Many people understand and feel love as an emotion, but love is not just an emotion, it is a decision to be made, especially in marriage or any other relationship. Love is an act that generates emotions we feel and crave. It is good to be loved and be loving to others, especially our spouse. That is why God commanded husbands to love their wives, He did not stop there, He commanded us to love one another deeply. Meaning a wife must love her husband too, children love their parents and so on. God commanded us to go further and show deep love in 1 peter 4:8 “most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins”. For a successful marriage, you must always decide to love your spouse, because the reality is your spouse is going to hurt you the most, oh it will be a multitude of sins. People often expect their spouse to know them so well, not to offend them. You know what, it is the person who stands closest to you, that is most likely to step on your toes. It is easy to love from afar, but when you are married you can no longer love from afar. This is where God asks for your obedience, are you going to obey God or follow your emotions? There are many times I do not feel I love my husband because of pain or arguments, but one thing I am so sure of is, I love him. I may not feel it, but I am sure I love him. Hence, I will cook and serve his food and try to resolve whatever is making me not to feel his love at that moment. This did not come naturally to me, I had to learn it due to experiences of past mistakes. I used to understand love as an emotion so, if I do not feel like I love him, I am not going to behave lovingly, God taught me a lesson and a hard one for that matter. He said when I do that, I am walking in disobedience, therefore some of my prayers that were unanswered were due to walking in disobedience. It was a light bulb moment when I got the inspiration that to love in pain or hurt is to choose to obey God. Obedience is better than sacrifice, do not sacrifice your marriage your joy, love and peace because of your disobedience to love deeply. When you love deeply as an act, you will be able to cover the multitude of sins. It is not easy, but you can decide and learn to love not because of your feelings, but because Jesus commanded you to love and you want to obey Him.
4 practical ways to love your spouse intentionally.
#1 Love Your spouse because you are married now – This is unconditional love and agape love, once you are married your love is no longer based on what your spouse did or did not do. You must just love your spouse simply because she is your wife, or he is your husband and nothing more. Most people who fall out of love in marriage based their love on the expectation that their spouse will meet their needs, make them happy, listen and be obedient and so many other reasons. Once those reasons are not met, they no longer feel loved. Our heavenly father has shown us what agape love is, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. If God was waiting for mankind to come back to their senses and become holy, there would be no salvation. We all will continue in our sinful ways and even still do now. Even now that you are saved by the grace of salvation, are men living perfectly holy lives? We continue to pursue perfection as God gives us the grace of repentance, should we fail. This is the kind of love that sustains a marriage. As a husband, you just love your wife because she is your wife, as a wife you just love him because he is your husband. That is why you must choose well before committing to a marriage. If you have a “but” that you cannot accommodate before marriage, it is better not to marry because that but will be exposed and even made bigger when you start living together. It is a choice you make and continually remind yourself. When I tell a few of my couple friends who hold me and my husband accountable some of the issues I went through, they sometimes gasp for breath and wondered why I still love my husband so dearly, despite the pain. The truth is, I just love him for who is to me, not because of what he has done and has not done. Adegoke Apalara is my husband and I am immensely proud to be his wife, I always tell my friends, I am the right woman for my husband, and he is the right man for me. Until you have this type of conviction, you will find it difficult to love unconditionally.
#2 Support your spouse all the time – this is probably the greatest test of true love in any relationship. It is what makes people believe that someone absolutely loves them. I remember when I was growing up as a young girl, my mother would always tell me integrity is key and that the only reason she would ever deeply be disappointed in me, is when I am found to have failed the integrity test. I remembered I took some money out of her money box one day, she caught me red-handed, but I quickly threw the coin into muddy water outside of our house. My mum made me waddle through the puddle to look for this coin, but I could no longer find it. She then embarrassed me in front of my peers telling them I have stolen and people who steal will end up in jail. I could never forget the shame I felt and promised myself never to steal money again. Years went by and I was falsely accused by a neighbour of stealing some items because I had been to their compound along with other children. What love I felt when my mum showed up to defend me and supported me, she stood by my words and confronted my accusers. Upon her strong support and conviction, the accusers eventually found what they thought was lost and apologised profusely to me and my mum. What that taught me was a deep sense of love from my mum, she believed and supported me even in the face of being embarrassed in case the accusation was indeed a truth. This is what marriage needs, whether your spouse is right or wrong, you are there as a pillar of support, it proves you are reliable and can be trusted to come to your spouse’s rescue. If you must face embarrassing situations together do so, stand by your spouse in front of your friends, colleagues, family and defend their integrity. However, most marriages are not like this, husbands devalue their wives in the presence of their family, friends and colleagues and vice versa. When there are challenges or disagreement, as a spouse you refuse to show up for your partner because you are angry. That is not right and that does not show you know what love is. Love does not seek its own but seeks to comfort the other and it is even more real when it is not convenient.
