree that the marriage suffers a type of starvation for affection.
Be careful that you don’t allow that to happen; and if it IS happening, ask God to show you how to change that. Re-align your priorities. We’ve had to do that from time-to-time. That’s because children’s needs can often scream louder than your spouse’s. But it’s not healthy to your marriage relationship to allow everyone else’s needs to usurp your spouses. And the best thing is—your children will benefit all the more if your marriage is healthy.
“Keep your eyes on the prize. Your marriage is ‘the prize.’ Don’t let anything (even career or hobbies) take over first place. After the honeymoon, keep doing what you did to court before you got married. It’s been said, ‘Spoil your spouse…not your children.’ Your children are watching. They’ll love you for it. Leave a legacy. A healthy marriage teaches children important lessons about their own relationships.” (Judge James Sheridan)
Here’s another type of misguided affection: it’s where you care more for the needs and wants of other family members over your spouses needs. Of course, there are exceptions when family member is critically ill or injured. Even so, be careful not to continually neglect your spouse. Always keep in mind that the Bible tells those who marry to “leave” their family of origin to “cleave” to their spouse. They are to form a new family. You are joining forces with a new partner. He/she is now to be your first human priority.
It’s not that you abandon your family of origin. But:
“When you married, you vowed to depart from your old ways. You didn’t leave your first home in terms of love. But you did leave in terms of authority and priority. The most important human relationship now is the one you have with your husband or wife. More than that, your marriage is a living, breathing institution with a life of its own. It’s a covenant that is a symbol of God’s love for the church, His body of believers in Jesus Christ” (Dr Randy Carlson).
To help your spouse to feel “close, safe and cared for” by you make it a point to put your attention and tenderness in the right place. (You can read more on this issue in the Dealing with Parents and InLaws topic of this web site.)
“A marriage will be satisfying in the end only if we have worked along the way at keeping our spouse number one in our affections. How do you feel when you think someone or something else has a higher priority than you in your spouse’s affections? Pray: Lord, keep us from putting any other human relationship before each other.” (Margaret & Erling Wold)
Additional Misguided Affection
But that’s not all! You can also spend too much time with hobbies, work, careers, substances, other distractions, and friends. For that reason you don’t have enough left of yourself to help your spouse to feel “close, safe and cared for.” Balance is important. You married to “join together” —not to live separate lives. If your spouse is willing, make it happen.
If you have a spouse that is “guilty” of misguided affection, we hope you won’t give up. Instead, pray and act upon what the Lord tells you to do, until your spouse wakes up to realize the blessing that he or she is missing out on with his or her wrong priorities. Persevere (in a respectful way) with the same determination that Christ has persevered for you.
In the meantime, live out the scripture that says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left. Keep your foot from evil.“ (Proverbs 4:23-27)
Here’s what the New Life Application Bible says about these verses:
“Our heart —our feelings of love and desire —dictates to a great extent how we live because we always find time to do what we enjoy. Solomon tells us to guard our heart above all else, making sure we concentrate on those desires that will keep us on the right path. Make sure your affections push you in the right direction. Put boundaries on your desires; don’t go after everything you see. Look straight ahead, keep your eyes fixed on your goal, and don’t get sidetracked on detours that lead to sin.”
When we are starved for affection from our spouse, we can be tempted to find it elsewhere. But beware. The enemy of our faith would love to get you to look for affection in a place that will hurt your Heavenly Father’s heart. To prevent that from happening, there are a series of questions that Dr William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn provide in the book, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage that we hope you will honestly ask yourself as far as your relationship with someone of the opposite sex. In their book, they write,
“Here are some questions to help us identify misguided affections:
- Do you make special trips past her desk or his house?
- Do you manipulate situations so you can be alone in a secluded, private setting?
- Have you started taking special care of your dress, your physique, and overall appearance? Are you wearing an alluring scent?
- When you are around him or her, do you feel like you’re sixteen again?
- Do you find yourself thinking of this person frequently outside of the usual context of your contact?
- Do you purposely withhold some conversations, letters, or events from your spouse?
- Are you dreading accountability times? Do you not even have a person to whom you are accountable for your thoughts and actions?
- Do you find yourself thinking of this person instead of your spouse when you watch romantic movies?
- And do you think of this person during romantic activities with your spouse?
- Do you talk about him or her more than about your spouse?
- Is the love you feel for this person infatuation that wants to possess or is it true love? Real love wants the other to be all he or she can be in Christ. It’s a love that would never lead the loved one down a treacherous path away from God. Are you acting with his or her best interest at heart?
“Let an application of the Golden Rule help determine the state of your relationship. Ask yourself: ‘Would I want someone else to treat me as I’m treating this person’s spouse, even if only in my heart?'”
Steer your affections into the direction of living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. No matter what, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man“ (Proverbs 3:3-4).
May you diligently guard your heart, so you’re fully devoted to your spouse.
And in your marriage may you:
Find ways to show that you take delight in honoring your spouse. In Romans 12:10, we’re told to, ‘Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.’ Are you doing that? Are you showing genuine affection to your spouse? Do you affectionately express that you delight in being married to him or her in small and large ways? Do those around you witness the love and honor you give your spouse?
We completely agree with Dr Randy Carlson on this point:
“Except in the cases of mental illness and some extreme physical disabilities, God has equipped each of us to give and receive affection in our marriage. The excuse of ‘I’m just not an affectionate person’ doesn’t hold water. We’ve been commanded to love one another, which includes acts of love and touches of affection. When we don’t honor this command, we place ourselves and our spouse in a precarious place.” (From: “Starved for Affection”)
You know, we do all kinds of things that we never learned earlier in life. We may or may not have been wired that way. But don’t let that stop you. If you and your spouse are happy the way things are then you’re fine. But if not, then unlearn, relearn, or learn to do what you should do. Don’t stay stuck in unaffectionate patterns. You didn’t know how to walk or talk or do the job you’re now doing at some point in your life, but you eventually learned what you had to so you could do that. Well, this same principle can be applied to walking in love in your marriage.
To Redirect Misguided Affection
“The power of intimate touch cannot be underestimated. You must develop a healthy habit of touching each other beyond just the bedroom. Intimate touch is the love connection of holding hands, cuddling, stroking each other’s hair, arm, or leg, and other ways of showing physical affection. Too frequently I run into couples who do not touch each other, especially in public. Touch is the basis on which couples develop a healthy desire for each other. Touching your spouse protects you from wanting to touch others in a world of many lonely people. Touch protects you from finding a substitute for what God has designed for your marriage. Intimate touch does not have to include sexual touch, but we must develop a language of sexual touch with our spouse as well. If you learn to touch your spouse, you will lose your desire to touch someone else.” (Stephen Arterburn)
Plus, it’s fun. Steve and I are continually touching each other one way or another. We’re always giving each other “walk by affections.” When one of us is walking by the other, we enjoy showing affection. Sometimes it’s a quick kiss on the back of the neck. Or it might be a quick kiss on the lips, or a tender hug, or a squeeze here or there. We love flirting with each other and continually letting each other know that we love them. It fills our hearts with ever increasing love for each other. And that’s important when you’ve been married for over 50 years. You never know what tomorrow will bring. But, that’s true no matter how long you’ve been married!
So, guide your affections toward each other. Make it a point to “live a life of love” as we’re told to do in Ephesians 4. We hope you will!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
If you are not a subscriber to the Marriage Insights (emailed out weekly)
and you would like to receive them directly, click onto the following:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Insights