If you watch prime-time TV or check the sales statistics on romance novels, you will have all the evidence you need that Western culture is obsessed with love. Yet despite all the talk about love, the reality is that thousands of children go to bed every night feeling unloved by their parents, and thousands of husbands and wives go to bed feeling unloved by their spouse.
Our culture is largely ignorant of the true nature of love and its effect on human relationships. Yet nothing holds more potential for changing the season of your marriage than learning the truth about love.
Part of the problem is that we use the word love rather loosely. Listen to any conversation on the street and you're likely to hear statements like these: "I love hot dogs." "I love the beach." "I love my baby." "I love the mountains." "I just love my new sports car." "I love my mother." "I love my dog." "I love the zoo." Is it any wonder, then, that when a husband says to his wife, "I love you, honey," she's not sure what to make of his statement?
I'm not going to challenge our society's casual use of the word love. Instead, I'm going to focus on the importance of love as an essential human need. Whether we're educated or uneducated, we know instinctively that children need to feel loved. I like to describe each child as having an emotional love tank. When the love tank is full – that is, when the child genuinely feels loved by the parents – the child grows up normal and well-adjusted.
But when the love tank is empty, the child grows up with many internal struggles. During the teenage years, these children will go looking for love, typically in all the wrong places. Much misbehavior among children and teenagers stems from an empty love tank.
The same is true of adults. Married or single, every adult has an emotional love tank. When we feel loved by people significant to us, life is beautiful. When our love tank is empty, we struggle emotionally. Much misbehavior among adults grows out of an empty love tank.
For us married folks, the person we would most like to have love us is our spouse. If we feel loved by our spouse, the world looks bright. But if our love tank is empty, the world begins to look rather dark.