4. Love freely given. One of the most misunderstood aspects of marital love is the fact that true love is totally voluntary, unforced, and free of manipulation or control. God declared that this was the way He loved His people when He promised, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely” (Hosea. 14:4). The word freely in this verse means voluntarily. In other words, God is explaining that His love can’t be forced or manipulated by others and that He has chosen to love His people for His own reasons.
Jesus said the same thing about the love that motivated Him to go to the cross. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” (John 10:17-18). Jesus was declaring that no one was controlling His decisions. He was voluntarily giving up His life because He loved us.
Why is this aspect of your love so important to maintaining your relationship? Because many husbands and wives tell me that they have fallen out of love with their mate and at the same time declare that they have a controlling, manipulating, pressuring, nagging, jealous, or clingy spouse. All of these behaviors destroy the voluntary nature of love. Couples also relate to me that when they first dated and became engaged they did so out of a voluntary choice, but now all they sense is force or control strangling the desire to love.
If you are the spouse that is attempting to control, let me say to you that this manipulation is destroying the very love that you are attempting to keep or renew. Love must always be given out of a free choice by the one loving. The more you seek to force, manipulate, and control your mate, the less you will be loved.
If you have fallen into this trap, ask your mate’s forgiveness and return to loving freely without nagging and control. Seek your mate’s best interest and encourage activities that promote freedom and trust. If you can’t seem to give up these behaviors, you should seek personal counseling for yourself.
5. Submissive love. It is important to note that before Paul commanded a wife to submit to her husband or a husband to love his wife, he commands both to submit to each other. All should be “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians. 5:21). Why? Because mutual submission is a necessity for all relationships including marriage. Likewise, Peter commanded, “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ “ (1 Peter 5:5). Note that Peter also associates humility with all believers being submissive to each other. In reality, it is only a prideful and independent attitude that refuses to seek a solution and common ground with others.
How can you tell if you are unsubmissive? Does your mate tell you that you are not receptive to hear his or her opinions or ideas? Do you make independent financial or parenting decisions that create conflict in your marriage? Have you been told that you are verbally harsh when conversing? Are you unwilling to compromise over minor issues of disagreement? If so, these are unloving and unsubmissive behaviors that will only hinder you and your spouse growing together in love. Take the opportunity today and acknowledge your fault before God and your spouse. Ask Him for that submissive heart towards your spouse.
6. Supporting love. Why is it that many marriages seem to degenerate into a competition between two people who should be supporting each other? It is simply because one or both partners do not sense that the other truly loves them. They don’t perceive that their spouse has their best interests at heart. This is not the Scripture’s definition of a loving relationship. The apostle Paul instructs: “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). The important words in this passage are laboring, give, and support. The word support means to get involved in a task by picking up the other end of an object being carried. What a clear illustration of supporting love. In other words, to love someone you must support them by bearing their burden, not competing with them. Is this the way you see your marriage relationship? Are you supporting one another or fighting over who is directing the show?
David declared that this is how God treated him when he was on the run from Saul. “He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support” (Psalms. 18:17-18).
If you are in competition with your mate for control over who will have the last word in a discussion or who dominates decision-making, you will forfeit any sense of support and companionship. You must remember that you are both the support beams in one family. You hold the entire household together by working with and supporting each other. You are “one flesh” (Genesis. 2:24)! Don’t miss out on the strength and wisdom of your most important support person in life.
7. Kind love. Quite often when couples come into my office for marriage counseling they will sit in front of me and begin to speak to each other in the most rude, harsh, and critical manner. I will immediately stop them and ask if they truly want to reconcile and renew their love for each other. They almost always declare, “Oh yes, we desperately want to reconcile.” I then explain that their unkindness to each other is completely contradictory to this stated desire.
Do you understand that unkind words or behavior is in effect the same as if you shouted, “I don’t love you!” in their face? Paul declared that love is “patient and kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Your display of kindness towards others proves that your heart is caring, tender, and forgiving (Eph. 4:32). God also directly associates His mercy with kindness. David said, “His merciful kindness is great toward us” (Psalms. 117:2). Is your tender merciful kindness great toward your spouse? It should be!
Solomon commanded husbands: “What is desired in a man is kindness” (Proverbs. 19:22). To wives: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs. 31:26).
Is the law of kindness controlling your tongue? Do your deeds communicate your patient affection for your loved one? You must be “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans. 12:10). Kindness expresses affection in a very real and practical way that will draw you not only into brotherly love but marital love as well.
Click here if you missed What it Means to Love Your Spouse – Part I
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, visit Covenant Keepers