Love is an Action Verb

This week our Marriage Ministry at church began a series by Andy Stanley called Staying In Love. He says falling in love is the easy part, because you only need a pulse. But staying in love requires much more.

Our culture allows for an easy out if a relationship has struggles and he explains many have a very low pain threshold when it comes to working through the inevitable relationship struggles all couples face. Many end a relationship because they just don’t get along anymore. Others say they have lost their loving feelings.

Andy points out love starts as a feeling, but later should become an action. That is, love should be a verb and not a noun. As a noun, falling IN LOVE, is often based on chemistry, beauty, and the best behavior people maintain during the dating phase.

But Andy reminds us love is an action verb and to love one another as Christ loved the church.

  • We need to actively seek HOW to love our spouse.
  • We need to selflessly LOVE them.

And when we do, we build the core of a truly remarkable relationship. We are giving to one another and the very act of giving creates an atmosphere for love to be returned.

Photo by Joanna Kopik

Photo by Joanna Kopik

I have often used this illustration: Imagine that you are each a plant, with a unique need for certain ingredients to survive. You can check out my previous blog, “Water Often.” People need affirmation, care, help, understanding, and physical love just as plants need soil, water, nutrients, and sunlight. If you do not give these ingredients in the right quantity, your spouse cannot flourish and will die just like a deprived plant. You are the only one who can give these ingredients to your spouse. He depends on you to love and nurture him in his unique way.

The message is this: pay careful attention to what your spouse needs and lovingly supply their needs. Become a student of what your spouse needs to grow and flourish.

Love in action requires us to do the things that demonstrate our love. Expressing love to your spouse verbally may be good, and even needed. It is important to tell your spouse that you do indeed love them. “Honey, I love you”.

But if the words are never followed by action, the words become meaningless and hollow. So not only should we tell our spouse we love them, we must also selflessly do the things that show them. Ask them what things you could do on a regular basis to show them your love, and actively work at giving to them the very things that demonstrate love.

In this case, helping them turn green is a loving thing!

The Importance of Friends

A while ago we took a trip to the beach with friends for a few days and I was deciding which games to bring to pass the time since it looked like there would be rain.  That led me to ponder how much fun we were likely to have no matter what we did!   We went with 2 of the couples we meet with weekly.  One of the husbands, a teacher,  celebrated the last day of the school year.  The rest of us were just happy to get away from the daily grind for a while.

I am so thankful for the couples we meet with weekly.  We talk a lot on this blog about communication between husband and wife, about selfless service, listening and meeting needs.  That is all so essential for a good relationship.  But have you ever thought about how important it is to have other like-minded committed couples that you know well, and who know you well too?  They can add so much to our lives that we’d miss without them.

It takes time to develop the closeness I’m talking about but it is worth it.  Being a good friend will go a long way towards building  the trust needed  to have a relationship where all couples can share openly.  We all tend to open up at different rates depending on our background, but a good friend will be patient.

The benefits go both ways when couples relate on a deeper level.

Of course there are the fun times like we had.  Laughing and joking around lower our stress levels.  Often, playing together will open us up for sharing of trials and struggles, and problem solving together.

Sometimes we include families and other friends.  Then we get to see our friends relating to their loved ones, deepening our knowledge of them.  We begin to see creative and amazing ways they relate to their family; things we may want to adopt for ourselves to improve.  In the process we will notice hurtful or destructive habits and behaviors also.  If our relationship is close we can see those blind spots, point them out gently, and share ideas about what might work better.

And most importantly, we will know how to specifically pray for our friends.  We’ll be able to uphold them in their struggles and help in times of need.  In turn, they will do the same for us!  Our marriages will be improved and our lives enriched in the way that only serving others can do.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.       Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Many of have been to the Doctor’s office for one thing or another over the years.  We get a physical exam and we get poked and prodded here and there.  On occasion, we leave with a prescription for just the right medication that will fix what ails us.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could get a Doctor’s prescription for our marriage, some practical advice to apply on a daily basis that would help us to be close to our spouse, something that would provide the basic ground rules to get us to the happily ever after part?  I checked my book shelf and guess what?  The Doctor is in!

In his book Love Life  For Every Married Couple, Ed Wheat, M.D. set out four basic principles that will enable us to have a superb marriage.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  A superb marriage.  Fortunately, this author has simplified the process for us.  As a matter of fact, he has reduced the complexities of having a fulfilling love life to four simple actions.  Let’s take a look at what the good doctor has to say, with my editorial comments, of course.

