As a pastor, I’ve sat in countless meetings and counseling sessions listening to husbands and wives trying to salvage what was left of a crumbling relationship.
There are different issues for every marriage but at a certain point the problem is the same for everyone. After enough hurt, betrayal, disrespect, and bad habits, the person you once loved more than anyone else in the world, is now the person you hate more than anyone else in the world. The words used in my office are, “I just don’t love them anymore,” or, “I’ve fallen out of love.” With arms folded and eyes purposefully avoiding contact, two people sit on a couch and wonder why love, which once felt like a sure thing now eludes them. They are certain it’s because of their spouse’s faults, but it’s not.
From a small age, we learn about love as a noun. Love is a “thing” we find and fall in and out of, we feel it for the first time in elementary school when we disguise flirting as fighting. As we grow, we meet someone who makes us feel love like we’ve never felt it, and for a season we see life through the eyes of someone “in love.” Inevitably the first relationship painfully ends, and we swear we’ll never love again, but we do. And for most people, this cycle continues over and over again. We feel love until we don’t feel it anymore, and then we search to find it somewhere else.
Somewhere along the way we come to believe what makes marriage different than dating is meeting “the one” who causes the feeling of love to never leave us. So we spend the rest of our lives on a search for that special someone who will medicate our love attention deficit disorder.
The problem is love, the way God describes, is not a noun it’s a verb. It’s not a person, place, or thing; love is something you “do.”
As long as love can be found it can be lost.
The word interpreted as love in the Bible is “agape” which means charity. Love is not something you fall into; it’s something you give away.
So, what do you do when you don’t love your spouse anymore? What do you do when you resent them, are constantly angry at them, and they’ve let you down enough trust has been broken? As long as we treat love like a noun, we are at the discretion of whichever way the wind blows Cupid and his arrows, but if love is a verb, we get to decide who we give our love to.
The solution to “falling back” in love with your spouse is always disappointing for the person who is looking for a silver bullet. They’re hoping vacation or piece of jewelry will light a spark, and it may, but it just resets the timer that is destined to expire as long as love is a feeling.
So what do you do when you don’t love your spouse anymore? You give them love. Maybe you’re confused and feel like I didn’t answer the question. How can you give love to someone you don’t love anymore? We only stop loving someone when we stop sharing our love with them. It has nothing to do with our feelings.
To feel love, you have to give love, the way your spouse feels the most loved.
I’m not advocating a marriage void of emotion. I guarantee if you and your spouse fill your relationship with charity, passion will rarely be wanting. What I’m saying is if you are waiting to feel love before you give love you will never recapture love after you’ve lost it.
Love, the noun, is as fun as it is fickle. But marriage is built on agape love, the verb.
I’m not delusional enough to believe every marriage can be saved with this advice. The realities of life mean sadly sometimes no matter how much you give love to someone they may never love you back. Sometimes someone has hurt you so deeply you aren’t sure you want to give love to them anymore. But if the marriage ends, it’s not because the wind blew a different direction, it’s because someone made a choice to stop giving love.
If you choose not to give love in order to feel love then you haven’t lost love, you’ve chosen to leave it. If that is your choice, I just hope you don’t leave what you have believing someone else is flawless enough to keep your feelings from expiring.
The excitement of new love is exhilarating, but I promise you the joy you will feel at your 25th anniversary will far exceed the excitement you feel at your 3rd wedding.
Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.
To feel love, give love, the way your spouse feels the most loved.