#3 Be present even when you do not feel like – there is nothing more reassuring for a spouse than to have the presence of your spouse when you need them the most. I appreciate the presence and not your presents, we all know how that feels when you have a party. If you invite people to a banquet and they all refuse to show up but send you a gift, I do not think that will be of value to anyone. Yet In marriages, we have seen husbands refusing to attend wife’s graduation ceremony because he did not want her to take the course in the first instance. A husband refusing to attend a baby’s naming ceremony because he did not want the baby, yet he was the one who impregnated the woman. A wife refusing to follow her husband to bury his parent because the family never did her any good. So many situations like this and it is so sad that it happens amongst Christians too. Can you imagine what the world would look like if the love of God for us is based on emotions? There would have been days when we would not have the sunrise because of our sins. God could remove the moon and stop the wind from blowing because we do not recognise him as Lord. God’s love is constant, and He shows up even when we are dead in our sins. When Adam and Eve sinned, God knew they had done a bad thing, yet He still called out to Adam. Even though as a just God, they got the consequences of their sins, God did not leave man to die forever. He was looking for ways to reconcile man back to Himself, and that meant He had to pay the price on the cross. What sacrifice are you making for love in your marriage? Once your spouse annoys you, you have checked out emotionally and physically. There is a cost to pay for love just as God laid down His life for man. Why can’t you lay down your pride, your ego, your worth and be selfless? Why do you think you must receive an apology before you make up? Are you bigger than God? It is because God never left us that we continue to love Him and revere Him. Be present in your marriage no matter how you feel, get up and show up when it matters. Be there and then resolve any emotions as soon as possible.
#4 Never without affection and sex – Love in a marriage is characterised by affection and intimacy. You cannot claim to love your spouse but do not act lovingly. Show of affection are indicators of the presence of love in a marriage relationship. Cuddling, holding hands, kissing, speaking with kindness and of course, lovemaking in a marriage shows there is love. Many couples once they argue, out goes lovemaking or any show of affection. I remember when I and my husband had an argument and he said to me, “I do not feel close to you”. But when we hold hands, kissed and make love the feeling of closeness returns as soon as possible. Emotions can get the best of us, but we can control our emotions. Feelings they say are not forever. Unfortunately, some couples allow negative feelings to fester thereby becoming a stronghold that destroys love in their marriage. I recently heard a “supposed marriage counselor” said to a man who was complaining of losing the feeling to be intimate with his spouse, the counselor’s response really took me by surprise. Instead of encouraging this man to engage in agape love and work on putting his feelings in check, he validated that feeling by saying “yes that’s how we men feel when we are angry”. This made the man continue to hold that negative and destructive emotion and ultimately refused to have any intimate or sexual relationship with his wife for over two years. What a waste and what a pity. When I heard this the image that came to my mind is that of a child crying and need to be pacified, the pacifier is what is needed to calm this baby, but do you know what! the baby refused the pacifier and kept it away. Sex in marriage and emotional bonding is what couples need to engage to continue to prove their love and cement that love in a marriage. Do not withhold sex or affection, even when you are angry, allow yourself to be pacified by love. In marriage it is not being buttered up, I also heard a man saying when my wife and I engage in sexual activities, I feel am being buttered up. What do you expect in a marriage? Where else do you want to feel vulnerable? The ability to resist sexual advances is not a skill or gift needed in a marriage. If you are not yielding to sexual flirtations in your marriage, you are killing the passion and flame of love. If you are not falling for the skirt in your marriage, where else do you want to fall?
Are you longing for inspiration for your life and marriage? Learning new skills and acquiring knowledge can greatly improve your relationship with your spouse.
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Abi Apalara loves sharing insightful information that helps couples flourish in life and their marriage relationship. I have enjoyed both good marital pleasures and challenging times in my marriage. I came to realise, the points where I missed it, were areas I lacked information on how to.
Making it up along the way, only meant I was going the wrong way. Desperately seeking to get back into marital bliss, I started exploring and reading about those areas of challenge. I also reached out to counsellors and began to see what I was missing.
After a surprising move into relationship study, I have found peace of mind and happy with my marriage. I have authored the book Are you ready? Marriage expectation versus reality to share my experience and encourage men and women to work on their marriages, by seeking knowledge and apply it to their marriage relationship.
My latest book, Are you ready? Marriage expectation versus reality focuses on discovering some of the unrealistic expectations we bring into a marriage. It comes with practical advice and a guide on how to get it right before and after getting married. Pre-order here