Most of us are very familiar with the famous “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul writes in verses 4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
In their new marriage book Fierce Marriage, Ryan and Selena write, “It’s important to note that nowhere in the love chapter does the passage label love as a feeling. Feelings come and go, emotions fade, but God’s love for us is never failing and unconditional. He relentlessly pursues our souls.”
But, we so often rely upon our feelings in marriage.
- “I just don’t feel like I love her anymore.”
- “Things are different than they used to be and I don’t want to have sex with him anymore.”
- “We just kind of co-exist these days. The spark is gone and that candle blew out a long time ago.”
Over the last 12 years of working in marriage ministry, I’ve heard these sentiments or phrases just like them countless times. Through either sin like infidelity and pornography or through a passive drift toward marital isolation, many couples don’t feel like pursuing each other like they used to. The loving feeling are gone so the loving actions stop. It’s not long before one or both spouses are looking for separation or a divorce.
What to do when the loving feelings are gone
Regardless of the cause, the drift is not okay. We need to deal with it before it deals with us. In this post I want to share with you a few thoughts on what to do when the loving feelings are gone. I’m also going to share one of the best things I’ve ever done for my marriage.
First, you need to know EVERY couple experiences the drift at some point or another. You remember what it used to be like when you first fell in love? You wore love goggles and your significant other could do no wrong. They were perfect for you and the feelings were in full effect. Most couples experience this type of infatuation in the beginning stages of the relationship.
Loving Actions Lead to Loving Feelings
Second, know that loving actions lead to loving feelings. True love puts the needs of the other before the self. In his outstanding book The Meaning of Marriage, pastor and author Tim Keller says, “Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”
Let me give you a great example from my life of how loving actions lead to loving feelings. To give full credit where credit is due, I learned the idea from Gary Thomas in his book Cherish (you can read my review of the book Cherish here and read a post I wrote for Gary’s website about the book’s impact on me here).
Kristen and I got married in 2001, and our marriage is very strong. However, in some seasons we can drift like every other couple and focus on differences and frustrations rather than strengths. For this reason, in December 2016, I decided to start a Cherish journal.
Every day, from December 25, 2016 through December 24, 2017, I wrote a brief paragraph about something I cherish about Kristen. My only rule was that I was not allowed to repeat myself and I needed to be specific rather than general.
Here are a few examples:
- Kristen, I cherish you because during this busy week at work, you’re carrying the rock at home—you’re doing all the drop-offs and pick-ups for kids, making all the meals, and doing all the laundry. Thank you for serving us so well and for never complaining along the way.
- Kristen, I cherish you because we had such a fun time on our date last night. We tried a new restaurant and put our phones away and talked. Thank you for making our marriage and romance a priority.
- Kristen, I cherish you because of the ways you initiate sexually with me. I know this is a problem for so many couples, yet you choose to pursue me. You’re such a gift to me and I couldn’t be more attracted to you physically and sexually.
At Christmas, I wrapped up the Cherish Journal and gave it to Kristen as a gift. In some ways it’s an odd gift – I bought her a great journal, but it was filled cover to cover—no room left for her to write! And, she probably can’t even read most of my handwriting in the journal.
But the real gift came not in a $15 journal, but in the ways my loving actions lead to loving feelings. My attraction to and appreciation for Kristen has never been greater. The things that bothered me in the fall of 2016 don’t bother me at all or near as much as they used to. The action of and meditation upon things I cherish about my wife changed the way I feel about her. Our love grew and the oneness bond is stronger than ever.
What actions can you do in your marriage to help increase the loving feelings?
- Maybe you need to start a cherish journal. I highly recommend it. And do your best to keep it a surprise.
- Perhaps you need to look for ways to serve your spouse with intentionality. What are one or two tasks around the house you know your spouse doesn’t like to do? What if you took those on for a few weeks (or longer)?
- If your spouse has a higher sex drive, choose to initiate sexually once a week. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your loving action (initiating sexually) lead to loving feelings (more sexual satisfaction)?
- What can you do to help produce greater loving feelings in your marriage? Is there anything from the list above you can do starting today?
- What are you doing to prevent a drift in your marriage?
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