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 Affection Connection

Did you see one of the latest videos that hit the internet?? Check this one out:

Who said romance is dead? This video was viewed 60 MILLION times!

Bernie Mills, 80, was caught on camera waiting for his wife, Carol, 75, at Los Angeles International Airport.  When he saw her, he broke out into a smile, gave her flowers, a hug, and a kiss. The couple met on eHarmony after their spouses of 50 years died and have been married to each other  about 5 years.

Did you see it?? OK, You’re right. I’m a big mush. But I guess I’m not alone… 60 MILLION other people wanted to see this one touching video of an old guy being affectionate, at the airport, in public, in broad daylight, and he doesn’t seem to care that anyone else is looking. Yep. They call it PDA… Public displays of affection.

So what about you?? Do you ever get all squishy in public and show your spouse that they’re the best thing in your life and you can’t live without them? I know, maybe the “in public thing” is just not your style. What about at home, when no one is looking? Do you get affectionate then?

Do you know what kinds of affectionate things your spouse likes? Think about it. Some like holding hands. Others appreciate a handwritten note expressing some endearing thoughts. Or a spontaneous neck rub or foot massage. Even just a couple of scratches on an itchy back. Bringing home a few flowers, even free wild flowers that you picked next to the parking lot at work (for those of you who need to do romance on a budget). What about it? What does your spouse like? What would make him or her smile. What would make them happy that you thought of them?

And how often should you do these squishy endearing romantic little gestures? How about every day!!! You can easily stoke the fire of your love for each other by just doing a few little affectionate things on a regular basis. Make a habit of it.

Little gestures of your love for your spouse let them know that to you, they’re really special and you want to have that one to one connection. You really do care about them and you enjoy making them happy.  To be cherished in this way can make a huge difference in your spouse’s psyche and their outlook on life.

So what about it? Are you ready to show your love? Who knows, maybe someday YOU’LL show up on a You Tube video and 60 million people will be inspired…..

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!

Making It Count

Last week we watched the movie Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio.  It was 100 years ago today that the Titanic sank!  In the movie, at the formal dinner, Jack describes the freedom he has in his life and concludes his philosophical monologue with a toast.  As he raises his glass of champagne, he says “To Making it Count”.

Each of us has a chance every day, a choice actually, to Make it Count.  Our days are busy and the schedule is usually full with work, meetings, the usual chores, bills, and taking care of the kids.  But what are we doing each day to Make it Count with our spouse?  To Make it Count we need to be intentional and not simply reactionary.  We must choose to make it a priority to think about those special things that will make our spouse feel loved and cherished and that they truly are the most important person in our life.

I’d like to address the husbands.  All too often we husbands are short on words and many times short on actions.  We get caught in the trap of taking for granted things around the house and in our lives.  We expect our home to be well cared for, dinner to be ready, the clothes washed.  And when things are expected, they are usually not appreciated.  It’s time to Make it Count.  This week I want you husbands to put into practice three simple steps to make your wife know she is appreciated.  I want you to: Write It, to Say It, and finally to Do It.

First of all, take some time and reflect on all the things that you are really thankful for about your wife.  Let your mind reflect on even the simplest things that she says or does.  It could be something about her kindness,  thoughtfulness, or her generosity.  Then write her a note expressing three of the things that you really appreciate about her.  Give her the note before bedtime and let her know you love her.  Your wife will probably love getting a special note from you.  Somehow when it’s in writing, it speaks to her heart.

Later this week I want each of you to think of three of your favorite dating memories.  And again, before you go to sleep one evening while she’s lying next to you, tell her that you wanted to share your special memories and why those times have made you love her so much.  Just hearing you verbalize this to her will warm her heart.

And finally, you need to just Do It.  Find those special things that she loves so much and take the time to make her feel cherished.  For my wife, a twenty minute foot massage is just about the best thing ever.  Maybe it is flowers, accomplishing something on her honey-do list, or a dinner out with you.  Better yet, dinner in and you are the cook!  Find that unique thing your wife loves and just Do It.

That’s it, guys.  Write It, Say It, and Do It.  Make it Count this week.

I Don’t Feel Like It

Well, there they are – those famous five words – “I don’t feel like it”.  You’ve thought those very words many times before and being honest, you’d have to admit you have spoken them to your spouse at times when faced with the need to selflessly serve your spouse.  They are at the heart of what drives a wedge between us and our spouse.  They embody the essence of being focused on self and they center around our very illusive “feelings”.

Why do we struggle with Jesus’ exhortation in John 15:12, “…Love each other as I have loved you”.  May I suggest we struggle because we are faced with the pressure to feed “self;” this is what I want and this is what I need.  Not only are we feeding our needs and wants, we are driven by our feelings.  These can be feelings of fairness, injustice or anger and resentment.  When we mix a focus on self with our ever changing feelings, we have a recipe for a dysfunctional relationship.

This is a hard message.  It’s hard because it causes us to look inward, to examine our heart and motives.  In Ephesians 5:25 husbands are commanded to “love your wives just as Christ loved the church”.  Note that this was a command to obey.  It didn’t say to “feel love for your wives” but rather it commands husbands to “love your wives”.  A command.  Nothing is mentioned about if she deserves love because this is unconditional love.  Jesus says again in John 15:17 “this is my command: Love each other”.  Further in Luke 6:35, “But Love your enemies, do good to them…”  We probably don’t  have all warm and fuzzy feelings towards our enemies but we are nevertheless commanded to love them.  Love in this context is an action.  We are to act lovingly, in spite of our feelings, our personal agenda or the actions of our spouse.

