Tag Archive for love

What’s Love In Your Marriage?

Love…we have a lot of confusion around love in our society.

  • From Tina Turner telling us, somewhat cynically about love, you “must understand though the touch of your hand makes my pulse react, that it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl. Opposites attract. It’s physical, only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that. What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”
  • To John Legend, who speaks of throwing his all into love “cause all of me loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfection…. You’re my end and my beginning; even when I lose I’m winning ’cause I give you all, all of me…and you give me all, all of you.”
  • To Blake Shelton speaking of needing the one he loves “Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs. God gave me you for the days of doubt. For when I think I’ve lost my way there are no words here left to say, it’s true…God gave me you.”
  • To the J. Geils Band telling us “…this thing they call love, it’s gonna make you cry…Love stinks.”

All in all, we get a montage of love that leaves us confused and unsure of what true love really is.

In wedding ceremonies, I often hear another description of love, an ancient description written by Paul, a follower of Christ, to the church in Corinth. It begins with “Love is patient” and continues to offer a wonderful, inclusive definition of love. 

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;

 

Love does not brag and is not arrogant,

 

Does not at unbecomingly;

 

It does not seek its own, is not provoked,

 

Does not take into account a wrong suffered,

 

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

 

Bears all things, believes all things,

 

Does all things, endures all things.

 

Love never fails…

But now faith, hope, and love, abide these three;

 

But the greatest of these is love.”

Love as described in this passage can make or break your marriage. It lays the foundation for a intimate marriage filled with joy. It’s a beautiful passage, but if fear we don’t take the time to really explore what it tells us about love. For instance, consider the first word: love.  The word for love in the original language of this passage is “agape.”  The author could have chosen “eros,” “phileo,” or “storge,” all Greek words for love; but he didn’t. He chose to use “agape,” a word that speaks of a higher love, the love of God. “Agape” is more than a feeling and more than an action based on feelings. “Agape” takes great pleasure in the person it loves and is willing to pay a personal price to continue seeking that person’s good. It sets aside pride, self-interest, and personal possessions to benefit the one loved. Although “agape” can include physical love, emotions, and natural connection, it goes…

  • beyond passion to commitment,
  • beyond the physical to intentional self-giving,
  • beyond feelings to an act of will,
  • beyond natural connection to a connection that requires self-sacrificing development.

As we implement this type of love in our marriages, our marriages will grow stronger and more intimate.

PS: Stay tuned as we explore more about this type of love in future blogs.

The Perfect Cocktail for Love

Young love floods the brain with a cocktail of neurotransmitters that enhance attraction, pleasure, and commitment. In young love, this cocktail can prove dangerous, blinding young lovers to the red flags and flaws of their partner. They are too “drunk on love” to truly discern what everyone around them already knows. But, as time goes on, this cocktail loses its potency.  Neurotransmitter levels return to normal and feelings begin to level out. The love shared by young lovers becomes tested and their true level of commitment becomes apparent.  Mature love, a love that transcends mere passion to incorporate commitment and investment into the relationship, can develop at this time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the feelings and passion of young love does not play a role in mature love. It just becomes supported by a foundation of commitment and investment. In fact, I really think it’s a great idea for every marriage to add an emotional, passionate cocktail of neurotransmitters to their foundation of commitment and investment.   Not only do I think it a good idea, I have a recipe. It is composed of three ingredients (Taken from The Neurochemistry of Love).

  1. Dopamine is the first ingredient in this perfect love cocktail. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter. We experience pleasure when it is released. One author notes that dopamine is released in response to “the chase,” the pursuit of love. Dopamine also alerts us that our needs are about to be met. For instance, the smell of the charcoal grill alerts us that our hunger will soon be satisfied by grilled burgers or steak. Ahh, the joy…. Anyway, you can see how dopamine adds to the cocktail of love. You can add it into your love potion by continuing to pursue your spouse. Learn about your spouse and what entices them, excites them, or makes them feel loved ( Discover Your Love Language here). Then pursue your spouse by romancing them with your knowledge of their likes and interests. Put on the perfume he enjoys. Bring the gift that you know she likes. Say the words that “make their heart swoon.” Every time you do, you give them a shot of dopamine. They feel good. You feel good. The pursuit is on. Soon, your spouse will get a little shot of dopamine when you walk in the room with that smile on your face that says something good is on the way.
  2. Oxytocin, the “love hormone” itself, adds the second component in this cocktail of love. Oxytocin is triggered by touch. Something as simple as holding hands or a hug releases oxytocin. When you invest in repeatedly holding hands or hugging your spouse over years of committed relationship, you build an “oxytocin quick release system.” It is more easily released, which is good since oxytocin also promotes trust. Who doesn’t want trust in their marriage? So, bring on the touch and add a shot of oxytocin into your marital cocktail of love. Hold hands. Hug. Sit with arms touching. Put your hand on your spouse’s leg. Enjoy physical touch. (Read An Easy Way to Get in Sync for more.)
  3. Serotonin is the third ingredient in this love cocktail. Serotonin is stimulated by associating with a person of status. You can add this into your love cocktail by building a reputation of keeping your promises. Build a reputation as a kind person, a compassionate person, a patient person. Become known among your friends and community as a person of honor and integrity. As you grow in a reputation of a good person, you spouse will get a shot of serotonin to enhance your marital love cocktail. (More for men.)

