Do you love your spouse?

By Jay Dee, Contributing Writer

If you answered “yes”, are you sure?  What definition of the word “love” are you using?

Do you love your spouse

The World’s Definition

The dictionary, which does it’s best to define the world’s thoughts on a word, says that love is a noun:

  • a strong feeling of affection
  • a great interest of pleasure in something

or a verb:

  • to feel deep affection or sexual love for (someone)
  • to like or enjoy very much

Basically, the world says love is an internal emotional, and ultimately, one that is selfish.  Science has been attempting for years to define love in terms of brain chemistry and physiological responses, but again, it always comes down to how we feel, or more accurately, how it makes us feel.  Again, a selfish desire.

So, when you say you love your spouse, do you mean it in the same way you love your new phone?

Given this definition of love, it is no wonder our we see the following patterns in our society:

Divorce rates are high

Why would you stay in a marriage that isn’t feeding a constant stream of positive emotions?  This is why we see so many divorces in the first year.  As soon as the honeymoon phase is over, and life becomes a bit mundane, you look around and think “this isn’t exciting anymore”, so you feel you’ve “fallen out of love”.  We see a clear mark again between 4 and 7 years.  Why?  This is when children are born.  Life changes, responsibility climbs, this is no longer all play, there is work, there is sacrifice.  You have to give of yourself, so another can receive.  But you don’t “feel” love anymore, those happy brain chemicals aren’t at the high they used to be.  You must no longer be “in love”.  Again, we see a divorce spike when kids leave the home.  Why?  The kids brought excitement, joy, to see them grow, live vicariously through them.  But now they are gone, and it’s just the two of you.  You look at each other, and there is no “spark”.  You must no longer be “in love”.  Time for a divorce.

Marriages are battle fields

You both fight constantly to have your way, because winning brings excitement, and what you want to do brings you joy.  So, the marriage becomes, not a partnership of equals, but a battle between enemies for life.

Teenagers are having sex earlier

These all cascade down.  Their parents are getting divorced, or they are miserable in their combative marriage.  What does the child learn about love and marriage?  That marriage is a joke and that love is whatever joy you can  pull forcibly out of life.  Mix this with our culture’s juxtaposition-ed devaluation of sex while still managing to turn it into a god, and teenagers start looking for love in the form of sex, because it makes them feel good.

General Discontent

This is where we are headed as a society.  We’re no longer happy with anything, and it’s because of this love.  We love our phone…until the next one comes out.  We love our spouse…until they disappoint us.  We love our jobs…until it becomes too much like work.  We love our car…until it’s no longer shiny.  And so, we’re never truly happy, we are constantly moving to the next fix, like a child who gets too many Christmas presents, he barely looks at one before screaming that he wants to open the next one.

 

This concept of love is destroying us as a culture, and in particular, destroying our marriages.  So what’s the answer?

The Bible’s Definition

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.

– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Does this sound like an emotion?  Not to me.  This sounds like a choice, that love is an act of will, a resolution for your life.

  • When you are patient, every moment may not feel like it’s the most exciting in your life, but that’s OK.  Being patient, you know it will come back if you follow the Bible’s teaching.
  • When you are kind, you do not fight for what you want, but rather work together to glorify God.
  • When you are not envious, you don’t look at the next opportunity, or are jealous of your friends’ spouses.  You enjoy what God has created in your spouse.
  • When you don’t boast, people can look at  your marriage and see God’s will modeled in it, and work towards doing the same in theirs.
  • When you aren’t proud, you accept rebuke, accept advice, accept teaching and admonishment, because you know your spouse loves you and only wants what is best for you.
  • When you do not dishonour others, you spend your days building each other up, instead of planning battle tactics to get your way.
  • When you are not self-seeking, you find joy in doing what your partner enjoys, as they do in turn.
  • When you are not easily angered, you can pass by so many arguments and fights about things that do not matter.
  • When you keep no record of wrongs, you can get rid of kitchen-sinking when in conflict.  You don’t have to live in fear that your spouse will bring back your list of sins against you.
  • When you don’t delight in evil, you don’t relish the idea of attacking your partner with every mistake they make, but rather, seek to help them get back up so you can both continue.
  • When you rejoice in the truth, you encourage communication, even about difficult topics, knowing that to open up and be transparent is more valuable than any secret.
  • When you always protect, you stand up for each other against any adversity.
  • When you always trust, you stop worrying about what the other is doing, and you turn your marriage into a safe harbor in a world that is becoming more inherently distrustful.
  • When you always hope and persevere, even during the difficult years, you can have peace knowing that this season will end.

This is the life God wants for us.  This is what God wants for our marriages, and this is the concept of love we should strive to embody.

You Decide

Which definition are you living by?  Do you need to make a change?

Comments

  1. Calling it an act of will doesn’t quite cover it for me. I think those outward actions can be a evidences of love, but they are not love itself. A person can chose to do all those outward actions as a matter of self discipline without love, or as a means of manipulation, just as a person can do good works without faith.

    I agree it is not an emotion, but it is a state of the heart and mind that motivates a person to those actions and results in them finding joy in those acts of love. There is willing commitment, submission, the ability to derive personal happiness through service to them. Those are all things inside a person’s heart and mind that are also a part of love.

  2. Yes, you can do all those things, just as you can do all the “requirements” of Christianity without having your heart behind it. But it won’t do you any good. I still think it’s an act of will. If not, then the choice to follow God or not isn’t a choice at all, that would mean it’s determined by something external to you, or something outside of your control. This would imply that God has created you, and through no choice of your own, you will go to heaven or not. And that just doesn’t line up with my concept of a loving God. I forget what the LDS view on “predestination” is.

  3. I believe at times it is an act of the will and at times it’s not. It’s easy to love when everything’s rosy; this would be the noun love that you feel. The verb love is the doing love – akin to God’s agape. Again, easy enough to give if we are getting that ‘feeling’ love. A completely different story if we are not, that’s when the real work comes in. The more mature a believer is, the easier the selfless agape is.

    We get it backwards though. We think that the noun love “gushy feelings” will bring commitment, it’s the other way around. It’s in the growth of the tough times, if we keep doing the verb love selflessly, the gush of emotional love returns.

    Love is more about the there and then of heaven than about the here and now of earth. The love in marriage is no exception to this.

  4. We don’t go in for predestination, not the way the Calvinists define it anyway.

    What I’m saying is that it is not JUST choice, choice is a part of it but our heart should be in it as well. When it comes to following Christ, he can change our hearts making us reborn with a desire to follow Him. When it comes to who you marry it is more a case of finding somebody where there is a mutual connection of the heart, and choosing to nurture that emotional bond over your life by those kinds of actions. I didn’t make a conscious choice to fall in love with my wife, but I did make a choice after that to pursue her in the hopes of marrying her, and I made a choice to commit to our relationship in marriage.