So how does this relate to you and your spouse?  Remember that we talked about watering often and filling your spouse’s emotional tank.  Well, that can be very hard to do if we are consumed with and focused on ourselves, thinking… But what about me?  What about my needs?  When do I get what I want?   And then our feelings kick in as we remember prior hurts and resentments.  Yes, it’s hard to love unconditionally.

But think about this:  How does a wife feel when she is loved unconditionally?  How does a husband feel when he is loved by his wife even though he struggles with numerous shortcoming and failings?  In those moments when they experience that unconditional love from their spouse, in that moment they experience the love of Christ, coming from and through their spouse.  They experience the touch of Jesus in their lives.

When you are tempted to say to yourself, “But I don’t feel like it,” remember that He died for us and I’m quite sure that He didn’t feel like it.  So, love, and love unconditionally, and soon by the grace of God, you will feel like it.

 

Keeping Your Spouse’s Tank Full

Last time we looked at the comparison between our emotional lives and an empty gas tank.  We all know when our gas tank is near empty, we need to fill up, or else we can look forward to a long walk or a long wait, even if we do have AAA.  We have common sense enough to know it’s foolish to let our gas tank get to empty.

How can we apply that same common sense to the “emotional tank” of our spouse?  Here’s where personal growth comes in.  We first need to be skilled at recognizing his or her condition.  This usually doesn’t take an expert, just an observant spouse.  Marriage is like a classroom and we are all in school every day.  Lesson plan number one:  Learn your spouse’s idiosyncrasies.  Become a student of what makes him or her tick.

There are two books that speak directly to the needs of husbands and wives, some of which they share.  In His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr. the needs are broken down into five common needs for men and five for women.  In The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women, Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg address the five love needs of husbands and wives.  Some of these needs include:

  •   Unconditional Love
  •   Commitment
  •   Companionship
  •   Emotional Intimacy
  •   Communication
  •   Admiration
  •   Affection
  •   Honesty
  •   Financial Support
  •   Sexual Intimacy

Recognize that you are the person uniquely positioned to meet those needs.  When you meet those needs, your spouse’s emotional tank is more than likely at or near full and they can better respond to you and your needs.  Water your spouse so they can be strengthened to water you.

 Here are a few practical ideas that you can work with to better understand your spouse’s needs:

  1. Ask.  Yes, ask your spouse what makes them feel loved in various circumstances.  This is a great topic for a date night.  What are the FIVE keys ways that I can best show my love for you?  Be specific.  “I really feel loved and appreciated when you _____________.”
  2. Discover, by asking and observing, the kinds of comments and actions that de-energize your spouse.  Change how you respond to avoid emptying your spouse’s tank.
  3. Read up on it.  Become a student of your spouse’s needs and then work on getting an “A” for the year.  Better yet, get a Master’s Degree.  One of the books we’ve read says that if you don’t work at meeting their needs, someone else might.

Do it. Just do it. Not just when you feel like it.  Not when the time is right. Don’t wait for a full moon.  Just do it.  Today. Tomorrow.  And the next Day.  Selfless lovers understand giving and receiving.  Be a giver and your well-loved spouse will see that you are a receiver.

Your Spouse’s Tank is Almost Empty!

This past week we visited our son and daughter-in-law and had a wonderful time.  Great news… our next grandbaby will be here in September.   While driving around one day, I noticed the gas gauge showed almost empty.  As a guy, I knew it didn’t mean anything because the idiot light hadn’t come on yet.  It’s the one that tells you the tank is REALLY getting empty.  I know when the light comes on I have about a gallon and a half left.  Someday they will have a car that has an “idiot voice” that says, “Hey you, I’m almost out of gas.  Fill me up now!”

What if your spouse had a gauge?  A gauge that told you he or she was running on empty and needed refueling soon.  If your spouse emptied completely you’d be in real trouble because then life around the house wouldn’t  be much fun.

If you think about it, spouses do come with gauges…

When your husband comes home from work unusually quiet, a bit grumpy, and heads for his man cave, saying without actually speaking “Hey, leave me alone,” he probably didn’t have a good day at work.  And if you read his “emotional gauge,” you’d know his tank is almost empty.

Think about the husband that comes home and sees the house is kind of upside down, his wife looks exhausted and doesn’t give him the usual “Hi Honey, glad you’re home” kiss; and she looks like she could burst into tears at any moment.  Chances are pretty high that her “emotional tank” is nearly empty.  Not a good time to bring up a shortcoming you might be noticing.

When you can read your spouse’s needs, I call that “situational awareness.”  Your spouse is telling you through his or her actions that their tank is empty.  Some signs you may see are:

  • A short fuse and getting agitated, angry, or frustrated by small stressors
  • Quietness, sadness, moving slowly, spending more time ‘veging’ or wanting to be alone
  • Not making eye contact with you
  • You may feel ignored, taken for granted or emotionally distant when your spouse’s tank is running low.
  • You may think your spouse is mad at you about something.
  • Attempts to initiate physical intimacy may be rebuffed

Have you noticed when you spouse’s tank gets low?  An aspect of personal growth is to mature so that you become an expert at quickly recognizing your spouse’s needs.  When you are aware and get good at reading the tell-tale signs of an “emotionally empty” tank, you can focus on a fill-up.  A selfless serving spouse will take personal responsibility to refill their spouse’s tank well before the idiot light comes on.

And as long as you’re filling her emotional tank, check her oil and clean her windshield too, just like they used to do years ago.  Become a full service selfless loving spouse, and she’ll do the same for you.

Next time we’ll look at some practical things you can do to keep your spouse’s tank full.