These three ingredients will make a cocktail of love to keep your marriage young. Added to commitment, this cocktail can enhance your marriage and your love. Adding them in is simple: 1) learn about your spouse and continue to pursue them with romance; 2) engage in loving touch every day, and 3) build a reputation of honor and integrity.

An Easy Way to Get In Sync

I have a confession. Sometimes I feel out-of-sync with my wife. Sometimes for no identifiable reason we feel disconnected, distant from one another. Have you ever felt disconnected or out-of-sync in your marriage? If you have, I have great news! A study completed by researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Haifa found a way to get more in sync. This simple activity synchronizes breathing, heart rate, and even brain waves when a couple engages in it. The researchers confirmed what I consider an additional bonus for this activity as well. When a woman felt pain and an empathetic spouse engaged in this simple activity, the synchronicity increased and the pain decreased! In other words, this activity activated “pain-killing reward mechanisms in the brain.” Nice bonus, right?

 

What is this powerful activity you ask? Holding hands! If you feel out-of-sync with your loved one, hold hands. If you feel disconnected, hold hands. Your heart, your breath, and even your brain waves will sync up. You’ll feel more in-sync and connected. As an added bonus, if you’re experiencing any pain, it will likely decrease as well. So reach out your hand and touch your spouse. Grab your spouse’s hand and hold it. Get in sync today. (P.S.—I think I’ll practice now!)

The Book of Love

Don’t you wish we had a book of love, a book that would explain all the nuances of love? A book that describes all the idiosyncratic steps of a loving relationship?  Then again, maybe not.  The author of the book would try to explain the “facts” and figures of love…and that would likely prove long and boring. The author would also include charts that would be so confusing and difficult to understand. But, if you had a loved one to read it with you…that would change everything. Reading it with a loved one will result in the most beautiful music. You’ll discover flowers and heart-shaped boxes. You’ll love to read the book then…but only when you read it with the one you love. You’ll sing the songs of love together and share a dance to the music of love. As you put down the book and enjoy one another’s company, as you share your lives and emotions, you’ll discover fascinating joys flowing from the book of love. So, take a moment now and enjoy “The Book of Love” as sung by Peter Gabriel. Grab your spouse and dance to the tune. Enjoy a moment of love!

With An Eye to the Future

One of my daughter’s dearest friends (and a close family friend as well) got married in September. They arranged a beautiful wedding and reception. There were two unique aspects of their wedding that revealed their hearts and the direction of their life together. First, they invited all of us to not only witness their marriage but to join with them in worship during the ceremony. We sang praise to the God of Love. It was a time to remember that the love they share is a gift from the Giver and Sustainer of Love.

 

Second, they shared in the Lord’s Supper with one another after exchanging their vows. In essence, their first act as a married couple was to share in the memory of the One who “gave Himself” for His Bride, to make her holy and blameless.

 

These two acts, worship and sharing the Lord’s Supper, not only represent a moment in their ceremony but, I pray, set the direction for their marriage as well. I hope they engaged in these two acts with an eye to the future. Marriage is beautiful, a wonderful glimpse of heaven. In those times when marriage is good, I hope they remember to worship the One who gives the gift of love. But, marriage can prove difficult at times. It is not always easy to “give ourselves” to our spouse, to sacrifice our own desires in order to bring our spouses into a closer relationship with us. I pray that during those times they will remember the Lord’s Supper and how He gave Himself for His Bride, sacrificing Himself to bring His Bride closer in relationship to Him. With these thoughts in mind, I offer this pray for you, Anthony and Alyssa, a blessing for your marriage.

