3 Ways to Love Your Spouse Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M. Schulz
"Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby: awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess." -Lemony Snicket
“Where there is love, there is life.” -Charles Spurgeon
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?
Can you feel it? Love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is approaching. Cupid is on the move.
How does that make you feel? Excited? Hopeful? Perhaps even a bit expectant?
Maybe you’re feeling some extra pressure to “perform”- more flowers, more chocolates, a fancier dinner, the perfect card, the most romantic surprise?
OR maybe you feel the opposite way?
You hear the words “Valentine’s Day” and you can’t help but roll your eyes. “A commercial holiday. The $8 Hallmark-card holiday. Roses are red, violets are blue, I don’t care about Valentine’s Day, how about you?” You think: “I don’t need a day that tells me to love my spouse, I can do that any day. This day is all just for show.”
I think a lot of us- no matter how we feel about Valentine’s Day- can relate to that thought: I can love my spouse ANY day… or… I love my spouse EVERY day, what makes this one any different?
DO we love our spouses every day? I know we say we do, we may even say “I love you” to our spouse- every day, multiple times a day. That’s great! We should do that.
But is that all God has called us to do?
Is that how God loves US?
Does He say, “I can love my people any day. What makes THIS day so special? All this love stuff is kind of over-the-top; it’s just for show. They know I love them. They don’t need some grand gesture every year.”
Let’s get personal…
I gotta be honest, writing this post at this particular time has been a challenge. Why? Well, it’s been somewhat of a difficult season, and- to put it simply:
I want over-the-top love. I really haven’t felt like giving it.
First off, It’s winter. I struggle in the winter. (Can I get an Amen?) Gray, cloudy skies steal my sunshine while rain, snow, and cold temperatures limit my time outdoors.
Also, my husband recently had surgery, so most of the household responsibilities have fallen on my shoulders.
Demands at work are beginning to increase.
Add to that some struggle in my personal life, and it’s a recipe for self-pity, resentment, and just plain weariness.
I must confess, my attitude lately has been, well, not very loving to say the least. I know it’s selfish. Around my family I’ve been more like those gray winter clouds than the loving light I, myself, am desiring.
There are those 2 words. My favorite two words when put together.
Do you know what He’s been doing? In my selfishness, in my weariness, in my pout-pout-fish moments, He has met me with love. Not just love, but gentle reminders of His profound faithfulness toward me. Reminders that I must come back to time and time again if I have any hope of giving the sacrificial, selfless love I am called to give to others.
When you think about skimping on love for your spouse, take a moment to follow these 3 steps:
1. Remember God’s over-the-top love for you
2. Embrace His grace for your mistakes
3. Love generously- treat every day like Valentine’s Day
Do you remember the depths of God’s love? It is hard to fathom because it exceeds our wildest expectations. It stretches beyond our ability to comprehend. But there are reminders of it all throughout God’s Word.
In Ephesians 3:16-20, Paul writes:
16 I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.
17 Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Can we just take a minute to let some of those words sink in?
He gives us His GLORIOUS, UNLIMITED resources to empower our strength through His Spirit.
His Son Jesus (who gave His life for us) makes His home in our hearts as we trust Him.
Our roots grow down into God’s love which keeps us strong.
He wants us to understand how WIDE, how LONG, how HIGH, and how DEEP His love for us is.
As we trust in His love, we have fullness of life and power that comes from Him.
He will accomplish (through His power in us) INFINITELY more than we could ever imagine. (We are reminded of this again in Romans 8:28.)
Woah. Sign me up for dinner with THAT kind of love any day.
Remember God’s love for you.
That’s always the first step toward loving your spouse (and others).
Romans 5 is wonderful reminder of His undeserved love poured out on us, and how remembering that must shape our day-to-day lives.
Take a moment to read the following 2 passages:
Romans 5:8-11 (Notice the 2 words that begin this passage?)
How are we loved by God even though we don’t deserve it?
Let's break down our Romans 5 passages a bit for explanation...
(V. 2) He’s placed us- in Christ- in a place of undeserved privilege where we stand even now. That means our sins and mess-ups are no longer on us, they’re washed away by Christ’s blood and forgiven by Almighty God.
(V. 5) He loves us dearly, and we know this because He has given us His Holy Spirit to FILL OUR HEARTS with His love. It’s not something we have to conjure up on our own, forcing ourselves to love when we just don’t feel like it. That’s not genuine, and others will see right through it. We need only ask God to help us love like Him, and His Holy Spirit will help us to do so (1 John 4:7-13).
