On our wedding day, Becky and I thought that our feelings of love for each other could never be stronger than they were at that moment. Our dream of being together completely and for always was finally becoming a reality. It felt so good to be together, to be married, to be in love. It was our dream and goal to somehow preserve that love as long as we could.
But our hidden fear was that someday our love would become dull and flat, or worse, we might fall out of love altogether.
We were aware of countless couples who had lost their passion for each other.?? It was clear that the routine responsibilities of living together, especially with children, continuously worked to erode the feelings of romantic love.?? It almost seemed inevitable.?? Becky, like most young wives, was on constant lookout for any sign that our love was losing its fullness.?? If she noticed any decrease she let me know immediately.?? Within the very first year she was in tears on several occasions because she felt our love was slipping away.
Of course I would try to comfort her and we would recommit to working harder to preserve our love.? But we did not know the principles behind the feelings of love.? We didn?t understand that you can?t “preserve” the feelings of love.? We had to learn that feelings aren?t like peaches or strawberries that can be jarred and kept in sugary syrup.? Feelings of love are more like flowers?each bloom eventually fades and dies.? But if you learn how to take care of the plant, you can make it bloom continuously year round.
Unfortunately, most couples never learn how to cultivate the feelings of love.? They “fall into love,” and don?t know why it happened.? Then they “fall out of love,” and don?t know why that happened.? They are like leaves blowing in the wind, without control over where they land.? Couples who base their marriage relationship on their feelings usually end up divorced, if not legally, at least emotionally.? Marriages ought never to be based on the feelings of love.? A lasting, effective, beneficial marriage has at its foundation a willful commitment to each other, a decision to work for the well-being of the other person no matter what the cost.? The choice to love is far more secure than the feelings of love.? Nevertheless, if the choice to love is the foundation of the house, the feelings of love are what make it “home.”
The feeling of being in love is incredibly strong.? History is full of examples of how powerful this feeling can be.? Nations have been toppled, families torn apart, careers lost and ministries destroyed under its influence.? It can override wisdom and friendship, knowledge and spiritual guidance.? A person is extremely vulnerable when he or she does not understand the principles behind feeling in love.
Is it possible to safely navigate through the power of this emotion?? Yes.? Are there ways to harness this power to build your marriage relationship?? Thankfully, yes!?? You can cause your husband to fall in love with you over and over.? He can cause you to fall in love with him.? This is true because of the way God has made us as human beings in general, and as men and women in particular.? But before we look at how to do this we need to be aware of “biological attraction.”
Not only is the feeling of being in love different from the commitment to love, it is also different from biological attraction.? Teenagers often get these two confused.? Unfortunately, so do many adults.? God has made us as animals with physical, biological systems.? Some of these biological systems are designed to bring a male and a female together for reproduction.? These sexual systems have “buttons,” which, if pushed, cause predictable responses and pleasurable feelings.? Because pushing these buttons feels good they can be confused with feeling in love.? Men, in particular, make this mistake.? But those feelings are not love, just biology.
God is the designer of biological attraction.? He is also the model and resource of the kind of love which is based on commitment?and He is the One who desires husbands and wives to be passionately in love with each other (see the “Song of Solomon” in the Bible).? This makes Him the expert on the topic of love.? So let?s look at His directions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33.
If you are familiar with these verses you may already be squirming.? Many women have been hurt by the wrongful use of this portion of scripture.? In general,?women have been grossly oppressed by men throughout history, including today.? The desire to correct that cruel reality is good, right and godly.? But, in the heat of their emotion, many people overreact and miss the treasure in these verses.? Those who think that God is commanding wives to be in some form of sinful subjugation to men are wrong.? Subjugation is not God?s intent.? While these verses do speak about family structure, I want to suggest to you that they primarily explain how you can make your husband fall in love with you and visa versa.
The verses read as follows:
- “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.? For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior.? Now as the church submits to Christ,?so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and?gave Himself up for her?to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.? In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.? He who loves his wife loves himself.? After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he?feeds and cares?for it, just as Christ does the church?for we are members of His body.? ?For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.? This is a profound mystery?but I am talking about Christ and the church.