 

May your way, when it is easy,

Be filled with humble praise;

But when it’s rocky or obstructed

Or trying or just plain tough

Let your strength be found in worship

Of the One who feeds your love;

The One who gave Himself to make 

His True Love’s charms shine forth.

 

May you, as well, give of your selves

And so release the seed of

Love to blossom in full sight 

So all her charms are known.

Then, turn again to worship

And offer humble praise

To Him who nurtures your true love

In times of joy and pain.     

 

Anthony and Alyssa, I pray you find the joy of your lifetime in one another and in the God you chose to worship and remember during your wedding ceremony, the God who gave you this wonderful gift of love.

The Most Important Questions Your Children Never Asked

Remember the age when your children started asking questions? I don’t mean when they asked one or two questions. I’m talking about the age in which they did nothing but ask questions every waking hour of every day. They asked about everything. They even asked questions about the questions! It was a constant barrage of never ending questions. Even in the midst of all those questions your children probably never asked the questions listed below…not out loud anyway. Sure, they wanted the answers to these questions, they even needed the answers, but they didn’t ask them out loud. They asked these questions through behaviors like hanging around your legs, getting under your feet, pushing limits, and even disobeying a request while looking you straight in the eye. What questions were they asking without using their words? The truly important questions like:

  1. Will you set clear and fair rules and limits? Will you enforce those limits consistently or can I make you give in? Your consistency answers another question I have…will you really keep me safe? Am I safe to explore the world under your watchful, loving eye?
  2. Do you delight in me? When I walk in the room, do your eyes light up with joy or do you look bothered and annoyed? Am I lovable and delightful in your eyes…or am I a nuisance?
  3. Do you realize I’m still a kid? I don’t have the knowledge or experience you have. Will you match your expectations match with my ability or will you expect me to do things I don’t have the ability or knowledge to do yet? Will you teach me and help me experience success so I can grow more confident?
  4. I hear you and see you. I’m listening to you and watching you very closely every day. I learn from everything you say and do. What will I learn from you?
  5. Can you hear me? Can you respect my ideas, even if they’re different than your ideas? Can I be my own person or am I trapped being the person you want me to be?
  6. Do you see me or just my grades? My character or just my sporting ability? My dreams or my achievements?
  7. Can we play together? I talk best when we’re having fun. So, can we have fun together?
  8. Will you accept me even when I make mistakes, clumsily spill a drink, act like a 5-year-old, or have a different opinion than you?
  9. Will you ever give up on me? Will I ever do something so bad that you just get rid of me?
  10. Do you really love me?

Our children need to know the answers to these questions even though they may never ask them out loud. It doesn’t really matter if they ask out loud because we answer these questions whether we know it or not. Our children discover the answers to these questions in how you look at them, how we talk to them, how we act toward them, and how we interact with them.  They hear the answers in our speech and see the answers in our deeds. The answers they receive will shape their identity, their confidence, their desire to learn, their character, their self-concept.  So, let me ask one final question: what answers do your children hear from you in response to these questions?

Are You Naked and Unafraid?

Healthy marriages provide an opportunity for us to return to the Garden of Eden and stand like Adam and Eve: naked and unafraid. I don’t mean just physically naked. I mean completely open and exposed to our partner—emotional, spiritually, and mentally naked before our partner and still unafraid. That is a vulnerable position; but, in a completely healthy marriage, we can stand before one another in this vulnerable open state and remain completely unafraid. This type of open relationship begins with a very important ingredient: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE. Radical acceptance stands in direct opposition to conditional acceptance. Radical acceptance communicates a complete willingness to love our spouse no matter what. Imagine with me what can happen if we add just a small condition to our willingness to accept our spouse.

  1. This one condition raises doubt in our spouse’s mind. They will no longer feel completely safe to tell all and show all. A little bit of fear will enter the relationship—the fear that “I might do something to make my spouse love me less or even reject me.”
  2. Your spouse will no longer feel completely secure in their relationship to you. Feelings of insecurity will arise.
  3. Rather than risk rejection, your spouse will hide perceived faults and mistakes from you. After all, they don’t want to risk falling short of the conditions for acceptance. It becomes safer to keep faults and shortcomings secret.
  4. That secret grows into a wall of secrecy. The only way your spouse can keep you from discovering their faults is to create a wall of secrecy to hide behind. You will no longer get to see your spouse completely. You will see and experience only those parts they feel safe exposing.
  5. Your spouse will guard their heart. They will keep certain parts of themselves guarded, protected from possible rejection. There will be no full disclosure.
  6. You will sense this change. Trust will decrease. Your spouse’s trust will decrease for fear of rejection. Your trust will decrease due to suspicions of some secrets.

