There may not be times in your marriage when you stop loving your wife, but there may be times in your marriage when you stop liking her—or when you stop acting like it, anyway. There may be times when you are easily irritated with her or times when you just can’t get along. There may be times when you feel sorry for yourself and think you deserve better than the way she’s treating you. There may be times when a kind of despondency enters into the way you think of her and the way you behave toward her.
I’d like to offer a bit of counsel for such times: When you find you don’t like your wife, make it your aim to love your wife.
Your temptation in these difficult times will be to assume that your despondent feelings are the result of something she is failing to do—a way she is neglecting to love you, serve you, or honor you. That could be the case and she may well bear a portion of the responsibility. But what you may fail to consider is that your despondent feelings are actually the result of something you are failing to do. It’s always easier to look outside than in, to look to the other than to the self.
The thing about love is that it is more likely to grow cold when you fail to give it than when you fail to receive it. The one sure way to fall out of love with your wife is to stop loving her—to stop doing deeds of love and speaking words of love and otherwise displaying a heart of love. Love is like a muscle that atrophies with disuse and that strengthens with exercise.
So when you aren’t getting along with your wife, serve your wife. When you find you are irritated with your wife, find ways to bless your wife. When you don’t really care to be around your wife, surround your wife with love and good deeds. Make it your habit to ask her, “How can I make your day better today?” or “What can I do to serve you today?” or “How can I help you today?” Make it your goal to make her day better, to make her life easier, to make her load lighter. In short, love her like Christ loves the church and serve her like Christ serves the church.
“Okay, okay,” I hear you say. “that’s all well and good, but she…” Stop right there. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what she has done or failed to do. What matters is what you intend to do. She may not reciprocate and she may not make you feel any more loved, but that’s a whole different matter because you aren’t loving her to be loved in return—you’re loving her because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s what God tells you to do, because it makes God proud. You’re loving her before God because that’s how you’ve been loved by God.
So whether you feel loved or unloved, whether your heart is warm toward your wife or cold, whether you’re finding yourself drawn toward her or pulled away, love her, serve her, bless her. And you will find that as you serve her, your love will grow. As you act in love, you will feel more love. As you work for her good, your heart will become ever more inclined toward her. Because that’s how love works.