Love is an oft misconstrued topic. People associate it with feelings, or emotions. How many times have you heard people speaking of “love at first sight” or “I simply fell in love”? In reality, feelings (and emotions) change regularly. You might be happy today but in a funk tomorrow. You might feel excited about an upcoming vacation, but then feel low and let down once you return to your normal routine. Feelings and emotions are driven by our external environments. They are a direct result of what is going on in the world around us. As such, they fluctuate as we go through the course of a given week or even a given day.
Look at the term “falling” in love. Does anyone ever fall intentionally? You might jump on purpose, but typically falling is the result of an unexpected situation (tripping, stumbling, losing balance). If you have “fallen” in love, that is something that you didn’t expect to happen and you unexpectedly find yourself there. That’s not love, that’s infatuation (which is a feeling). If you can fall in love, it only makes sense that you can fall out of love. I’ve heard many couples say this. “I just don’t have the feelings for him that I once did”. “I guess I’ve outgrown her, there’s just no love there anymore”. When love is simply an emotion or a feeling, there’s no way to ensure that it lasts.
Love is a decision and a commitment. As Christians we are called to love others as ourselves. We are also called to love our spouse as Christ loved the church, willing to give Himself up for her. That kind of love takes effort over time. Your feelings for your spouse will change over time. There will be days where you perceive them as flawless, and other days where they can do nothing right in your eyes. In reality, these feelings are driven by the environment around you much more than it is their actual actions or situations.
I heard in a recent sermon that while we are called to love our spouses unconditionally, it is even more important to love our spouse when we are fully aware of the conditions. Your spouse is a flawed human, just as you are. It is important to accept that fact and love them along with their shortcomings. In turn, it is critical to realize they love you back in spite of your own issues. This is where the decision comes in. It’s easy to “love” someone or something when everything seems perfect. But reality sets in eventually, and that surface level feeling can be eroded. A decision and a commitment to love beyond that is critical.
The good news is we don’t have to do this in our own strength. God is there to guide us through. He has provided us with his Holy Spirit which serves as our counselor, our comforter and our teacher. He wants us to have the best marriage possible. It is important that we incorporate Him in, as we will probably screw it up if we try to do it all in our own power. Just as God shows us grace, we must show grace to our spouse in the same way.
Love your spouse – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Don’t rely on feelings. Remind yourself on those “low” days of your decision and commitment. This approach will get you through the storms that you face in your marriage.