The other night, my girls and I met with a group of women for an informal question and answer time. One of the women asked about marriage: “How do you keep falling in love with your husband through the years?”
We talked about the eighty/twenty rule, and about looking for ways to show love to our husbands that are meaningful to them. Last week here on the blog we considered the importance of not being so busy serving them that we don’t cultivate affectionate love.
But one of the biggest love-killers in a marriage is sinful comparison.
We’ve all done it. You spend an evening with another couple and notice how sensitive or understanding the husband is toward his wife. You then consider how your husband is doing in the communication department and find him wanting.
Or you chat with your girlfriend and hear about ways her husband is leading in the home. My husband isn’t the leader I want him to be, you think.
Maybe you bump into that woman at church whose husband is successful in his career. If only your husband worked that hard and made that much money, then you’d be happier.
It doesn’t take much. A comment or a glance is all we need to decide that, in comparison with her husband, my husband has let me down. Sinful comparison curdles into dissatisfaction. And dissatisfaction sours our love and respect for our husbands. We no longer find joy in our marriage relationship.
Which is why we must resist it at the first. We must absolutely refuse to go down the road of sinful comparison, no matter how tempting it may be. Because one thing is sure: sinful comparison never leads anywhere good.
By avoiding sinful comparison, we aren’t saying that our husbands don’t have room to grow. And it doesn’t mean we don’t ever share concerns. But if our “concerns” sprout from sinful comparison, they are suspect. We cannot see our husbands strengths and weaknesses clearly when our own sinful comparison is in the way.
Instead of comparing our husbands to other men, let’s compare our hearts with God’s Word. Let’s take seriously the command to respect our husbands (Eph. 5:33). Taking the measure of our own hearts instead of comparing our husbands to others will cultivate humility and graciousness in the place of intolerance and discontent.
What’s more, we need to focus on what we appreciate about our husbands. Sure, he may not be as great a leader as that guy, or as good of a communicator as the next, but he is your husband, and he has strengths and qualities none of those other men possess. Focus on evidences of grace, and you will fall in love with your husband over and over again through the years.
“And now my dear, I come to you, I have not included you in my list because you, my dear, stand in a totally different position from all others. You are not one of God’s agents to make me what I am, rather you are myself. You are my thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Without this chapter no human being is truly human. Without you I would have accepted love…But without you, my dear, I would not have ‘had’ love. I should not think of saying that I love you; that would be quite false. Rather you are the one part of me, which would be lacking if I was alone…It is only in our union—you and I—that we form a complete human being…And that is why, my dear, I am quite certain that you will never lose me on this earth—no, not for a moment. And this fact it was given us to symbolize finally through our common participation in the Holy Communion, that celebration which was my last.” Helmuth von Moltke was hanged in prison on January 23, 1945. Dr. Haykin writes: “This letter to Freya, one of sixteen hundred that Moltke wrote to her during the course of their love and marriage, presents a strong picture of the oneness of Christian marriage and how, in the words of the Song of Solomon, ‘many waters cannot quench love’ for it is stronger than death (Song 8:7, ESV).”
“Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you’re used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him?...Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first?...Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don’t you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOK at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him. Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this.” ~Shirley Rice
Several weeks before each of her daughters got married, Mom took us away for a mother-daughter overnight. She wanted to have one final conversation before giving us away to our husbands.
Her counsel was simple: give yourself freely, passionately, completely to your husband.
The essence of our conversation is included in Mom’s book, Feminine Appeal:
“Marital sex is the pinnacle of human bonding. It is the highest form of the communication of love—a language that expresses love without words. It calls for the deepest, most powerful emotions. It creates intimacy within marriage like nothing else. In fact, as we give and receive the gift of lovemaking, this intimacy will grow stronger and more precious as the years go by. Each encounter will lead us to a deeper ‘knowing’ of the one we love.”
Sex “creates intimacy like nothing else.” All the shared joys and trials, all the deep and meaningful communication, certainly contribute to marital intimacy, but no experience can match the deep, inexplicable closeness that comes from a loving physical union within the confines of marriage.
