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How to Keep the Spark in Your Marriage

It may seem obvious to love and respect your husband, but these simple keys keep the flame burning, says Karol Ladd, author of The Power of a Positive Mom.

Fire Builder #1: Love Your Husband
You wouldn’t think we would need to be told to love our spouses. Didn’t we commit to love them the day we married them? Even so, many marriages break up because spouses claim they just don’t love their marriage partners anymore. They say they have fallen out of love — as if love is something a person can fall in and out of.

Since love is the key basis for our marriage commitment, we ought to have a better understanding of what it is. Think back. When you started dating the man who would become your spouse, you probably got those warm, fuzzy feelings that often come with the building of a new relationship. Those feelings were wonderful. They are wonderful. But ultimately, they cannot be the sole basis for love and commitment in marriage.

The roots of love run much deeper than just the surface foliage of sweet, romantic feelings and likable moments. Rather, love is a choice — a deliberate act of compassion based on our will, not just our emotions. It is not based necessarily on finding the right person (although marriage is one of the most important decisions in our lives and must be considered carefully and prayerfully). Rather, it is based on a commitment that we will continually accept the one to whom we’ve pledged our life, for better or worse.

True love is not easy. It requires devotion, forgiveness, loyalty, and selflessness. When we commit to marry someone, we make the choice to love that person through his weaknesses and strengths, his failures and successes. We make a decision to put down roots in our new life together.

We can even learn to love a person — whether or not we like him at that moment. We must make the deliberate choice to love, then follow up that decision with action. If we truly love someone, what will we do for him? What actions will we take? Write him a note? Help him with a project? Cook his favorite meal? Give him a smile when he comes in the door?

In his book The Five Languages of Love: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, author Gary Chapman describes the various ways different individuals give and receive love. We’re not all the same. What makes you feel loved might not be what will make your spouse feel loved. (In fact, you can probably count on it!) This evening, ask your husband what you can do to make him feel loved, and then begin to do those actions day by day. When you do the actions of love, the feelings will follow.

One of those all-important love-actions is forgiveness. God’s love, of course, includes forgiveness. He forgives us even when we don’t deserve it. In the same way, the Bible says, we are to forgive others: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). What are you holding over your spouse’s head? Do you need to forgive him? Remember, forgiveness isn’t an invitation to be walked all over like a doormat; rather it is a conscious choice not to hold an offense over another person. Forgiveness isn’t easy. We must sincerely seek God’s help and turn our eyes upward to a God who loves us and has forgiven us of all our sins.

As an imperfect wife, I am thankful for the forgiveness Curt has shown me through the years. The error in my checkbook, the dent in the car (and the damage to the fence by the driveway), the mess that occurred when I let the dog in with muddy feet — these situations (and many more) were opportunities for me to receive forgiveness when I really needed it. I appreciate that Curt forgives my shortcomings, and I try to extend that same forgiveness to him, recognizing that each one of us is imperfect in many ways. Who isn’t?

Of course, in a physically abusive relationship or one riddled with infidelity, forgiveness does not mean allowing your spouse to continue his destructive behavior. You can forgive in your heart yet maintain boundaries and limits. True compassion and forgiveness mean helping your spouse stop his destructive lifestyle by showing tough love. If you are in a situation like this, I recommend seeking wise counsel and reading the book Love Must Be Tough: Proven Hope for Families in Crisis, by James Dobson.

Fire Builder #2: Respect Him
What do men need most? Many husbands agree that respect is high on their list of needs. God already knew this, of course, and wrote it into his directions for marriage: “Each one of you [husbands] must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

Respecting each other is paramount in keeping a marriage strong and positive. Often the bottom line in a divorce is the wife’s loss of respect for her partner. But what exactly is respect, and how do you show it?

To respect a spouse is to reverence, honor, and esteem him. When a wife does that, she finds that her husband lives up to the honor more often than not. In fact, husbands can go further and higher in their God-given pursuits when they know that their wives believe in them and are backing them. As Proverbs 12:4 says, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown.” Make him feel like a king, and you’ll be the queen reigning by his side!

But respect isn’t always easy. In marriage, there may be times when our husbands disappoint us, bother us, or even disgust us. Consider Susan, who met her husband, Rick, in college, where he was a star football player. As far as she was concerned, Rick hung the moon. But real life is different than the thrill of the university years, and now Rick just can’t seem to find the right job. After years of jumping from business opportunity to business opportunity, they remain in debt to parents and numerous credit-card companies. What once was a blissful dream has come to be a real-life nightmare. Susan has lost all respect for Rick. “He isn’t a hard worker, he can’t hold a job, and he certainly can’t provide for his family!” she tells her friends.

Does Susan’s story sound familiar? The details may be different, but many women find themselves in a relationship where respect has been lost. The sad thing about a wife who disrespects her husband is that she tends to see only what is wrong with her spouse. Her eyes, heart, and mind dwell only on the problems. She tends to forget two important truths: Although her husband has some glaringly bad qualities, he also has some good qualities (probably the ones for which she married him); and while it might seem impossible for her spouse to get his act together, “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Whenever we accentuate the positive qualities in other people, the negative qualities begin to dwindle. In Susan’s case, she needs to remember that Rick is both a good family man and a spiritual leader in their home. If she could begin to focus on these positives, she could help her husband grow in confidence and overcome some of his weaknesses. Instead of verbally beating him up, she could praise him for what he does right and encourage him to find a job where his gifts and talents are best used. What a difference that change of focus would make in her home!

If you are struggling with a loss of respect for your husband, decide today that you will stop focusing on his bad qualities. Remember, he is a creation of God, and God did not make a mistake when he made your husband. Honor your husband when he is not around by guarding your tongue and not tearing him down in front of others. If you can’t say anything nice about him, remember what you learned in kindergarten: don’t say anything at all.

Begin praying now, not only for your spouse, but for your response to him. Spend time each day thanking God for the good qualities in your husband and for the way God has made him. Pray that God will continue to develop your husband, that he will grow according to God’s plan for his life. Your husband needs your prayer support more than he needs your pressure or condemnation. Be patient and allow the Lord to work in his timing. Ask God to help you be a supportive wife, honoring and respecting your mate through the process.

On a daily basis, show your respect for your husband through your choice of words. Are you communicating respect in your message and your tone of voice? It can be so easy for us to speak our minds and lash out with our words; it is much harder to hold our tongues and treat our husbands with esteem! You can also show respect through such love actions as:

  • Sending a quick note or e-mail to his office that says, “I believe in you because…”
  • Getting up early to fix him a good breakfast before the big presentation.
  • Complimenting him in front of the kids and others.
  • Listening to his point of view when he is up against a challenge.

Our children need to see our respect for our spouses. They need to know that we revere our husbands as the authority in the household who must answer to God for their leadership. What our kids see modeled by us will affect the kind of spouses they will grow up to be. It will also affect their view of God, since the marriage relationship is a picture of Christ and the church: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:23, 25).

Karol Ladd, bestselling author of The Power of a Positive Mom (The Power of a Positive Mom © 2007 by Karol, Grace, and Joy Ladd), offers lasting hope and biblical truth to women around the world through her positive book series. A gifted communicator and dynamic leader, Karol is founder and president of Positive Life Principles, Inc, a resource company offering strategies for success in both home and work. Her vivacious personality makes her a popular speaker to women’s organizations, church groups, and corporate events. She is co-founder of a character-building club for young girls called USA Sonshine Girls and serves on several educational boards. Karol is a frequent guest on radio and television programs. Her most valued role is that of wife to Curt and mother to daughters Grace and Joy.




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