(V. 6 & 8) We were utterly weak and helpless, dead in our sin and transgressions, completely undeserving, and yet, Christ died for us. Why? Because He loves us, has plans for us and He wants to display His glory.
(v. 10) We now have friendship with God because Christ died even when we were His enemies! Think about that. Your worst enemy- the worst human being you can imagine- dying for that person so they could know a love unlike any other. Wow, God. I’m not worthy.
And that’s the point. We aren’t worthy, but God…
He loves us anyway.
How does understanding His undeserved love shape our day-to-day lives and how we’re called to love others He has placed in our lives (starting with our spouse)?
(V. 1) We have PEACE with God. We are spared from His condemnation of our sin-stained lives and saved through Christ’s life. Now, we have this wonderful relationship with God- an amazing friendship.
(V. 3-5) We get to look forward with joy and confidence to sharing God’s glory! Even when we struggle, and life brings trials of various kinds, we can REJOICE. Why? Because God promises to produce endurance, which develops strength of character, which boosts our confident hope of salvation, which will NEVER leave us disappointed. NEVER.
What does this have to do with loving our spouse?
It’s about a mindset-shift. Remembering these key Biblical truths moves our self-focused thoughts to HIM-focused thoughts.
And because HE has a heart for others, so will we.
Jesus even tells us in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We can love and give generously to our spouse and others because that’s what HE has done for us!
We will explore specific ways to love our spouse generously later in this post, so be sure to keep reading…
Second, EMBRACE GRACE
You’ve taken the time to remember and reflect upon God’s abundant and steadfast love for you, but if you’re anything like me, maybe you feel pressure.
All this “love your spouse as He has loved you” feels overwhelming.
What if I fail? What if I don’t live up to expectations? What if I let my spouse down?
Let’s get a few things straight:
You will fail.
You won’t live up to expectations.
You will let your spouse down.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one- the same goes for all of us. It’s just the nature of being imperfect humans. But…
We cannot fall prey to perfectionism; we will lose every time.
In the midst of pressure to perform, embrace this key truth:
God’s grace covers us.
This is a fact we must not forget. He knows we will never be perfect on this side of Heaven, and so He pours out His grace to cover all our shortcomings- past, present, and future.
I need this reminder when I start to feel overwhelmed to the point that I fail to act for fear of falling short.
In his book New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp writes:
If you’re God’s child, you will never again have just you to depend on. No, you’ve been blessed, right here, right now, with grace.
He goes on to remind us with Galatians 2:20...
I have been crucified with Christ (a statement of historical redemptive fact). It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (a statement of present redemptive reality). And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (living in the light of the gospel, right here, right now). What does the gospel say you have been given right here, right now, so that you can be what you’ve been called to be and do what you’ve been called to do? The answer is Christ! He is in you. He is with you. He is for you. In Him, you really do have everything you need. You simply have not been left to yourself.”
(For more reminders that you are never alone in this life, read THIS.)
I have everything I need because I am a child of God.
I am equipped to love my spouse in all the ways God has called me to, because He gives me His glorious, unlimited resources to empower my strength through His Spirit.
His love keeps me strong.
HIS love fills me.
He is mightily working within me to accomplish infinitely more in my life, my spouse’s life, and my marriage than I might ask or think.
And when I mess up or fall short, I’m covered by His endless grace.
Talk about LOVE!
Remembering His love and embracing His grace, moves us to the third step. It’s time to…
Third, LOVE GENEROUSLY
Do you believe it is a PRIVILEGE to be asked by God to love our spouse generously, abundantly, and like Christ loves us?
We don’t have to stand in the proverbial Hallmark aisle rolling our eyes, looking for the perfect card to appease our spouse. Instead, we get to be a part of God’s work to actively and intentionally love our spouse.
Let’s make every day like Valentine’s Day!
In Luke 6:38, Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” In other words, the amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Did you catch the blessing? Just like He told us in Acts 20:35: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Give love actively, frequently, intentionally, and abundantly. And God will pour out His blessings on you (and your spouse).
What does that look like practically-speaking? I’m glad you asked…
Vow to Change: An Encouraging Call to Action
Take some time to think about and write down your answers to this question:
How does your spouse NEED to be loved?
If the answers don’t come immediately, perhaps you need to study your spouse. Observe their life…
What brings them joy? An outing with close friends, space to slow down and read, time carved out to enjoy a hobby? What can you do to foster more of that? Maybe it’s calling up some of your spouse’s friends and organizing a night out for them? Maybe it’s taking the kids away for a few hours, letting your spouse know they have the afternoon and house to themself to do whatever they want. Maybe it’s joining them in their favorite hobby, or making sure they have time each week to “play.”
Does your spouse need more quality time with you? Plan a date night or even a weekend away, packed with sweet little surprises- a few of their favorite things. Line up the babysitter, make the reservations, do the legwork of planning. Your effort and attention to detail will show that you know what they like and appreciate, and care about their desires.
Does your spouse need reassurance? Maybe their confidence is shaken; have insecurities crept in? Look for things to compliment, highlight their strengths, come alongside them in their weaknesses and pray with them. Write a love letter, notes of encouragement, and/or scripture verses that speak into their specific circumstances, and leave them around the house or in their car. Send random texts to let them know you love them, appreciate them, and are thinking about them.
What about physical touch? Could you shock your spouse with a kiss he feels right down to his toes? Maybe a simple arm-around-her-waist to let her know you’re glad she’s with you? Does your spouse need to know you still desire him physically, even if he’s put on a couple of pounds? Does she need to know you think she’s the most beautiful woman in the room? How can you show your man you love him- every inch of him- inside and out? How can you show your wife that she’s the only woman you desire? (If sexual intimacy is a struggle in your marriage, read the following posts for help: Let’s Talk about Sex and Why Isn’t Sex with My Spouse Satisfying?)
How’s your spouse doing spiritually? In what areas does he/she need accountability? Does she need you to help her get into God’s word consistently? Does he need you to remind him to pray daily and intentionally? How can you encourage your spouse in his/her relationship with the One who loves them MOST? Do you need to send them off to a quiet place for devotional time? Do you need to initiate Bible study, prayer time, and fellowship? Does he need to get together with his accountability partner? Does she need a spiritual mentor? (For more on the importance of accountability partners/mentors, read THIS. For help setting Biblical boundaries in your marriage, click HERE.) Look for specific ways to encourage them in their relationship with the Lord. Pray that HE will provide what your spouse needs spiritually; He promises He will (Philippians 4:19). (Understanding our spiritual condition- and our spouse’s- is vital in knowing how best to love them. Learn more by reading: How Understanding Your Spiritual Growth Deeply Impacts Your Marriage and listen to the corresponding podcast: How to Help a Hurting Marriage: Spiritual Condition (Part 3) :: [Ep. 95])
Let’s not forget our best source in finding out how our spouse needs to be loved… our SPOUSE! When in doubt, talk to your spouse! Ask them: How can I help you? In what areas do you question my love for you? Please write a list of practical ways you would feel most loved by me. How can I pray for you? When do you feel most loved by me? Ask them to let you know when a moment arises and they feel genuine Christ-like love from you. (And you can do the same for them!).
Sometimes just simple communication with clear intentions coming from a heart that holds your spouse's best interests is the most powerful act of love.
So, talk to your spouse. Ask them questions with the intention of getting to know and understand them better- their wants, needs, and desires.
Just like God’s love for us, the ways to love your spouse are endless. And just like God’s love for us, our love for our spouse should be limitless. Steadfast. Constant. Sure. True. Faithful. And unconditional.
Giving love to your spouse is NOT a transaction; don’t give just to get something in return. Don't make your actions and giving dependent on what your spouse does or does not do for you.
(If this is a challenge for you, take a few minutes to listen to THIS VowsToKeep Radio episode about keeping score).
Rest in the assurance that GOD will satisfy, sustain, and fulfill you, even if your spouse does not. Rejoice in the guarantee that you will be far more blessed by God in your GIVING to your spouse than in your receiving.
Let Valentine’s Day serve as a powerful reminder to love your spouse freely and generously with reckless abandon.
For a quick read on the power of generosity, read: Generosity: The Power of Graciously Giving to Your Spouse.
When you don’t feel like loving, I pray you:
REMEMBER God’s love for you- how wide, how long, how high and how deep it goes.
EMBRACE the grace He has lavishly poured out, grace that covers all our mistakes and shortcomings.
Fulfill the call to LOVE your spouse generously. Knock his socks off. (For great ideas of how to do this, listen to THIS episode). Make her say, “WOW! I wasn’t expecting all this!”
I pray you’ll know this deeply: that in the sweet satisfaction and privilege of pleasing your spouse you are doing something far more powerful. You are giving glory and honor to the ONE who IS Love, by helping others see and understand HIS love for them.
To go deeper, listen to this post's corresponding podcast:
How to Love Your Spouse When You Don't Feel Like It :: [Ep. 151]