The only way to remedy this downward spiral is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE. Radical acceptance accepts our spouse warts and all. Radical acceptance continues to love in spite of mistakes. Radical acceptance loves in the face of shortcomings. And, radical acceptance opens the door for change. You and your spouse can invest more energy in growing and becoming better people when you no longer have to invest energy in building a wall of secrecy and guarding your heart. You and your spouse will also desire to spend more energy in pleasing one another when you know you will receive radical acceptance…even when you make a mistake. How can you practice radical acceptance?

  • See your spouse through the eyes of God. Realize they are God’s workmanship, designed for His purpose. Any non-acceptance of your spouse is a non-acceptance of God and His work of art. Focus on your spouse’s God-given strengths and abilities.
  • Keep open lines of communication. Speak the truth in love. When must deal with difficult issues (and you will), do so in love. Speak only about one concern at a time rather than generalizing and throwing in the kitchen sink. This will be easier to do when you resolve differences quickly and keep no record of wrongs. Share the concern without accusation and offer a way to resolve it as well.
  • Focus on what you admire about your spouse. Admire and bless. Show gratitude and speak words of encouragement…every day!

Radical acceptance is a gift of grace we give our spouses and our spouses give to us.  Radical acceptance is also a gift that keeps on giving. It gives a tremendous return of security, trust, and intimacy…the chance to stand before our spouse completely naked and completely unafraid!

The 4 Guys You Take on Every Date

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of high school boys about dating. I love speaking to young people about relationship.  I was asked to speak to this group about dating and chose to tell them about the four guys they date when they go out with girl. As you can imagine, they didn’t believe there were any guys involved in their date with a girl. But, let me explain. Every time a guy dates a woman, four guys accompany them.

  1. The woman’s big brother is on your date. My first serious girlfriend had two big brothers and they were big…college football big. I could tell by the way they watched me enter a room or sit next to “their sister” that I better treat her well. They had their little sister’s back. If I mistreated her, I’d answer to them. Every woman has a “big brother.” The big brother may not be a blood relative, but he cares about the woman you are dating and he has her back!
  1. The woman’s father is on your date. Fathers are all for their daughters meeting a nice guy and eventually marrying an even nicer guy. On the other hand, all fathers have at least a small stake in the Dads Against Daughters Dating (D.A.D.D.) club. Fathers are protective. They have high standards for any man who wants to date their daughters. And, daughters adore their fathers. So, if you want to make a good impression on your girlfriend, treat her father with respect. If you want to have any chance at continuing to date your girlfriend, stay in her father’s good graces by treating his daughter well. The better you treat a man’s daughter, the more accepting and supportive of your presence he will be.
  1. The woman’s future husband is on your date. The woman you date will eventually marry. Maybe she will marry you; maybe she’ll marry someone else. Either way, wouldn’t you be upset and even angry if your fiancé told you that some guy disrespected and hurt her…or worse, abused her emotionally or physically? Wouldn’t it be painful to hear her describe how a previous boyfriend mistreated her or took advantage of her? You’d likely be infuriated if you had to work through fears and mistrusts your fiancé struggles with because of how a previous boyfriend treated her! Don’t be that previous boyfriend.
  1. The woman’s heavenly Father is on your date. (Gary Thomas expands on this in his book A Lifelong Love.) Imagine…you stand before our heavenly Father as He sits on the judgement seat on the last day. His gaze falls on you then drifts to His precious daughter, the woman you’re dating (or married to). When His eyes return to you, you will see one of two looks. 1) He may say, “You have treated My daughter well, like the princess I created her to be. I love her so much I’d give my life for her…and you have loved her with the same sacrificial love. Thank you. You’re welcome in my house any time.”  2) He may turn to you with fire in His eyes as He exclaims, “You mistreated My daughter, My princess, the one I love and would give my life for. You hurt her. You disrespected her and took advantage of her. Get out of my house!”  Which look do you want to receive from your heavenly Father?  How you treat your date could make the difference.