Here is his B.  E.  S.  T. prescription:

  • Blessing – Our words, what we say and how we say it, set a tone for our relationship.  We can be totally in control of what we say.  We are reminded from scripture that we should not let any unwholesome word proceed out of our mouths but only such a word that edifies the listener.  We should speak well of our spouse even when we are confronted with harsh words that are critical and even insulting.  You can also bless with acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and appreciation.  Dr. Wheat reminds us to be a blessing by praying for our spouse.  In thought, word, and in deed, be a blessing to your beloved.
  • Edifying – Here we are told that it is essential to lift one another up.  This concept can best be understood in the context of cheerleader.  You need to be the most supportive and positive person to your spouse.  Notice their every success and build their self-worth.  You are the voice that says “I believe in you” and “You can do it.”  You are vigilant to look for things for which you can praise your spouse, and things that make you thankful.  And you are generous with your verbal expression of that praise.  We need to be thoughtful about what we speak and ask ourselves, “Does this build up, or tear down?  What can I say that will encourage, strengthen and build up my spouse?”  The Doctor reminds wives to show respect and esteem their husbands and affirm and appreciate them.

Stay tuned.  Next time we’ll look further into the Doctor’s prescription.

Daily Doses

Isn’t it amazing how much we love to hear words of encouragement?  All too often our day is overloaded with critical comments.  We hear how we haven’t done this or that correctly, or we missed completing a certain task on time at work, or why didn’t we do something a particular way.  Before you know it, we are overwhelmed with feeling inadequate.  The negatives are surely outweighing the positives.  Come to think of it, what positives?

How would you like to make a huge impact on your spouse every day?  Well, it really is quite simple.  Think of something that you appreciate about your spouse and just send them a text.  “I really love it when you wear that special perfume!  It makes me think about you all day.  I can’t wait to see you later.  Love you, Your snuggle Bear!”  Now that may sound silly, but love can be silly.  It can be fun. It can make you laugh and put a big smile on your face.  Be happy together.  Send a crazy endearing little text once a day and see how it can light up your love for each other.  Wouldn’t it be great to send a daily dose of love and affection?  Well, the reality is that you can.  Just decide to do it.

How about taking a picture with your phone of your wedding ring on your hand and sending it to your spouse with a text that says, “Every time I see this ring it reminds me of you and I think to myself how happy I am that I married you.  I love you more each day.”  Is that mushy or what?  Sure it is.  But love should be mushy.  It’s cuddles and giggles and laughter and fun.  Life is too short to be serious all the time.  Sure, we need to pay the bills, and fix those broken things around the house.  But we’ll have those kinds of issues to deal with on a regular basis.  We can put some light spots in along the way by showing loving affection to each other daily.

Try a Daily Dose of love and see what happens.  You may find yourself feeling those mushy love feelings.  Oh my!

A Great Marriage – The Ten Keys Part 2

Last week we looked at the first five keys from the book How to Make A Good Marriage Great –Ten Keys to a Joyous Relationship  by Victor Cline, Ph.D.

Now we’ll look at the remaining five keys.  Here is a summary with my added editorial comments:

  • Sixth Key –  Develop Effective Communication / Negotiation Skills  –  Successful communication with our spouse is essential to a happy marriage and comes with practice, patience, and hard work.  Become a student of the best communication style with your spouse.   The good Dr. has these suggestions:
    • Get quiet time ALONE together, even if that takes an overnight away together. Never discuss critical issues when tired or exhausted.
    • Be a good listener without interrupting.
    •  Don’t flee or run away, rather stick it out and work at issues peacefully.
    • Be honest with each other sharing true and honest feelings.
    • Avoid blame statements and convey how certain actions or statements are making YOU feel.
    •  Remember to be positive and express your thankfulness for what is right in your relationship.
    • Avoid criticism.
    • If it is too difficult to discuss, try writing it out and sharing this letter with your spouse so you can discuss it.  This will allow you to share all your feeling without being “run over.”
  • Seventh Key – The “Extra Dimension”  –  Remember God desires you to have a richly blessed relationship.  Pray for each other and pray together as you work at growing your relationship.  Pray that the Lord will bless you with a patient and understanding spirit and that you learn how to selflessly love your spouse.
  • Eighth Key  –  Acute Stress can Kill Love – Deal with It!  –  Our lives are filled with a variety of stressors including the usual issues of small children (or larger teenage types), job or lack of a job, financial stress, health issues, or family and extended family issues, to name a few.  These can add extreme pressure on even the best of relationships.  But don’t quit.  Look at these times as the “white water days” of your marriage.  Much like a river raft trip, there are calm water days and white water days.  During the white water days you need to really hang on.  Find ways to simplify and de-stress your lives.  I believe that God will restore us to the calm water but remember to love each other even in your white water days, for then you need each other most.
  • Ninth Key – Participate in a Marriage Enrichment / Marriage Encounter Experience – Take time to grow in your knowledge together.  A weekend seminar together should be a major priority.  Find a marriage book to read and discuss together.
  • Tenth Key – Pair-Bonding, Renewing the Magic  –  Work daily at these things:  Make a daily decision to love each other and express that love, shower each other with positives and take time daily to share feelings.

Dr. Cline has shared some valuable ideas on how to have a Great Marriage.  But head knowledge alone will not bring about the desired results.  You must commit to work at these things.  The rewards are worth the effort.

A Great Marriage – The Ten Keys

This week I’m sharing with you advice from a book that’s been on my shelf for quite some time,  How to Make  A Good Marriage Great –Ten Keys to a Joyous Relationship by Victor Cline, Ph.D.  Most of the time when I see “Ph.D.” next to the author’s name, I think, “Ugghh, another 9000 pages of endless psychobabble that will take me three years to plow through.”  But then I come across a book like this one that breaks down complicated issues into basic strategies for success.  Get a copy of this book.  I’m sure you will find it useful.  In the forward Dr. Cline says, “I have never seen a happy divorce.”  How true is that?  Broken relationships even if they end amicably are painful and leave deep lasting scars.  He goes on to say that “we are all flawed.  We make mistakes…”   But then he says, “We have choices.  If we wish, marriage can be a wonderful, exhilarating adventure with almost no limits…” So I encourage you to choose the wonderful and enjoy the adventure of marriage.

Here is a summary of his first five keys for making a marriage great – with my added editorial comments:

1.        First Key – Shower Positives, Minimize Nagging  – Too often we focus on the five percent of the daily things that happen that are negative, such as a harsh word or insensitive comment.  We overlook the positive.  We need to get in the habit of being thankful for all that is good in our spouse and have grace and patience with the negatives.  Remember: five positives overcome one negative!b

2.       Second Key – Let Your Spouse Know the Facilitators of Love – Here he encourages us to clearly and verbally let our spouse know what our needs are.  Don’t expect he will somehow read your mind.  When your spouse expresses his needs, listen and do your best to give him what he needs.

3.       Third Key – Defuse Anger  – Find a way to step away from tense boiling points when they happen.  Sometimes writing it out and sharing notes can help.  Take time to calm down and when cooler heads prevail, the issues may be easier to work out.

4.       Fourth Key –  Positive Sexuality  –  This is such an important key in marriage relationships and it is the basis of true emotional intimacy.  Men need sex to feel emotionally connected and women need to be emotionally connected to truly enjoy the richness of sexual intimacy.  Work at understanding each other’s needs.

5.       Fifth Key –  The Power of Commitment – Love is a Daily Decision  –  This is clearly a cornerstone to a lasting marriage.  We must make an unconditional commitment to each other – For richer / For poorer – For better / For worse – In sickness / and in health – ‘Till death do us part.  Familiar words.  We need to be committed to each other and committed to growing our relationship into a “joyous relationship”.  It’s not good enough to be committed to a lifeless relationship.  We also need to be committed to and working toward a joyous relationship, a soul mate relationship.

Next week we’ll look at the next five Keys according to Dr. Cline.

More Making It Count

So ladies, now it is time for us to make it count!

Did your husband ever do or say something that really made you feel special?  To have his undivided loving attention is like a refreshing shower, energizing your whole being. I bet you felt important to him, indispensable and cherished.  And you probably really liked that feeling!

So it is not hard to imagine that your husband would like to feel special too… that he is your hero, and you admire and respect him for his qualities.  Making each other feel cherished adds to the positive relational bank account that protects our marriages from the effects of negative, draining interactions that happen every now and then.

One major hindrance is busyness.  When I am working my way through an endless task list to keep the house running efficiently or get ready for an event, I tend to put relational needs on the back burner.  A few years into our marriage, Alan challenged me to think about putting him on my task list!  That was a big wake up call for me—just because there are tasks to be done doesn’t mean the people in our lives can be put on hold.  Tasks can wait.

We need to have an attitude of gratitude also.  Discontent saps our ability to see the positive in our husbands and the circumstances we’re in, causing a negative focus.  When we are thankful we are able to see what is good and true about people and situations.

So armed and motivated to make it count, what do we do?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Every man wants to be admired, especially by his wife!  Verbalize what you like about his character, his body, what a leader or father he is, and the good work he does.  It costs nothing and your man needs positive affirmations from you.  Most men don’t know what you think unless you tell him, so say it, on a regular basis!
  2. What kind of affectionate touch does your husband like?  Maybe he likes to be massaged or scratched on his back, or neck.  Or a hug and kiss with a whispered promise for more later! Spontaneous touching is soothing and conveys love and acceptance.
  3. Write your husband a note now and then, expressing something you are thankful for about him.  Give it to him in his lunch or mail to his office.
  4. Pray for him.  He may not know it but what better way to support him in all he does than to bring him before the Lord daily.  It will help him and keep you thankful and humble also.

It is not very time consuming to give a hug or tell your husband he’s an incredible father.  If you have a hard time doing it, search your heart for resentment, ingratitude, or selfishness that causes you to withhold positive affirmations.  Pray about it.  Ask Jesus to reveal what holds you back and to help you break through.  Your own personal growth will contribute so much to your marriage.

 Remember it takes 5 positive deposits to your relational bank account to counteract 1 negative withdrawal.  Keep adding deposits, every day, and you will be making it count!