- “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must?respect?her husband.”
The reason why so many people fail to benefit from these verses is because they get hung up on the word “submit.”?? “Submit” does mean to “surrender,” and to “submit ? in everything” means to “surrender everything.”? At first reading, it does appear that wives are getting the “short end of the stick.”? Out of joy, most men stop reading here.? Out of depression, anger and fear, most women stop reading here, too.? But let?s read on.
God tells husbands to love their own wives in the same way that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”? Think about this for a moment.? In what way did Jesus love His Church?? The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5, that Jesus “made Himself nothing,” literally, He “emptied Himself,” and took on the very nature of a servant” (a “slave”).? He goes on to say that Jesus “humbled Himself” and went so far in His love as to die?not just any death, but a torturous “death on a cross!?? Jesus withheld nothing from us, but surrendered His whole life to us whom He loves.? He gave up everything for His Bride, the Church.
Like most people, I first read these verses with my presuppositions and missed the?identical essence?of the two commands.? God wasn?t?just telling wives to completely surrender?to their husbands.? He was also telling husbands tocompletely surrender to their wives!?? There is no difference in the degree of their surrender.? Both are to serve the other totally, completely and without reservation.
However, if the commands are the same in essence, why are the specific directions so different???Because men and women are different.? The way a man experiences love is different from the way a woman experiences it.? We all tend to express our love to others in the same way we want to receive love.? This is natural and normal?but unproductive when applied to the opposite sex.? There are, of course, more similarities between the sexes than differences.? However, falling in love has a peculiar connection with our masculine and feminine identity.
For this reason, if a man tries to communicate his love to a woman in the way he experiences it (e.g., by leaving her alone so she can have time to think when she is distraught) she will not feel loved.? What he would feel as love is actually felt by her as rejection!?? A woman can?t receive love in a man?s way any more than she could profit from a love letter written to her in Chinese if she only reads English.? This is equally true when a woman tries to communicate her love to a man in the language of a woman (e.g., by asking him how he is feeling).? If you want to make your spouse fall in love with you, you must learn to speak the love language of the opposite sex?and give up trying to do it in your own language.
In Ephesians 5:22-33, God reveals the keys to unlocking the love language codes of the sexes.? But as we look at these keys, do not lose sight of the fact that the?power?of the love languages rests upon?the surrender of one spouse to the other.??You cannot love without “emptying” yourself; you can not cause your spouse to fall in love with you without dying to yourself.?
Let?s look at what God says to the husbands first.? A husband is told to love his wife in the same way he loves his own body.? He is to feed and care for her.? The Greek words here are bettered rendered “nourishes” and “cherish.”? In particular, the one word “cherish” may best sum up the love language of women.
Cherish is what we do when we place the highest value on someone or something.? Whatever we truly cherish, we put above everything else.? Other things and people may be very important, but not as important as what we cherish.? This is why women feel unloved by men who spend their time, money, thoughts and energy on other things.? This also explains why giving a woman gifts moves her heart.? It?s not because she is greedy and materialistic, but because a thoughtful, sacrificial gift demonstrates a man?s priorities.? We think frequently of what we cherish, which is why a wife usually loves to receive unexpected notes and phone calls, (Woe to the man who does not make the expected phone call!) We protect what we cherish.? We boast about what we cherish.
We want to be close to what we cherish.? Empathizing (What hurts you, hurts me.? What makes you rejoice makes me rejoice.) with a woman demonstrates how much a man wants to be with her.? It could even be said that what we cherish somehow becomes a part of us and we become a part of it.? This is why women generally feel loved when they are spoken to in this way: “How are you feeling?? Please tell me about your day.? I want to know you, to be a part of your life.”? When a man treats a woman in this way, when he cherishes her, she melts.
This is how a woman wants to, no, stronger than that,?needs to be loved.? Women, in general, do not naturally feel valuable.? When a woman feels cherished she feels special and valuable.? Cherishing a woman meets one of her most basic needs.? She will also feel emotionally drawn to the person who is cherishing her.? That drawing is what we call “falling in love.”
