How Powerfully Pursuing Your Spouse Can Change Your Marriage
The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Powerful Pursuit
Let me tell you a story
We have 2 indoor cats: one is 3 years old, the other about 7-8 months old; both very sweet, loving and docile.
Spot is the older, black and white one. Ewok is the younger one. Both are female… or so we initially thought.
About a month ago, our sweet, younger kitty (Ewok) began playfully biting, pawing at, and wrestling with Spot, constantly pursuing her attention.
That’s when we realized: Ewok isn’t female and isn’t so little anymore…
He’s an adolescent male cat…
And this means he is in a powerful pursuit of Spot, whether she likes it or not.
What does this have to do with marriage?
Cats are different from people- obviously. But I have learned a simple lesson from watching ours: the power of relentless pursuit.
Webster's dictionary defines pursuit as the action of following or pursuing someone or something. It means to chase, follow, or hunt something with the goal of obtaining it.
Plays out in both practical and abundant ways (learn more about giving generously- even when you don’t feel like it- HERE)
Perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Shows your spouse God’s generous heart for them
Shows how God wants to love your spouse through you
Before we can truly understand the action of pursuing, we must clearly understand the reason for pursuing; the why. Sometimes that’s the hardest part.
If we are honest with ourselves, many times our why is self-centered. We pursue our spouse to get what we want. The heart and motive behind it is NOT purely loving:
I’ll clean the house because she wants me to, hopefully it will stop her nagging. (Avoiding conflict over different priorities. Do you and your spouse fight frequently? Do you wish all the bickering and frustration with just STOP? Check out Part 1 of the I'm Sick of Fighting with My Spouse series.)
I’ll make the meals because SOMEBODY’S gotta do it, and he’s obviously not going to. (Resentful over household duties. Do you feel resentful of your spouse? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of How Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse?)
I’ll give her time to do her hobbies, so she can’t get mad when I take time to do mine. (Keeping score, feeling we deserve something)
When our why is about ourselves, we take our eyes off our spouse. We quickly run out of ideas, romance, and the drive to pursue them.
When we stop pursuing, we become roommates, coworkers, 2 individual people doing life together out of obligation.
We stop investing in the union- the team- that God made us to be.
We stop pursuing the person God has made and given especially to us. (For more encouragement in this area, click HERE.)
Why do we pursue our spouse? Because of Who pursues us.
The Who (No, not the band.)
The Why and the Who of powerfully pursuing our spouse are inextricably linked.
We pursue our spouse because of Christ Jesus.
HE is the Who and the Why we are to be pursuing.
We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Because of HIS love, WE can radically love others,
no matter how difficult it may seem.
In the heat of battle when the parent struggling to raise a wayward child asks “God, how can I love this kid?”
When a spouse wonders How can I love this person when they have been unfaithful? (Are you struggling to forgive your spouse? Read Help! My Marriage is "Stuck".)
God answers us:
Because I loved you even when you didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8).
God is rich in mercy. He loves us with a great love, and even when we were dead in our sin, He made us alive with Christ by grace (Ephesians 2:4-5).
This grace allows the parent to love their child generously, despite immense challenges.
We’ve seen the example of God’s love enabling a husband who’s been hurt by unfaithfulness to show supernatural love and forgiveness by inviting his wife to share their bed with him the same night she confessed her infidelity. (If you want help reconciling with you spouse, click HERE to read 3 Steps Toward Reconciliation in Your Marriage.)
God is in a powerful pursuit of us. He knows our greatest need and lets nothing stand in the way of providing it for us.
Why do we pursue our spouse? Because God pursues us.
He uses us in our spouse’s life to show them HIS pursuit of them.
We get to be a tool in God’s hands by looking for ways to be a blessing in our spouse’s life; to love them the way God loves them.
When in pursuit, what should we be pursuing?
That’s easy: our spouse’s happiness. We work to please them, right? As they say: Happy Wife, Happy Life!
If this is our what, we will quickly fail.
Because we are all broken people with a sin nature that is extremely difficult (at times impossible) to satisfy. Sometimes we don't even know what we want/need; so how can we expect someone else to fill those wants/needs?
We cannot, despite our best efforts, because felt needs are fickle. (For more information on wants and how they affect our marriage, read THIS.)
Remember: The LORD fills our deepest needs. HE knows what we need at the most intimate level.
When we are pursuing God's blessing in our spouse’s life- and our heart is willing to be a tool in His hand- we are able to provide that which is much more meaningful and impactful than anything we observe at the surface level. God has a deeper love for our spouse than we ever could, so we trust Him as we place ourselves in His hands to use as He best sees fit.
