One husband told me of his journey: “In the early days of marriage, we struggled greatly. I found myself with negative feelings toward my wife. She did not live up to my expectations, and I’m sure she would have said the same about me. I finally decided that I did not marry a perfect woman, and she did not marry a perfect man. It’s true — we had our differences, but I didn’t marry her to make her miserable. I wanted us to learn to work together as a team and enjoy life together and rear our children in a loving home. So I decided I would ask God to help me learn how to be a good husband. The next Sunday, our pastor spoke about husbands and read the verse that says we are supposed to love our wives as Christ loved the church [Ephesians 5:25]. I figured God was answering my prayer. So I asked God to show me how to love my wife. The first thought that came to my mind was, Why don’t you ask her? So I did.
“That afternoon I said to her, ‘I want to become the best husband in the world, and I’m asking you to teach me how. Once a week I want you to tell me one thing that would make me a better husband, and I will work on it.’ She was eager to help me,” he said with a smile. “Within two months, she asked me to give her ideas on how to be a better wife. That was 15 years ago. Now we have a great marriage. Both of us are happy and our children are wonderful.”
“What about the sexual aspect of your marriage?” I asked.
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “It couldn’t be better.” I knew they were making love, not just having sex.
That husband’s journey illustrates the principle that the second stage of love begins with an attitude. The attitude expresses itself in acts of kindness that, in turn, stimulate warm feelings. Those couples who learn to move from stage one to stage two of emotional love are the couples who learn how to make love, not just have sex.
Too many couples simply wait, hoping that “the tingles” will return. When they don’t, their attitude and behavior become negative, and they destroy what they most want — a happy marriage. Emotional love can be restored, but it doesn’t happen simply with the passing of time. It comes only when couples choose the attitude of love and find meaningful ways to express it. Loving actions stimulate loving feelings.
Sexual fulfillment has little to do with technique but much to do with attitude, words and actions. The underlying questions are, Am I expressing love to my spouse? Is my attitude characterized by love? Am I truly looking out for my spouse’s interests? Is my major concern to meet his or her needs? If these are my sincere desires, then I must examine my words and my actions. Am I communicating to my spouse (by the way I talk and by what I say) that I am committed to his or her well-being? Do I view my spouse as a gift from God and see myself as God’s agent for building him or her up to become everything He desires? Do my actions reflect my love? When I cook a meal, do I do it as an expression of love to my spouse or do I do it with resentment? When I carry out the garbage, do I do it with an attitude of love or do I complain as I do it? When my words and actions reflect the love of Christ, I am on the road to having a sexual relationship that not only brings satisfaction to the two of us but also brings pleasure to God. Making life better for my spouse is the theme of love.
We choose our attitude daily. When we choose to be negative, critical, condemning and demanding, we stimulate negative feelings in the heart of our spouse. On the other hand, when we choose to be affirming, encouraging and giving, we stimulate positive emotions.
I am convinced that the most powerful prayer you can pray for marriage is, “Lord, give me the attitude of Christ toward my spouse.” Pray that prayer daily. It is a prayer that God will answer. The theme of Christ’s life was one of service to others. When that attitude permeates your behavior toward your spouse, you will be on the way to making love. The way you treat each other through the day determines whether you will make love or simply have sex. Sex without love will never give you a satisfying marriage.
A good way to express an attitude of service to your spouse is to ask what you can do to make his or her life easier, or what you can do to be a better husband or wife. Listen carefully to the suggestions, and you will begin to learn how to express your love in ways that are especially meaningful to your spouse.
When each of you feels genuinely loved, appreciated and respected by the other, it brings a whole new level of love to your sexual relationship. The rewards are priceless.
Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of The Five Love Languages. This article is excerpted from Happily Ever After: Six secrets to a successful marriage by Gary Chapman.