By Dr. Gary Chapman
Explore the foundation
When couples come to me for pre-marital counseling, I sometimes ask: “Why do you want to get married?” They always seem to give me the big reason; and the big reason is always the same. What do they say? “We love each other.” Then I ask a very unfair question: “Tell me, What do you mean by that?” There is silence. Then, one will say, “Oh… you know!”
I guess maybe I do know. I think they are talking about a euphoric emotion that makes them oblivious to reality. They are the happiest they have ever been. What they don’t know is that the euphoric feelings will last for two years and then they must find another foundation for marriage. Wouldn’t it be better to explore that foundation before they get married?
What is love?
One definition says, “Love is the feeling that you feel when you feel a feeling like you’ve never felt before.” If that is your definition of love, I can tell you, that kind of love will never lead you to a life-long marriage. The euphoric feels are temporary. It is interesting that in Eph. 5:25 husbands are commanded to love their wives. If the intense feelings of love were permanent, why would God command a husband to love his wife?
The fact is, they are not permanent and love is not a feeling, but an attitude, with appropriate behavior. Love is the attitude which says, “I’m married to you, so what can I do to help you? Love is choosing to be kind, and supportive. Is that your attitude?
Love as a way of life
Most people get married based on love. However their concept of love often focuses on feelings. I read one definition which said, “Love is a four-letter word composed of two consonants, L and V; two vowels, O and E; and two fools, you and me.” There is some truth to that, and fools often make poor decisions.
In the Bible, love is not a euphoric feeling, but a way of life. In Titus chapter two the older women are instructed to teach the young wives to love their husbands. This implies that love can be learned. It is not something that happens to you. It is something you choose. Once you choose to love, then you look for appropriate ways to express it. This kind of love will lead you to a life-long productive marriage.
Learning to love
“I don’t love her anymore.” How many times have I heard that in my office! What is that supposed to mean? Usually, it means that he has lost the euphoric feelings he had for her when they got married. And that their differences have emerged and ended in arguments. The fact is, everyone loses the euphoric feelings. They usually last for only two years.
Then, we must learn to love. We must choose to treat each other with respect. We must listen to differences of opinion and try to find a solution. We must learn to work together as a team; using our differences for the benefit of the team. This attitude is commanded by God.
Love that makes marriage enjoyable
Would you like to know what love looks like in a marriage? Then, turn to I Corinthians chapter 13. Listen to these words: “Love is patient and kind; is not arrogant or rude; It does not insist on it’s own way; it is not resentful; Love does not bring up past failures, but chooses to forgive.” Does this describe your attitude and treatment of your spouse?
This is the kind of love that makes for happy marriages. Love focuses on meeting the needs of the spouse; helping them succeed; listening to their thoughts and feelings. In short, it is giving your life away for your spouse. That is precisely what Christ did for us, and it is what husbands are instructed to do for their wives. Love is powerful.