Dating is fun. Dating can even prove important for healthy social development. But, dating carries responsibility as well. Keeping the four men you date with every woman in mind can help make your dating experience much more meaningful and enjoyable.

Marriage Compelled By the Love of Christ

I recently had the opportunity to speak on marriage with a local congregation during their worship service. The passage for the morning was Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

“For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

African American Couple Laughing On The FloorEven though this passage speaks about Paul, it also describes a powerful foundation for marriage—the love of Christ. As believers, the love of Christ compels us to interact with our spouse in a powerful, virtuous manner. Think of it:

  • The love of Christ compels us to love our spouse with a sacrificial love rather than a self-serving love.
  • The love of Christ compels us to seek ways of giving to our spouses rather than taking from our spouses…to ask “what can I do for you today?” rather than “what have you done for me lately?”
  • The love of Christ compels us to accept our spouses instead of striving to make them what we want them to be…to love them “where they are” rather than trying to shape them into the person we imagine.
  • The love of Christ compels us to show our spouses grace rather than demanding they earn our acceptance, respect, or forgiveness.
  • The love of Christ compels us to seek out ways of expressing our love and initiating that expression rather than expecting our spouse to “love us first,” “make the first move,” or “treat us right first.”

These bullets only begin to touch on ways this passage invites us to love one another as married couples. And, we could write for hours to expand on each bullet. But, you might get bored listening to me. Instead, I invite you to grab your spouse, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down together to discuss what these bullets call you to do in your marriage. That will prove a whole lot more fun than reading any explanation I would offer. And, it will be specific to YOUR marriage. So, have some fun learning how the love of Christ compels you to love your spouse!

Improve Your Sex Life…BEFORE You Hit the Sheets

Kevin Leman published a book entitled Sex Begins in the Kitchen. (Read the review here.) It’s not really a book about sex. But, it does make an important point about sex—if you want to enjoy sexual intimacy with your spouse, start preparing outside the bedroom. I mean way outside the bedroom. In fact, the most enjoyable and satisfying sex life is firmly established on factors that, on first glance, seem totally unrelated to sex and the bedroom. Let me give a few examples.African American Couple Laughing On The Floor

  1. A satisfying sex life is premised on responsiveness to your spouse’s needs and requests OUTSIDE the bedroom. This responsiveness will result in you serving your spouse. Taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, running the vacuum, and even cleaning the toilet become ways to respond to your spouse’s need for help and cleanliness. Responsiveness will also lead you to honor your spouse and her need for a break, his need to develop friendships, or her need to go out “with the girls.” You can learn more about the impact of this type of responsiveness on the quality of your intimacy by reading Increase Your Spouse’s Sexual Desire.
  2. A high quality sex life is built upon communicating admiration and fondness for your spouse on a daily basis. You don’t have to plan some extravagant show of admiration, just simple statements like “you look nice,” “thanks for dinner…you’re a great cook,” “you do a nice job on the yard,” or “thank you, I like working by your side” show fondness and admiration. Simple shows of affection (like a hug, holding hands, or a kiss with no expectation of anything more) are nonverbal ways to show admiration for your spouse. These simple shows of fondness and admiration communicate love. They build trust. They let our spouse know we desire him or her. They create an atmosphere conducive to intimate sharing and abandoned trust.
  3. An intimate sex life is enjoyed when we learn to accept invitations from our spouse to connect throughout the day. We offer up invitations of connection all the time. Some invitations are explicit; others are implicit. Questions like “Want to go for a walk” or “can we talk” are explicit, direct invitations to connect. But the day is filled with indirect, implicit invitations as well…like, “nice day, isn’t it?” or a gentle touch on the shoulder, a smile, or a sigh. Each of these statements, questions, or actions invite us to connect with our spouse. Each time we respond with genuine interest we stoke the fires of intimacy and open the doors for deeper relationships.
  4. Take #3 a step further by connecting emotionally to really boost your sex life. We all want to “feel” understood. We want to be known at the deepest level, to be heard in the silence of our hearts. When we acknowledge our spouse’s emotions and let their emotions impact us, we connect more deeply. When we respond to our spouses based on their emotions they feel heard, valued, connected. Sharing emotional connection builds an intimacy outside the bedroom that carries over into the bedroom.

At first glance, these four factors may not seem directly related to our sex life. But, our sex life is built upon and premised on our daily words, actions, and interactions. It is an outgrowth of our intentional responsiveness, communications of admiration, and connections throughout the day.

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