The precise actions which lead a woman to feel cherished are infinite and can vary depending upon an individual?s likes and dislikes, culture, season of life and opportunities.? A husband must learn the specific words and actions which best communicate to his wife that he cherishes her.? But the right actions all communicate this same message,”? You, my love, are more important to me than anything else in my life.? You are more important than my work, my hobbies, my parents, my comfort, my health, my dreams, my friends, my preferences?in short, you are worth dying for!”? When a man says these things to a woman he becomes very appealing in her eyes.? (Becky had me read those sentences out loud to her in my most convincing way when she read this article!!!) But even more so, he becomes irresistible to her when he actually pays the price and puts the words into action!?? This is how a man causes a woman to fall in love with him over and over again.?
For those who are unaware of the power of a woman?s love language, (or maybe they are aware), this is how most affairs begin.? When a husband who is too busy, too preoccupied and too focused on other things in his life fails to cherish his wife, she becomes vulnerable to feeling cherished by someone else.? Many neglected wives have fallen victim under the power of another man who simply pays attention to her.? A wise wife will run away from any man, other her husband, who begins to make her to feel cherished.? That wise woman will also learn how to win her husband?s love.
How does a woman do this?? Not by cherishing him.? Cherishing a man does nothing for him (actually, it is somewhat irritating).? The word in the Ephesians passage which unlocks the masculine language of love is the word “respect.”? The Greek word literally means “to fear.”? However, the Greeks used this word in several ways different from how we use it.? Sometimes it meant the reason why a person would change a course of action, why someone would yield their own right to make a decision to someone else.? This is how the word “respect” is connected with the word “submit.”? Why should a wife submit to her husband?? Because a man falls in love with a woman who respects him!
Men do not naturally feel significant or capable.? We wrestle constantly with self-doubts.? We fear that we aren?t good enough to make it, to get the job done.? We fear failure.? That is why men can be so viciously competitive?a man?s very identity as a man is at stake.?
The way a woman responds to a man who validates her high value is the same way a man will respond to a woman who validates his identity as a competent man.? However, to communicate this effectively, she must put her own well-being into his hands?by letting him take care of her.? She must surrender the control of her welfare to him.? When she does this she is communicating to him, “Honey, I want you to know that in my eyes you are so smart, so strong, so capable, so competent that I am better off letting you take care of me than I am taking care of myself.? I trust you with my life.? Here I am, I?m yours.”? (I made Becky say this out loud to me.)? I don?t know of any man who wouldn?t feel irresistibly attracted to a woman with such confidence in him!
A man who is nagged and frowned upon by his wife, a man who is corrected and rebuked by his wife, a man who is held at a distance, rejected and just not trusted by his wife is vulnerable to any other woman who might show him the least bit of respect and admiration.? Sex is a strong lure to a man, but the admiration of a trusting woman is far stronger.? A wise husband must learn to guard himself against accepting the high esteem other women might communicate to him.? God wants a man?s encouragement to come primarily from his wife.? That is why He instructs wives to submit to and respect their own husbands.
But what if a husband isn?t trustworthy?? What if he isn?t strong and smart and competent?? What if a husband isn?t able to fully protect and care for his wife?
“What if“?he isn?t?? I can guarantee he isn?t!?? There are no flawless, sinless men who can take perfect care of a woman.? Some may do a better job than others, but every man fails at some point.? When a man sins or just fails because of his natural limitations, he hurts the woman who entrusted her life into his care.? Entrusting your well-being to a man will result in pain and loss from time to time.? To truly respect her husband a woman must rely upon something greater than his abilities.
It is also true that there are no perfect women.? All women have been corrupted by sin.? Outwardly, it is difficult for a man to see any woman as being so overwhelmingly appealing that he would gladly give up everything else in his life for her.?
So then, if it is so difficult for a man to truly cherish a woman, and for a woman to respect a man, how can we do this?? Are we to just “fake it?”? Should we just go through the motions while secretly trying to conceal our honest appraisals of each other?s weaknesses and faults?? No, not at all.? God shows us how we can sincerely see each other as valuable and reliable.?
