By Mark and Susan Merrill
Most fairy tales end with the words, “And they lived happily ever after.” It communicates that the journey to marriage is the hard part, but everything after the wedding is bliss.
We tend to think that once we’ve won over our spouse we can sit on the mountaintop and enjoy our prize.
However, marriage is not about winning a spouse for a wedding day, it’s about winning a spouse’s heart every day for a lifetime. Doing that is dependent on how well you love your spouse.
Loving your spouse well takes thoughtfulness, initiative, and action. If you desire to have a marriage that lasts a lifetime you must be committed and put in effort.
These are 5 ways to love your spouse well:
1. Understand what love really is.
Love is the greatest, but it’s also undoubtedly the most overused and underused, misapplied and misunderstood word in the English language.
It’s overused and misapplied with reckless abandon on most television shows and commercials you watch.
Love is also underused and misconstrued in word and deed by husbands, wives, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and coworkers.
Love is not just a feeling; it is a decision. Love does not say, “Feel this way.” Love says, “Act this way.” Love is an act of the will to be patient, kind, gentle, humble, sincere, compassionate, giving, faithful, trusting, forgiving, uniting, and persevering.
Love is all about serving and giving selflessly and sacrificially to another person. The best way to spell love? G-I-V-E.
It’s looking not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. It’s doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you personally.
2. Cultivate trust.
Trust is key for each of you to receive love from the other. Your spouse needs to know you’re the real deal—that you are who you say you are.
They also need to know that you’ll always be honest and will do what you say you’ll do. Trust needs to be evident in every aspect of your life.
Trust removes any uncertainty in your relationship, fosters intimacy, and is the foundation of clear communication.
As trust increases in a relationship, it drives out fear of being hurt. Each person feels more comfortable in the face of vulnerability.
Couples connected by trust can share their desires, hopes, dreams, failures, and fears freely with one another; this will allow you and your spouse to have the courage to pursue your Godly passions and champion your spouse in theirs.
The more you trust your spouse and invite them to trust you, the more you want to give yourself fully to them and love them well.
3. Watch your words.
Toxic words poison and sometimes even kill relationships. Words like, “I hate you” or “I wish I’d never met you” can cause irreparable damage.
I confess. There have been too many times when harsh, harmful words have come out of my mouth toward others. It grieves me. I’m continually working hard to choose my words wisely.
There are five toxins of the tongue that we must avoid: sarcastic words, unsupportive words, disrespectful words, comparing words, and selfish words.
Words can also be used for good. Just as we know words can tear down, powerful words can also build up.
Here are five types of powerful words to breathe life into your marriage: respectful words, affirming words, caring words, encouraging words, and appreciative words.
4. Fight for time.
Not many days go by without hearing people I know say how busy they are. It seems many even wear their busyness as a badge of honor.
Somehow, we’ve equated busyness with value. We’ve equated busyness with importance. We’ve equated busyness with honor. And yet, being busy can be harmful in so many ways.
When spouses find themselves on different schedules, they often become like two rudderless ships passing in the night … and day.
One is getting home from work while the other is taking their daughter to soccer practice. One is sleeping in after a long night of work while the other is up early and out the door to get things done.
Whatever the situation may be, it’s hard to love your spouse well when you’ve given the best of your time and energy somewhere else and only have leftovers for your spouse.
So, the first step is to acknowledge you’re too busy and that busyness is not a badge of honor. Second, remember you choose what you put on your calendar. Control your calendar or it will control both of you.
Third, be present when you make that time. Plan activities that allow you to experience the world together, rather than simply being entertained together.
Schedule regular coffee or lunch dates. Go on a walk. Have a picnic. Try a new activity together.
There’s something so refreshing in knowing God has created the world and that we can develop deep, meaningful relationships by simply enjoying His creation together.
That’s not to say you can never just veg out and watch TV or a movie together, but don’t let entertainment serve as the foundation for your relationship.
5. Love God together.
Jesus clarified the most important thing we can do in what is called the Greatest Commandments. First, love God with all we have. Second, love our neighbor as ourselves. Our closest neighbor is our spouse.
God also tells us that He is love (1 John 4:16), that love comes from Him (1 John 4:7), and that we can only love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
We cannot keep the second commandment without obeying the first. True connection with our spouse, our closest neighbor, is contingent upon our love for God.
You must first both have a personal relationship with God, and then there are countless ways to connect with God with your spouse.
What better way to love God than to seek Him alongside the one you love?
- Pray together. Most days, we pray together in the morning or before we go to bed.
- Share God’s Word with each other. We share Scripture with one another regularly.
- Attend church together.
- Fellowship with like-minded believers together. We are plugged into a church small group and are starting a monthly supper club with couples from our church.
Loving your spouse well doesn’t end on your wedding day, it begins. If you are consistent and faithful with these five ways to love your spouse well, you will have the marriage you’ve always wanted.
MARK and SUSAN MERRILL are the authors of Lists to Love By for Busy Wives and Lists to Love By for Busy Husbands. They also lead the national non-profit organization Family First, and its All Pro Dad and iMOM programs.