“It’s a mystery,” I remember Mom saying. And so it is. This intimacy, this “knowing” that results from the physical relationship is beyond my ability to describe in words (although Solomon do so eloquently in his Song).
What I do know is that while I share fellowship and labors, joys and trials with many others, sex is something I share only with my husband. It’s our own little world, closed to all. Not even the dearest friend or family member can enter. We are on a journey, the two of us. An exclusive journey. A journey of love. We are creating memories known only to us. Secrets only we share.
The further we go on this journey, the bond between us grows more powerful and intense. The “knowing” grows deeper. The love grows sweeter.
Ten years after that conversation, I have to say—Mom, you were right.
When I was a young wife, Elisabeth Elliot mentored me through the pages of her book, Let Me Be A Woman. Then, when my daughters were teenagers, I used the book to teach them about biblical womanhood. I still refer back to it often, and recently came across this little gem. May it inspire you to embrace your God-given role in marriage today:
“It is the woman’s delighted yielding to the man’s lead that gives him freedom. It is the man’s willingness to take the lead that gives her freedom. Acceptance of their respective positions frees them both and whirls them into joy.” (Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman, p.185).
It’s time to take a closer look at how to cultivate the wifely affection that we talked about yesterday. And who better to ask what makes a husband feel cherished than husbands?
Chapter two in Feminine Appeal contains responses from different men about how their wives show them this tender love. I have included some of them here to get you thinking…
“If I’m sick in bed, my wife prepares tea and meals for me without my asking and waits on me hand and foot. It’s as though her world stops so she can take care of me.”
“Each time Karin catches my eye in public with a smile and subtle wink, or greets me with a warm embrace upon my arrival home from work, or hangs on my arm when we go out on a date, the message comes through loud and clear: ‘I enjoy being with you and want you to know that I love you.’”
“With just a handful of exceptions, Lisa has written me a note in my lunch every single workday for over ten years.”
“My wife shows me affection through a constant stream of small surprises—showing up at work with my favorite Starbucks drink, making her famous brownies on no special occasion, arranging to borrow a friend’s convertible sports car for our anniversary. Not all have been extremely costly, but all have been very meaningful.”
“I am cherished by my wife through her fervent and faithful intercessory prayer for me. Her conviction is that no one can care for me like my heavenly Father.”
And here’s one more fun idea I recently came across. My mom was given this t-shirt as a gift and immediately began wearing it. After my husband saw it, he began dropping hints about how he might like me to have the same shirt. This Christmas, one of his gifts under the tree was this t-shirt which I proudly wear! (Although we can’t heartily endorse all the t-shirts on the website, you can purchase your very own “i love my husband” t-shirt here.)
So, we have no more excuses, ladies! There are plenty of ideas here for showing affection to our husband. Let’s get started today!
The final topic in our mini-series on marriage is affection. When I asked my husband, Mike, if affection was among his “top three,” I received a resounding “oh definitely!” I suspected as much.
I find it interesting that Scripture highlights an affectionate love as a priority for us as wives. In Titus 2 we are commanded to love our husbands, and the word for love there is the Greek word, phileo.
My mom defines phileo for us in Feminine Appeal: “This word describes the love between very close friends. It is a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love. It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship.”
It is also interesting to note (as my mom writes) that phileo is used instead of agape. You see,
“The Greek word agape refers to a self-sacrificing love. It’s a love that gives to others even if nothing is given back. Yet Paul didn’t use agape in describing the love we are to cultivate for our husbands. He chose phileo. In fact, in commands specifically related to wives, agape is never used. Now this does not mean we have been released from needing to extend this kind of love. [However] I believe women are generally weaker in exhibiting an affectionate love—thus the instructions given to us in Titus 2.
In fact, women will often continue to sacrifice and serve their husbands even if all tender feelings for them have subsided. I have met women like that! They obviously do not respect their husbands. They certainly do not have tender feelings for them. Yet that does not hinder these women from continuing to wash their husbands’ clothes, cook their meals, and clean the house for them.