Keep reading to find some practical ways to pursue God’s blessing in your spouse’s life in the Where section (later in this post).
When should we pursue our spouse?
As always, let’s look to God as The example.
In Psalm 139:7-12, David says, Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? The rest of the verses in the passage confirm that He is in constant pursuit of us. There is nothing we can do to keep Him from wanting to show us His radical love.
And just as God pursues us, so we should constantly pursue our spouse, even and especially when they don’t “deserve” it. (Remember: God loved us even when we didn’t deserve it.)
Sometimes our spouse may not want to be pursued; they would rather sit in the guilt-free "freedom" and comfort of no-conflict isolation. As someone whose bent is to isolate like this, can I just tell you… PURSUE THEM ANYWAY.
DO NOT let your spouse sit alone behind their walls and closed doors; break down the barriers! Relentlessly seek to love them radically.
Seek the Lord’s heart for them and pray that HE would fill their deepest needs.
He will use you as a tool in His hands and help you fight for their heart.
Remember that crazy, adolescent male kitty in our house who won’t leave the other alone? What can we learn from him? Two things:
That there is nothing we can do to prevent God from pursuing us. So…
There is nothing our spouse can do that should prevent us from pursuing them.
Finally, where should we pursue our spouse?
Specifically, where in your marriage is pursuit most needed?
Is it in practical ways?
Completing tasks from the “honey-do” list
Taking out the trash
Putting the kids to bed
Mowing the lawn
… all without being asked?
Is it in physical ways? (Men need this deeply.)
Sexual pursuit (For more information on sexual intimacy, read THIS.)
Looking for more ways to show physical affection
Physically loving him even when he’s upset you (If you and your spouse struggle with physical intimacy, read: Why Isn't Sex with My Spouse Satisfying?)
… all of the above, even when it is not deserved?
Is it in accountability? Know the areas in which your spouse struggles, then come alongside and continually encourage them to seek God’s priority in that area.
Accountability is important. For more information, read Should I Be Held Accountable?
To learn the benefits of setting Biblical boundaries, read Biblical Boundaries Lead to an Abundant Life... and Marriage.
Is it in emotional ways? (Women need this deeply.)
Carve out time for quality conversation and interaction (Have date night consistently! Need ideas? Click HERE.)
Be a good listener with a supportive ear
Consistently pray with her, especially through difficult seasons
Is it in spiritual ways? Fulfilling your God-designed role will change your marriage.
Husbands, step up and be the spiritual leader
Wives, respect, love, and support your husband
Husbands and wives, relentlessly seek to live out your God-given role. For more information on how fulfilling your role can change your marriage, read THIS post.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Today, ask yourself this question: where in our marriage is pursuit missing? Focus on where YOU are not pursuing THEM, not the other way around. Write down the areas in which pursuit is lacking.
Carefully observe and learn how to read your spouse; look for actual needs so that you can better serve them. Write down the needs you see (for help, refer to the list in the Where section above).
Look at your list of 1. “lack of pursuit” areas and 2. “actual needs” areas. Then write out specific plans to powerfully pursue your spouse. Include dates/deadlines for each pursuit. For example, “I will plan a surprise date night for my husband- with some of HIS favorite things- for next weekend.” Or “Next week, I will plan a night out with girlfriends for my wife. While she is gone, the kids and I will clean the house and make sweet notes for her to read when she gets home.”
The point is to be intentional in your pursuit. Don’t just do it so you can cross it off your list. Ask God for guidance and ideas in how to BEST love your spouse. Then love generously.
Remember, HE is pursuing them (and you!). He is faithful; He will NOT disappoint you (or your spouse)!
Why should we pursue our spouse?
Because God pursues us.
Paul reminds us in Romans 8:38-39 that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus Christ is the Who and Why of pursuing our spouse.
We love because HE first loved us (1 John 4:19).
What should we pursue? God’s blessing in our spouse’s life.
Be a tool in God’s hand to show His generous heart for them.
When should we pursue?
Constantly, relentlessly, persistently.
Regardless of what we think our spouse deserves.
Where should we pursue?
The answer varies in each marriage and every season.
Come back to the question: Where in our marriage is pursuit missing?
Trust the Lord to reveal the answers; He will.
Be willing to be more extreme in your love than ever before. Seek to believe the best about each other, always working toward forgiveness, intentionally loving even when it feels like the most unnatural thing. This is the kind of powerful pursuit that will move and motivate a marriage from broken, divided, and mundane to the beautiful design God intended.