When I am talking about love (since it is such an overused and misunderstood word) I am talking about stepping outside my own self-preoccupation to concern myself fully with the well-being of another person (in this case, my husband). I am talking about living out care for him regardless of my own cost in the process. I am talking not so much about romance and gooshy feelings. I am talking about love that willingly lays down our own life for our beloved. Jesus loves like that and it is real love to let go of what we could have so that the other person in our lives can be better for it.
What I'm not talking about is sacrificing in a way that is co-dependent. I don't mean giving so my husband will like me more (that's selfish too) or giving so he will give back to me or so that he will change somehow. All of those gifts have strings that are like ropes which turn into nooses. Love isn't based in fear, lack or manipulation. I'm not saying I haven't acted in those ways in our marriage. Unfortunately I have wanted to change my husband, to make him do my will and to get him to give to fill my needs. I've written other posts on these seasons in our marriage (here). God won't leave us empty forever (though sometimes He allows emptiness as a part of our healing journey). When we realize that He never meant our husband to be our Rock & Redeemer and the Lover of our soul, we can begin to drop those unrealistic demands and then, only then, are we free to truly love.
1. I honor him in front of our children.
Okay, a brief history here is that I haven't always done that. I wrote about this in my post on respect. My boys will grow to want to be like their dad and they will identify with him. As I respect my husband I am showing them that they are worthy of respect too and I am modeling how a woman they will choose to marry should treat them. This doesn't mean I don't disagree, state my opinion or have my own plans. What it means is that I speak well of and speak kindly to my husband when our boys are present. My husband rises up when I do this and my children settle down. Good fruit.
2. I make his priorities my own.
My husband is away at work all week and his job requires he be away several weekends a month on Saturdays as well. He has plans and needs for things to be done around the home and for our household management. He has things he can't get to while he is earning a living to support us. I have a busy and full life too, but for years I made that an excuse for not getting to "little" things which were big to him. Lately I have had a habit of asking him what he wants done in a given week and I have planned it into my schedule. He is way more open to what I need now that he isn't preoccupied with what he feels isn't getting done. I'm not doing this for that result, but again: good fruit.
3. Be in a Mood
... a good one. Yes, I've been in a mood on and off throughout our marriage. Most of the times I was "in a mood" I wouldn't have wanted candid camera to pop out and say, "Surprise!" I have let my emotions flow out at the end of harried days and let my unmet needs translate into agitation at my husband. As I have been growing over the years I have progressed in taking my "mood" to the Lord. Do I need to remind us all "If Mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"? Our family has started to have a Family Night once a week. I'll share that in another post. Suffice it to say that I was sitting back taking it all in the other night during our family night. All of us were laughing and peaceful and enjoying the connection we have with one another. I realized how many nights throughout our family life my burn-out or sadness or brokenness had robbed us of times like this. It wasn't a pervasive pattern, but it was enough so that I remembered those sour spots and was just in awe of the truth that my mood does have such a huge impact. We have to get our needs met as moms and wives. I don't mean turning our lives around so that every day includes us going off to "fill our tank." But, we do need to tend our own soul so there is something in there to pour out.
4. Wash His Feet
Jesus showed His love to His disciples by washing their feet. It was an act of humility and care. I decided this year to start washing my husband's feet a couple times a week. I just get out this little rubbermaid tub and fill it with hot water and oil. He soaks his feet and then I dry them and massage cream into his heels. It doesn't really take much, but the message is that I love him enough to care for him in this way.
5. Save Him Something Just for Him
How often do we have dregs left at the end of our long days? We don't always give our husband our best. Sometimes we end up frazzled and drained by suppertime. We face so many demands and it is hard to keep the fire burning through all that comes at us each day. I'm not suggesting we always will be filled enough to give. Some days we just need to plop down and be done. I'm talking about a pattern here. When we are consistently dried up by the time the kids are in bed, we aren't feeding our marriage. We are sending a message to our husband that he isn't important to us. I wrote another post on this earlier this year. In most marriages, over time, there is less physical intimacy because our lives get too full, preoccupied and disconnected. The stresses of life can interfere with our ability to have energy and desire for one another. I am committed to being refreshed by the end of the day (if it means laying down in the middle of the afternoon for a short nap or whatever I need to do) so that my husband isn't left with my dregs on a regular basis. I chose him to live out this life together. I want to give him my best, not my worst.
How about you? How do you tend your marriage? Where have you fallen short or where are you growing now? I'd love to hear from you and pray for you.
Jesus on Cross by Ips2013 Courtesy of WikiCommons