The way we do this is by coming to see each other the way God see us.? God cherishes us all?men and women.? He sees us as being so valuable that He would rather die than live without us?and He did!?? A man who wants to cherish his wife must simply learn to see in his wife what God sees in her, not as she is now, but what God is making her to be, “radiant ? without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.”? A man married to a Christian woman is married to a?daughterof God.? Even if she is not a Christian, she is in the image of God and He died for her.? Can her husband afford to do anything less?? What a privilege to be married to someone God values so highly!?? A man who sees his wife in this way will come to cherish her as God does.
God also sees us as being capable and trustworthy.? He demonstrates this by entrusting His eternal kingdom into our care!?? He is able to do this not because we are capable in and of ourselves, but because He lives within us.? His power and abilities are able to override our weaknesses.? A wife can submit to her husband not because he is fully capable of caring for her, but because God Himself has promised to care for her through her husband in spite of his weaknesses!?? When a Christian woman entrusts her life to her husband, even a non-believing one, but is not really trusting him, she is actually trusting in God to care for her.
There is one more important point to make about the power of the love languages.? When a woman respects her husband and demonstrates it through deference to him, he not only falls in love with her,?she also creates the opportunity for him to become more of what God wants him to be.? The Apostle Peter writes this in his first letter, chapter 3:1, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives ?”? Trusting God by submitting to your husband makes both you and God?s word attractive to him.
Likewise, when a man cherishes a woman by sacrificing everything else for her, she not only falls more deeply in love with him,?but also comes under the life-changing power of God.? She is drawn by God to become more like what He designed her to be, beautiful and precious.? This transformation does not happen because of mere psychological encouragement.? It is a spiritually-empowered process.
Somewhere in the beginning of every love relationship between a man and a woman, the two of them stumbled into feeling in love.? She respected him and he responded.? He cherished her and she responded.? But with the passage of time men usually get distracted with other things and begin to cherish them more than their wives.? The women, hurt by the weaknesses and carelessness of their husbands, cease to trust and respect them.? They both “fall out of love.”
But it doesn?t have to be this way.? Jesus uses the picture of marriage in Revelation 2:4-5 to encourage us to pursue Him with passionate zeal.? He says, “You have forsaken your first love.? Remember the height from which you have fallen!?? Repent (change) and?do the things you did at the first.”
One thing must be noted here.? Self-sacrifice for the well-being of another person is not natural to the human soul.? We are all born with a selfish nature.? Our whole focus is self.? Unless this is changed, real love (which is self-less) cannot flourish.? You may be able to correctly speak your spouses love language for a moment, but you will not be able to make it your lifestyle.
That?s why we all need Jesus, men and women alike.? Jesus Christ not only died for our sins (unloving thoughts, words and deeds) so that God no longer needs to execute justice against us, but Jesus is also able to change us on the inside.? Jesus Christ can make us true lovers in every way?selfless, kind, thoughtful, generous, strong, faithful, responsible, etc.
God made you in such a way to want?no, need, a spouse who is as perfect as Jesus.? I know you think that you would be satisfied with just a little improvement in your spouse, but your heart really longs for much, much more.? And your spouse needs you to be like Jesus.
If you are already in a Christian fellowship and are experiencing the life-changing power of Jesus Christ, wonderful!?? We want God?s best for you.? But if you are not experiencing Jesus Christ in a way that is changing you from the inside out, making you a loving person, then please, come and be with us for awhile.? We are not yet perfect lovers of God and others, but God is working on us and we want Him to.? We are learning how to let Him change us into His wonderful image of love and truth.? We would love to have you learn with us.
You can cause your spouse to fall in love with you over and over and over again.? You did it at the beginning, perhaps accidentally.? With Jesus inside you, you can do it deliberately, and in the power of God!? The love you felt for one another can grow and become more intense than on your wedding day.? Let Jesus make you into a truly loving person.? Learn the love language of your husband.? Teach him yours.? By doing so you will both enjoy a lifetime of fresh, fragrant flowers from a healthy plant in continual bloom.
(Pick the right time and share this with your husband, remembering that he will be much more receptive of this after he has begun to feel respected by you.)
Steve Diehl -- 28 October 2012