On a marriage forum I recently saw a woman describe her dilemma:
My husband and I have been fighting so much that I texted him and asked, “Do you love me?” He answered yes. But, then I asked him, “Are you in love with me?” And he answered no. What should I do?
I wonder where we got the idea that there is a difference between loving your spouse and being in love with your spouse? Love, in the present tense, is happening now. It is on-going. When you say I love you at the altar, when you pledge to stick close through sickness, through lean times, through the worst times, through heartache and hurt and even boredom, you are saying that you vow to love now, to love then, and to love until death separates you.
That kind of love can’t be measured in how many butterflies you get when you lay eyes on your spouse or in how many romantic dinners you’ve gotten in the past year. It can’t even be measured in how many arguments you have or in how often you really don’t have much fun together. The love you vowed to pour out on your spouse is immune to the not-so-fun times. It’s immune to the arguments, to the money struggles, to the long nights with sick babies, to the devastating news. The love you promised to give is selfless. It’s Christ-like. It’s completely unconditional.
That’s a love that doesn’t balk at some extra pounds or some extra years. It doesn’t run away. It doesn’t lose interest. It’s a love that says, I don’t have to feel in love with you at this moment to know that I love you.
Don’t sit around and wonder if you’re still in love with your spouse or if your spouse is still in love with you. Just love him. Just love her. Go above and beyond to shower your marriage with the kind of love that you promised you would demonstrate for the rest of your life. Real love goes so far beyond the feeling of being in love. Make your marriage a picture of sacrifice and blessing, and stop trying to decide what your feelings mean. In-love feelings come and go, but real love goes on and on.
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
Victor Muthoka (@Vic_Speak)
Took me quite a while to learn this as a younger man (no one teaches us you know). When I finally did, it altered my perspective of marriage and love in many ways.
It seems to me that one can be devoted to one’s spouse and serve one’s spouse, even self-sacrificially, without actually loving one’s spouse.
Which is to say that if you wake up one morning and think to yourself, “You know, I think I might prefer it if I weren’t married to this person anymore,” your first impulse maybe shouldn’t be to just “do more” (e.g. service).
There seems to be a trend among believers of responding to the culture’s over-emphasis of “feelings” by under-emphasizing them.
There is a real difference between loving someone in service and loving someone with real intimacy and affection. If all love were the same, the Bible wouldn’t have used the original Greek definitions. I’m not disagreeing with the gist of your article, I just think it doesn’t go deeply enough into a complicated issue. Yes, we should stop splitting hairs and focus on simply loving one another but the ultimate goal is that we love not only in word and deed, but from the heart as well. In most cases, because of our sin, it’s only a love God can give.
A preacher once told me that love was not a feeling as much as a commitment. After nearly 63 years I fully agree.