When I started dating Marilyn, I was consumed by my love for her.
I instinctively started doing things I had never done before — like opening doors, writing notes, and even buying flowers.
Life was one big, exciting blur. From first date to engagement to marriage was less than eight months. On a sidenote, I highly discourage doing it the way we did.
Dating Marilyn may have been the most pleasurable eight months of my life. I was dominated by positive thoughts of her — nothing else seemed to matter. We had a blast, loved talking and went on dates almost every night.
I’ll spare the details, as it is not the subject of this article, but within one year, I went from Marilyn’s favorite person in the world to her least favorite. I proved it is not all that hard to go from first to worst.
So, what happened? I did not recognize and understand what love really was. In dating, my acts of love were driven by a strong intoxicating emotion. When the love buzz wore off — so did all the actions that came along with it.
A lack of understanding of love can lead people to devastating conclusions. I have seen family after family end because spouses determined “we just don’t love each other anymore.”
In reality, the high wore off. They stopped actively loving one another and the door was opened to deception and divorce.
A Psychology Today article entitled “The Early Stages of Falling in Love” says, “There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as the early stages of a romantic relationship. Falling in love produces a biological state that is a similar high to being on cocaine.”
Recognizing that love is an act of the will is a must for a thriving and growing marriage.
A.W. Tozer puts it this way: To find our way out of the shadows and into the cheerful sunlight, we need only to know that there are two kinds of love — the love of feeling and the love of willing. The one lies in the emotions, the other lies in the will. Over the one, we may have little control. It comes and goes, rises and falls, flares up and disappears as it chooses, and changes from hot to warm to cool and back to warm again very much as does the weather. Such love was not in the mind of Christ when He told people to love God and each other.
Listen to the words of Jesus: “Love one other as I have loved you. Love your enemies and do good to them. Love those who persecute you.” John 13:34, Luke 6:35, Matthew 5:44.
It is clear. Love is a choice, not simply a response to positive emotion.
“God never intended that…man should be the plaything of his feelings.” — A.W. Tozer.
Emotion often follows the action. If you chose to love and sacrifice for your spouse, you’ll likely find yourself having more feelings. If you don’t actively love, you’ll likely find positive emotions to be more and more elusive.
So, how do we choose to love one another in marriage? We spend time together. We serve. We share. We bless each other physically. We simply decide to lay down our lives for each other as Christ did the church.
Choosing to love is crucial, but without receiving the love of Christ, we have the inability to love as Christ loved. We simply can’t give something that we don’t have. John 15 tells us that apart from Him we can do nothing.
We can’t manufacture fruit that only comes from the Spirit.
I have tried to make myself kind, patient and gentle and, 10 out of 10 times, I have been unable to maintain the qualities.
Only by pursuing, resting, trusting and believing in Christ can His fruit manifest through me to effectively love my wife.
So, I give you two challenges in response to this article. Spend time with Jesus and spend time with one another. Block off time daily and weekly to spend undistracted time with Jesus and your spouse.
We are in a busy, dominated, and distracted world.
Spending time with Jesus and prioritizing your marriage are not easy and are not the norm.
If you would like to pursue Christ and protect and grow your marriage along with us, join us at gracemarriageathome.com.