Don’t Take Love for Granted
What is a crucial key to success in marriage and relationships? Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about marriage and biblical relationships. My last column drew quite a bit of response.
Recently, I received an email that stopped me in my tracks. The email concluded with this simple phrase: “Please give your lovely wife a BIG hug and don’t take her for granted.”
I was sobered by what he wrote. Why? Because this individual had just lost his wife of many years. When she was alive, they were inseparable. When she died, a huge chasm of grief was left behind.
When I read his simple ending, I thought: There will come a day in our marriage when one of us will die and the grieving survivor will be filled with many memories of the marriage. These memories may include regret over what we could have done, what we could have said better in our day-to-day lives, what we would do differently if we had a chance to relive those moments.
What’s a crucial key to success (and no regrets later in life)?
Don’t ever take your mate for granted.
When first married, the happy couple often can’t get enough of each other. Then, over time, a routine can set in. The husband and wife can start to take their relationship for granted.
Last week, I highlighted our married women with Proverbs 31. Today, I’d like to say a few words to the men (however, women can be very much included in this discussion, and these principles can be generally applied in other relationships, like what adult children can have with their parents).
Often quoted in marriage ceremonies, we men who are married are biblically admonished: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
The Greek word translated here for love is agape. This represents the highest form of love mentioned in the Greek New Testament. It is unfailing, unconditional love, a love that does not depend on circumstance. It reflects moral, social, Christian love, especially as distinct from erotic love or emotional affection. It is an active love of deeds, awareness and acceptance.
How then does a man love his wife in this way?
The apostle Peter provides some insight for us today: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Some have unfortunately bent this verse out of context. Peter is not demeaning women at all. A woman is “weaker” only in the sense that she may not be as physically strong as a man. Certainly, as we saw in Proverbs 31, a woman following biblical principles is no weakling in either spirit or mind!
How can men live in a marriage relationship “with understanding,” demonstrating biblical honor? How would your wife define “understanding”? Does she feel honored? How does a husband express honor? Do we make that effort to respond to her in a way that makes her feel truly loved?
In 1992, Gary Chapman (who holds a Ph.D. in adult education), summarized years of research and experience in his insightful book on successful marriage: The Five Love Languages—How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.
This book outlines five different general ways we can express love in a marriage:
- Words of affirmation—verbal compliments that express love and appreciation.
- Physical touch—sexual and non-sexual physical touch that shows love.
- Quality time—focused and undivided attention spent together.
- Acts of service—any act that eases the burden of responsibility.
- Receiving gifts—physical symbols or gifts that reflect thoughtfulness and effort.
(And don’t forget, these ways of expressing love and affection can also be applied to benefit other relationships.)
Dr. Chapman found that mates will often have a preference about how they would like love to be expressed. To experience a higher level of success, one needs to know what their mate desires. For example, a husband may like to give physical gifts, which his wife may think is fine, but what she would really like is quality time together.
Unless the husband realizes and—as Peter emphasized—understands this, he may wonder why his physical gifts are not seemingly fully appreciated. And when his wife expresses that she would like to spend more quality time together, he may not understand the importance of what she’s asking for.
Identifying what love “language” the mate prefers helps elevate the relationship. For more information, you can read the book (most libraries have a copy, as it is a long-time best seller) or you may have heard about this in a marriage seminar.
Here’s an example: “acts of service” is at the top for my wife, Beverly. When I ease her burdens, she is most appreciative. She loves it when I work together with her, which blends in some of the quality time elements. To her, this is more meaningful than receiving a gift or words of affirmation. We should give priority to what is important without leaving the other love languages undone.
As I have come to learn this, albeit slower than I should, it actively demonstrates to her that I value and love her.
Timing is important. As the proverb states, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27, English Standard Version).
Husbands, this means: don’t wait.
Whether husband or wife (or in a meaningful family relationship), let’s learn to do the things that are truly meaningful in a timely way now. Then we won’t regret possible insensitivity, selfishness or hurtful pride that we might have wrongly or inadvertently expressed to the one we love most. Let’s show it today in deeds or rightly stated words (or in whatever “love language” your mate prefers).
In the many kind expressions Bev and I received for our recent 40th anniversary, one person sent a link to a popular song that sums this up. I like many different kinds of music, but this song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks really summed up some important points.
Garth sings about how sometimes at night he watches his wife sleeping peacefully. As he turns out the light to go to bed, he sings of a thought that crosses his mind:
“If tomorrow never comes, will she know how much I loved her?”
The song continues with Garth acknowledging that some people in his life have died without him telling them how much he loved them. So, he poignantly sings of a promise he makes to himself. He will show his wife every day how much he loves her. He wants to “avoid that circumstance where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel.”
(If you like, you can listen to the entire song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and view the lyrics on YouTube here: youtu.be/JSmTzlbWAHM.)
So, husbands—and wives—don’t wait. Don’t take each other for granted.
And if you have a good friend, a parent or grandparent, a sibling or a good colleague, the same is true. Don’t take them for granted. And don’t wait to express your appreciation.
January 31 update from Tonga
Here’s an update about the aftermath of the volcano eruption near Tonga from our minister Matthew Sieff (New South Wales, Australia):
“The latest is that the Osika family is all safe and well. Last week, I was able to speak directly with them on the phone via a satellite connection. The underwater communication cables are still being repaired. Volcanic ash covered a lot of the main island, but the Osika family was not affected by the tsunami waters because they live inland and their property is elevated above sea level. Only properties and buildings on the west coast were affected.
“The family has plenty of clean water, while food supplies from Australia and New Zealand have already started arriving by ship. The Sydney congregation was able to collect enough food to support the family for a few months. The collection will be sent this week but will take a few weeks to get to Tonga.
“The family has started to replant crops already, but it will take a few months for things to regrow. They have also been sweeping ash from the roof of their home and church hall, and the good news is there seems to be no damage to either of these dwellings. The biggest need at the moment is rain so that the air and ground can be cleaned from the ash. This is what we are asking members to pray for right now. Masks that were originally issued for COVID-19 are being used by Tongans to breathe as they clean up.
“Many thanks for your concern and prayers about our brethren in Tonga. The offers of support from the Church have been very moving.”