How often I am guilty of this same thing! I frequently get bogged down with serving Mike, all the while neglecting one of the things that mean the most to him. For all you wives who can relate, we’ll try to inspire you tomorrow with some ideas for showering your husband with a tender love.
The first topic in our mini-series—“Top Three”—is marital intimacy. By “top three,” we don’t mean a wife’s top three priorities as outlined in Scripture, but rather, the top three ways in which we can best fulfill the scriptural command to love our husbands—which will be different for everyone. But for my husband (and I suspect for many others), intimacy holds an unrivaled position at #1.
This topic of intimacy however, is only appropriate for married women to consider. Single women and young girls are, in the eloquent words of Solomon, not to “stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (S of S 2:7). For this reason, we are providing today’s post in a downloadable document and ask that unmarried women refrain from reading it. Married women, you can continue reading here.
In my “study” of my husband (see Nicole’s post), I have found it handy to discover the three things that please him the most. This helps me in two ways. One, it enables me to do a quick evaluation in my mind as to how I’m doing in my marriage or what area I need to shore up. Secondly, it serves me in those “crazy busy” times when I am trying to juggle many different balls – and dropping some. Yet, if I can only keep a few balls in the air, I know which ones to choose.
Now, I know it is intimacy, encouragement and affection that top the “most pleasing to my husband” list. Consequently, if I give priority attention to these 3 areas, my husband’s happy, and often doesn’t even notice areas in which I might be doing poorly.
For instance, I’ve been doing a lousy job with meal preparation lately. My dinner meals have looked something like this: A rotisserie chicken from the grocery store with a couple of side dishes thrown together; hot dogs and coleslaw from KFC (my husband’s favorite coleslaw); peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popcorn; frozen pizzas…. You get the picture. Pathetic, I know. However, I don’t think my husband has even paid attention (I just need to keep him from reading the blog today!).
What are the top three for your husband? Obviously, only you can figure that out. My guess, however, is that many husbands would list at least one of my husband’s top three in their top three as well. So, we’re going to do a little series on these three topics over the next few days. But in the meantime, why not quiz your husband over Valentine’s Day dinner? Find out what are three ways you can most please him.
As a mom of three young, active boys, I could relate to Mom’s post yesterday and the temptation to make my role as a mother a priority over my role as a wife. This story of “Michelle” from Mom’s book, Feminine Appeal is a wonderful reminder to me of the importance, and the blessings of prizing my husband above all others!
Michelle poured her life and energy into her two small children. However, the demands and joys of motherhood crowded out her love for her husband. Friendships and service in the church even took precedence over her relationship with Peter. They didn’t have any major problems, but their marriage certainly wasn’t exciting anymore. Intimate communication and even daily expressions of affection had dwindled. After nine years of marriage, their relationship more closely resembled an amiable business partnership. Michelle was so busy raising her daughters, she didn’t even notice.
Michelle had ceased to “prize” her husband. There was a time when Peter was the most important person in her life, but over time her children and friends had become more significant.
Michelle was unaware that she was putting her children before her husband until several faithful friends from church brought it to her attention. “It was like waking up,” she said. “I was blind to it.” Michelle immediately began to make changes. She started by praying each day that God would give her greater love for Peter. But she didn’t stop there. She began to express affection in creative ways—through cards and letters. She took time to think about things that would bless Peter. She sought his opinion first instead of going to her friends. In short, she made her relationship with her husband her highest priority.
Her actions had a tangible effect. As a couple they began to pursue interests and activities that didn’t involve the children. “Things went so well,” Peter said, “that we began to look for more opportunities to steal away together and have fun and enjoy each other.” For their anniversary they spent a weekend alone. “The most enjoyable part was simply enjoying one another and our newfound romance. We had a blast!”
Let’s be wives like Michelle and do whatever it takes to prize our husbands. Let’s make every day Valentine’s Day!