Love is an emotion that comes from the nature of God (1 John 4:8). God put love into the heart of each person. When we begin life as small children, we do not understand love but we sure understand what we need! Food. Sleep. Clean clothes. As we grow older, we begin experiencing love—we love our toys, our brothers and sisters, our parents, our TV shows. We love these things for what they do for us. At some point, we have to learn that love is to be directed toward others.
We should also learn that love has to be directed toward others despite how they respond to us. Again, God shows us the way. When the first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, sinned in the garden (Genesis 3), they separated themselves from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). But God loved them anyway. He promised to send Jesus to crush the head of Satan who had deceived them (Genesis 3:15).
So, love is also a choice. Love is a decision to follow through with what is the best for the other person, despite the consequences that choice may have on us. God sent His only unique Son to the earth to die for Adam and Eve (and all of us). He made a choice, and that choice led Him to give up His Son.
Now, let us consider that concept of love in a marriage relationship. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, the apostle Paul wrote:
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The context of this discussion is the physical/sexual relationship between husband and wife: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (“Touch” here is used as a figure of speech for having an intimate relationship with her.) In light of the urges, drives, and desires that are a natural part of being human, though, Paul wrote that “each” man should have his own wife and “each” woman should have her own husband. God’s plan, then, is for marriage to consist of one man and one woman.
But the responsibility does not just end there. Observe that the husband “must fulfill his duty to his wife.” That shows that a husband has a “duty” toward his wife that he must fulfill. What does your wife need? Have you ever asked her? Have you ever asked her what she needs from you as her husband and the head of your family?
Husbands, Christian counselors will recommend that you ask her about her most important needs. They will likely be these, or something very similar to these: Affection (non-sexual), intimate conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment (en Harley, 2011). You will notice that these “needs” are not your needs. You would make a different list (see below). It is important to recognize that she has these needs (and others), but you cannot fulfill these needs until you talk with her about her needs and how you can fulfill those needs.
Wives, you are also responsible to fulfill the needs of your husband. Have you asked him how you can fulfill his needs? The list above is your needs (or something similar), but they are not his needs. Christian counselors will suggest that the man’s most important needs are: Sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, physical attractiveness (of his wife), domestic support (making your house a home and haven), and admiration (of his accomplishments, work, and leadership of the home) [Harley, 2011]. You will have to ask him what his personal, unique needs are and how they relate to this list.
We are giving some suggestions on how you can relate to your spouse and show your love for him or her. It begins with loving him/her as God loves us—unconditionally and sacrificially. Then, you have to communicate that love by seeing how you can meet the needs and expectations your spouse has in the marriage.
As you communicate your love to your spouse, keep in mind the broad Christian principles given to us in the New Testament that regulate all of our communication, not just between husbands and wives: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14).
Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Toleration. Forgiveness. Love. If you work on those concepts in your marriage, you will have a spouse who will (likely) not go anywhere else in search of love, affection, companionship, etc.
God wants you to have a happy and successful marriage. He created it for your needs and your enjoyment. You will likely get out of the marriage what you put into the marriage. Give it your all!
Harley, Willard, Jr. (2011), His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell).