Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Keeping Love Alive Resources on sale now.
About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 1
Four Biblical Practices Great Marriages Have in Common
How do you keep love alive when you see your marriage starting to teeter, or crumble, and everything in you wants to give up and get out? In this series, Chip provides four biblical practices that all great marriages have in common. For each one, he provides key principles, then practical implications, and finally, super practical tools to make those practices a reality in everyday life. This is a no-holds-barred, candid look at the way marriage really works and how to make yours better. If you’ll invest the time, what you’ll find in the end, are love, hope, joy, and peace - for you, and the one you love.More from this series
My father was in the military – Guam, Iwo Jima, Purple Heart. My wife’s father, military, lost a brother on a ship. Both of our fathers came out of World War II alcoholics. We came from not healthy backgrounds, so we brought that into our marriage.
My wife married early to get out of the house, had a not-good experience, married young, put a guy through college, he started selling drugs, ran off with another woman. She had two little boys, so she was a single mom for a while so I got to know her as a friend for a year or so and then later we got married. So, blended family, lots of baggage, alcoholic past, God calls us into ministry. I have never met anyone who loves God more than my wife. And I have never met anyone who makes me more crazy than that woman right there. We couldn’t resolve anger; we couldn’t resolve conflict. It was like we put everything in a truck, within six months after we got married, and after I had been a schoolteacher and a basketball coach and I had played ball overseas, and it was like within six months it was like, “What have we done?”
We were a mess. And within the first year, by God’s grace, where I went to seminary, a guy named Paul Meier was teaching a class of the Meier-Minirth Clinic and went and talked to him and we were broke. And for the student rate of ninety dollars a session, which was a huge amount of money, twelve sessions, it’s the best money we spent that we didn’t have – think on that one. Really. We were making under a thousand a month.
So, here’s what I want to tell you, now, we have – we think we’re going to make it.
We passed forty-one years last December. And those kids that I got to adopt have turned out amazingly well and God gave us two more.
I want to tell you something. Hard work. The challenges you have, the conflicts you have, the family of origin issues, the financial issues, the sexual issues, the in-law issues – welcome to the NFL. Okay? That’s real stuff. And we are going to talk about that.
The overarching theme is “How to keep love alive.” And I’m going to talk about four biblical practices that great marriages have in common.
One book that if you haven’t read, it is so worth it and I’ll be talking a little bit more about it later, is The Five Languages of Love. And in the introduction, Gary Chapman talks about being on a plane and he sits next to a guy and one thing comes to another and he says, “Well, what do you do for a living?” He goes, “Well, I’m in marriage counseling and I do seminars and I write books on marriage.” He said, “Well, this is my lucky day!”
And he said, “I love it, like you’re in love, but does anyone ever keep love alive? I mean, is it possible? Do people just say, ‘I guess marriages are mostly empty,’ and you just grind it out?” He said, “Is there any way to keep love alive?” And, of course, Gary Chapman in his book talks about that in-love, euphoric, over-the-top dissipates. But the need to feel loved never goes away.
And you and I are living in a day and in a culture that basically says the in-love feeling is what marriage and relationship is all about and if you don’t have that all the time, you probably married the wrong person, or you, right? We fall in love, we fall out of love and so what you need to do is find the next person. Which then you look at the statistics and it doesn’t work and the next one after that doesn’t work. And it’s chaos.
And so, it’s a gift from God to have that euphoric in-love experience and what a lot of marriage needs is: how do you keep the passion alive? What needs to happen in your relationship so that you feel loved by your mate? So that your emotional love tank gets filled up by the other person and vice versa, because that’s part of going through all the ups and all the downs.
And I want to go to maybe an unusual place. You can open your Bibles, I want to read a passage. It’s Ephesians chapter 5 and normally what we do is we talk all about, it talks about what a woman should do and be and then it talks about what a man should do and be. And then it has this little line at the end that says, “Oh, but this is really about the mystery of Christ and the Church.” Follow along. Ephesians 5. I’ll pick it up at verse 25.
“Husbands,” I mean, you talk about a hard assignment, “love your wives,” how? “just as Christ also loved the Church,” well, how did He do that? “and gave Himself up for her,” why? “so that He might sanctify her, set her apart, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the Word,” well, why? “that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless.”
Parallel, “So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the Church, because we are members of His body.”
And then he goes back and reaches into Genesis, that classic passage, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Look at verse 32. “This mystery is great, but I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the Church.”
In other words, there is this model of marriage that is a love relationship between Jesus and His Church. And then He kind of brings it back down to everyday life, “Nevertheless, each individual among you must also love his own wife, even as himself, and his wife must also see to it that she respects and honors her husband.”
And I was thinking and praying and asking God, Lord, what do You want to say to this group of people? And that passage kept going over and over and over. And what I realized is very rarely do we take how Jesus loves the Church and use that as our model for how we are to love one another in marriage.
And so, what I want you to do now is to open to John chapter 13.
And this is a time where the disciples are being told to go prepare the Last Supper. They don’t know it’s the Last Supper. It’s just Passover. They are Jewish boys. It’s a very important moment. They are going to reenact that moment where God delivered His own people and the blood was put on the doorpost and the lamb is going to be killed.
And all these things are going to happen, and Jesus has been telling them for some time now that the religious leaders are going to kill Him. And He sends them on ahead and now, imagine, the parallel is going to come. You can look at your notes and you can sort of look ahead.
But what I want you to get is the context and where Jesus was. He sends them on ahead and they get to this upper room and when they get to the upper room, we learn the commentary is from one of the other gospels, on the way there, what they were discussing. Does anybody remember? Who is the greatest?
I mean, after three years, and you’re going to hand over the ministry to save the world to a group of guys that have been with You, they have seen You raise people from the dead, they have seen
You feed five thousand, four thousand, they have seen You walk on water, they have heard all Your sermons and all Your messages and You’ve got twenty-four hours with them and their big argument is, “We know He is leaving and so, who is going to be the top dog now? Who is going to get so many stars or stripes, right?”
And so, they walk in and I think the Lord created this little test for them. And when you would walk the dusty streets, everyone wore sandals. And when you would walk in a room, there would be a large jar and then probably the lowliest servant in the household would be there. And when you came in, they would wash your feet off and towel them dry.
So, all twelve of them walk in and no one humbles himself, because, “I’m better than that. This is about me.” It’s about, “I’m more important than that. That job is too lowly.” In other words, they’re here the last night and their passion and their focus is, “My needs, about me and my role and what I need and who ought to serve me.”
Is there a remote sense that any of us have felt that way in your marriage? Now, let’s push it a little farther. After all He has done for them, think of what He has done for them. Think of not just the time teaching. Can you imagine having a struggle and it’s kind of late at night and you’re all taking a long walk and you go over by the fire, you say, “Hey, Jesus, could we talk?” And He says, “Sure.” And He shares with you on and off for three years.
And after all He has done, this is how they treat Him. This is what they have learned. Any of your in your marriage ever felt like you have really gone out of your way, you have really tried to do your best, you’re being the best husband or the best wife or whatever and then you feel like your mate is kind of dissing you? That’s where Jesus is at, emotionally.
So, let’s find out: how does He respond? John chapter 13, pick it up at verse 1. “Now before the Feast of the Passover,” don’t miss this, “Jesus knowing that His hour had come and that He would depart out of this world to His Father, and having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
In other words, this is going to be one of His greatest acts of love. “During the supper, the devil had already come into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that He, the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from the Father and He was going back to God, got up from supper, laid aside His garments; taking a towel, He wrapped it around,” or, “girded Himself. He poured water into a basin, and He began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel, with which He was girded around His waist.
“Then He came to Simon Peter and he said, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ And Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash your feet, you have no part with Me.’ And then Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew the one betraying Him; and for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
“So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garment, reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Teacher and the Lord, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”
And then we get this moment. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you re blessed if you do them.”
Let me skip over, because He is now going to talk about His going and Judas is going to get up. And at the end of this Supper, if you skip all the way to verse 34, He says to them, 33 for context, “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; as I said to the Jews, now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also should love one another.”
How did He just love them? He served them. Who deserved to be the head and who chose to be the servant. Who should have been offended and who chose to humble Himself? Who knew, was secure enough to know where He came from and where He was going and didn’t have to have their approval? And so, being secure and knowing His role, He could love them and He is going to love them to the end. And now, what He says to them, “This new commandment, I don’t want you just to love, I want you to love each other the way I loved you.”
Now look at verse 35 in your Bible; notice the impact. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples,” why? “by how you love one another, because you love one another the way I love you.”
And I will tell you, that starts in our marriages. I mean, I want a great and fulfilling marriage, I want to be happy and feel loved and connected and accepted and all those good psychological words, right? We all do.
But I want you to remember that your marriage isn’t just about your personal fulfillment. Other than the Church of Jesus Christ, your relationship with your mate is the single most powerful testimony of the reality of God. And when people see in the midst of, not it’s perfect, you’ve got it all together, in the midst of struggle and difficulty and sick children and dysfunctional past and big mess-ups and huge mistakes and forgiving of one another and working through conflict – when they watch you love one another through all that, that’s the power.
And God will use your lives in amazing ways. I always want to remind us as we get started, because we have grown up in the consumer world. Man, I will tell you, we are bombarded every day. “It’s about you. It’s about you. Are you happy? You deserve to be happy. Are you fulfilled? Are you feeling okay today? Is everything alright? You deserve a break today. The life is about you. If you’re not happy right now then something is wrong. If you ache somewhere, there’s a pill or we can give you an injection or we’ll give you a surgery.”
There is something! You should never have a problem, you should never have a struggle, you should never be sad, you should never be disappointed, everything should be perfect and you can buy something to get that.
See, the whole point of advertisement is to help you understand that there’s deficit. And you can buy or have something or someone that will solve it. And it’s a lie from the pit of hell. If you can’t be happy with who you actually are in your relationship with God, you have no hope of being happy with anyone else.
No one has the power to do that in your life. In fact, the weird part of how God designed life to be is it’s when you give your life away that the greatest fulfillment and the greatest joy you get.
And so, you’ll notice that’s the teaching of Jesus. His motive, what was His motive in serving them? Love. His action: He washes their feet. Did you notice that just because you love someone, it doesn’t always work? That some of them accepted it readily and some of them couldn’t accept it. Why couldn’t Peter accept it? He was embarrassed, wasn’t he? He just realized, I mean, I think every one of those guys, as He went one by one by one is going, Oh, I just wish I would have washed my feet. Oh gosh. I just wish that I…this is painful.
When you’re really getting something you don’t deserve and you’re just, I mean, when you’re exposed – those guys were exposed. They’re just going, Oh my gosh. Any of us could do this, but not Him. And when it got to Peter in his arrogance, he goes, “No, this is, this is unacceptable.” He thought he was being spiritual.
Sometimes when we want to serve our mate, sometimes out of some faulty thinking, our mate won’t let us. It’s one thing to serve, but there’s another thing in this passage, you have to be willing to receive it. Some people are very uncomfortable receiving. Some people from family of origins believe down deep in their heart, almost below the conscious level, I am unworthy. I am unlovable. And when you seek to love them and care for them and speak words of life, it’s like BBs off of a tank.
My wife’s self-image was so low when we first got married, she so viewed herself, after her family background, being abandoned by this person, by being rejected – and she is kind, she is beautiful, she’s intelligent, she is gifted, and she is godly. All of that was absolutely true objectively. Told by me and friends and others. And then she would look in the mirror and she saw unworthy.
One of the biggest things in our marriage counseling was she couldn’t receive any love. She couldn’t receive a compliment. She couldn’t…it just made me nuts. So I got really frustrated. When I get frustrated, I’m not very loving. “What’s wrong with you?”
And so, no matter how, here’s a hard time in marriage: when you’re trying your very, very best, right? And you’re thinking you’re really loving the other person and you’re trying really hard and it gets worse instead of better.
That’s when you have these really scary moments like, “I don’t think this can ever work. I don’t think this can ever work.” And I want you to know there is hope and it can. And we are going to learn from this passage, the beginning, of how to restore your passion.
The principles out of this passage to identify to deepen your love, number one, is love is not a feeling. Jot that down. Love is not a feeling. Romantic, emotional feelings are good. Just don’t confuse them with love. Definition of love, I’ve kind of just taken what the Scriptures teach and packaged it together: love is giving another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost. I’ll say that again, because I have to remember it a lot. Love is giving another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost.
And if you would just pause for a moment and think in your mind, What happened at the cross? What did God the Son do? He gave us what we needed the most – forgiveness – when we deserved it the least. We were His enemies. We were hostile to Him. At great personal cost.
And what did the Father do? He gave the Son. And that’s our model. And, by the way, it’s the supernatural power of God in us to do that. I can’t do that on my own and you can’t do that on your own.
Notice also, love is serving. If you redefine love in your marriage, it’s putting the needs of your mate above your own. You might jot down Philippians chapter 2, verses 3 and 4. Paul is talking about what it really looks like to love and he says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, consider others more important than yourself. Do not look only on your own interests but also on the interests of others.”
And again, it’s the kingdom, it’s completely upside down. I live in a world, I am bombarded in a world that says, “Get, get, get. Consume, consume, consume. Me, me, me. My needs now.”
And when two people in marriage, each want their needs met, what happens? It doesn’t work. Now, here’s the hard part. At least, in my little world, I thought once I started giving, that magic would happen and Theresa would just respond overnight and it would be wonderful. And it was not. And I think she felt like the same thing.
One of the greatest lessons I learned was the only person that can change Theresa is Theresa and the only person that can change Chip is Chip. And so, in my marriage, instead of all those thoughts in your mind, If she would only do this. If she would start doing this. If he would stop doing this. If he would start doing this. If he would just pick up his stuff. How many times have I told him this? If he would just call when I said. If she would just be more affectionate. Blah, blah, blah.
Since you can’t change them, here’s the deal. You just say, Lord, I can’t change that person. But there’s a supernatural dynamic. I am going to follow Your example and I’m going to do for my husband, or, I’m going to do for my wife what Jesus did for His disciples. I am so secure in who I know You are and who I am, I am going to serve and I’m going to care and I’m going to sow seeds of love that serve them, that meet real needs in them.
Because here’s what happens, when your mate gets more and more whole, they change. They really do change. But how many, how is nagging working? Anybody? Anybody? Or blaming. How is that one? How about the old ought and should? “You ought to do this. You should…” That’s how parents talk to children.
“You never!” “You always!” Those are four words you should eliminate from marriage, along with divorce. Go to your little dictionary and cut it out. Divorce. Get it out. Ought, should, always, never. Does anyone always do anything? Does anyone never? “You never help.” Really? I mean, really? You ought. So, it’s serving. It’s putting their needs.
Third principle here is that love must be received. Ask yourself, sometimes when you’re hurt and you’re resentful of your mate and they try and do something kind, what do you do? You want to make them pay, right? I’m not going to receive it right now.
They try and be a little affectionate or they say something kind, “Eh, I’m not ready to make up right now.” I’m going to twist it, twist that old knife. Why? Peter. Peteress. Miss Peter. I don’t know. Why? See, you have to let down your guard.
There’s this idea that we are going to, like it’s some sort of game that you do this and I’ll do that and I’ll pay you back and you do this. That’s how you ruin relationships. Here’s – I read the passage: the two become one. There’s no such thing as a winner and a loser. It’s either win-win or lose-lose.
Every interaction, every conversation, every fight, every disagreement, every big issue – it’s either a win-win or it’s a lose-lose. You can feel better for fifteen minutes like, “I got my way!” Or, “She better do that!” Or, “He is finally.” And guess what, now, when resentment or hurt or woundedness happens in one person because the other thinks they “won,” I’ll tell you what, you’re just sowing seeds of discord. Believe me, it’ll pop up later.
And so, well then how do you, how do you do this? Did you notice even that love is unconditional? You might jot that down. By the way, this takes supernatural, Holy Spirit power in you. Sometimes, have you ever felt like, I just don’t feel like loving my mate right now. Have you ever, you know the right thing to do. Anybody ever had, you just know for sure what the right thing to do is forgive them. Or the right thing to do is to take the initiative to make up and then this comes to your mind, You know what? I think eight out of ten times, I always take the initiative. I’m not doing it this time. Because it’s not really eight out of ten times, because you’re in denial. It’s probably only six point five or something, right?
And the Holy Spirit, you hear that little nudge and then it’s like, They don’t deserve it. Like somehow it’s, this isn’t like spiritual ping pong. They don’t deserve it, the ball going back and forth. It’s: what is going to make the relationship right? What is the outcome? Do you realize that there was one person whose feet got washed that Jesus knew would betray Him later? Talk about unconditional love.
What are the practical implications? Practical implication number one is that love is a choice. It’s not insincere to do actions and say words of kindness and serve and help your mate when you don’t feel like it. Have you ever heard that one? “Well, I really would, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I mean, I don’t want to, I don’t want to say something nice if I really don’t mean it. Or, I don’t want to do something nice if I don’t really mean it.”
Was Jesus having any ooey-gooey feelings when He went to the cross, when He was praying in the garden? If emotions are what love is, then Jesus didn’t love you and He didn’t love me. He said, “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours.” Love is a choice. And when you get that and loving means I’m going to choose to serve my mate when they deserve it, I’m going to choose to serve my mate when they don’t deserve it, and I’m going to choose to serve them unconditionally.
And if that doesn’t get you into a life of prayer and time in God’s Word to say, Lord, I can’t do that, nothing will. But I will tell you, one person can completely turn a relationship around.
Don’t always guarantee the person is going to change overnight, but I’ll tell you, love never fails. Don’t confuse that with a doormat. Don’t confuse that with giving the person their way all the time. But serving and loving and caring – it’s a choice.
Second implication is love meets the needs of the one loved. Jesus could have come in and just not even noticed that their feet were dirty. So you’ve got to love people in a way that makes sense to them. You have to observe: what are the needs? What is going on in their life?
That was my biggest, biggest challenge in our marriage was I was loving my wife in ways that it was like, I spoke German and she spoke French. And I was trying hard and she was trying hard and we were just completely missing each other. And it was so frustrating.
Because I didn’t – things that said “I love you” to her, I didn’t even notice. I didn’t know about her family of origin, I didn’t know where her wounds were, I didn’t know her language of love, I didn’t understand how she was wired. All I knew was this is how I feel love, so I loved her the way I felt loved.
And it was like – I remember her telling me, “I can’t believe you did this. You must not love me.” And I’m thinking, I’ve been trying to love you like crazy and you think I… Been there?
Another implication is love requires extreme humility and security. Did you notice? This is God the Son humbling Himself, bending down, washing feet. And humility is rooted in being secure, knowing who you are, where you came from. In our case, it’s knowing who you are in Christ. You’re a son, you’re a daughter, you’re valued, you’re loved. Your value as a person isn’t how your mate is currently responding to you.
You can desire for them to love you and come through for you and meet your needs; you don’t need them to come through for you and meet your needs to be a whole person. When you need them to love you in a certain way, that’s called co-dependency. Your life can only work when everything is going okay. And so it creates all kind of dysfunction. When you can serve and understand: I don’t like this.
There were times where it was, God, I don’t even want to do this. I am going to do this for You. Because right now, I’m too ticked off at her to do it for her. But I’m going to choose to do this activity and say these words as an act of worship to You. And, wow, first of all it changed her and it changed me.
But it was a choice. And it was challenging. And it was dependency of the Holy Spirit. And see, that’s a whole different paradigm than, “I don’t feel this today. I don’t feel that. You never do this. You ought to do that. We always fight about money. You never want to have sex. Your parents are crazy. We talk about disciplining the kids and you never follow through. Well, you weren’t home and then I come back and then you try and run the show when you get back home.” I’ve been living in your kitchen, right?
The tool for transformation I want to give you is we are going to learn the five languages of love.
And I’m going to tell you, it’ll be the beginning of a new day.
I’ll give you the picture of this is how this works. So, my kind of, one of my love languages are words that affirm and another love language of mine is physical touch. So, and I probably after that is quality time and by God’s grace, that’s quality time is probably her number two and my number two.
And so, early in our marriage I think I’m loving my wife and so, I’m telling her, “You look beautiful. I love you.” Verbal. “I care for you. You’re wonderful.” BBs off of a tank. And, by the way, she doesn’t say that to me. I’m an extrovert, she’s an introvert, she doesn’t say a lot. There are times we get in the car and we’re driving for thirty minutes – I grew up in a family where you didn’t take turns, you just interrupted one another.
It was like, my mom grew up in this city that was very Italian. We were very Italian. Someone was talking and someone interrupts them and they interrupt you and then, “No, let me tell!” And everyone is telling stories. She came and visited my family and it was like, “These people are crazy.” She didn’t get a word in edgewise.
Well, we are a verbal family. Hers, you could hear a pin drop at supper. And so we are driving in the car for, like, thirty minutes. And so, being the man and having bizarre thoughts, I think, I wonder how long, I’m not going to say anything, and see how long it takes her to say something to me. So, okay.
It’s ten minutes, twenty-two minutes, and now I’m just like…and I am so ticked off! And we are getting ready to be where we are supposed to be. And she was looking out the window and…
And in the nick of time, she says this, and I’ll never forget it. She turns to me and she goes, “Isn’t it wonderful just to be with the person that you love and not have to say a word? On this drive, I have just looked at the hills and the animals and it has been so beautiful.” And I’m thinking, I’m so glad I didn’t say something on that one.
And so, I would say things like that and it meant nothing.
And on another occasion I thought, I’m working really hard, and I wasn’t real detail oriented to say the least. And we are in seminary and so, I go and get some flowers for her. I played a lot of pickup basketball and I would lose track of time and I kept coming home late and we’d always argue about it.
And I was trying to make up for it. So I bring these flowers or something and she, “What?” She takes them like that. She goes, “What are you doing?” So I, “You don’t like flowers?” “Chip, we only have ten dollars in our checking account. How much did those cost?” “Uh, just a little bit more than ten dollars.”
So, here’s what I want you to get. I’m trying to express my love in ways that are not communicating, alright?
And so, on her side, we’re in marriage counseling. Okay? We’re trying.
So she cooks these great meals and the house is always beautiful and she takes care of everything. Because one of her love languages is acts of service. So she is saying, “I love you” with a great meal. I’m saying, “You know what? I’ll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Hug me like this and say, “You are awesome, Chip. And you’re handsome and I think you’re brilliant and you look so sexy tonight.” There’s my love language, right? And, oh, the house looks really clean. It is a wonderful meal. Okay. And so, she’s feeling like I’m rejecting her love. Now, guys, I’m going to skip ahead, alright? Because there are some real breakthroughs.
As I learned to love her in a way that made sense to her, and she learned what my love language was, little by little by little, see, what happens is there are all kind of issues, right? We had some deep stuff, family – when you grow up in an alcoholic family, we had some challenging trauma. We have a blended family. There’s a lot of deep and insightful things and things we had to work on and we were working and working and working. But if your emotional tank is empty, you don’t want to work at it. You don’t care. It’s just like it’s not worth it.
And so, if you can learn to meet the emotional needs of your mate, then what happens is you kind of get enough gas in the emotional tank to work on those things that some of them take a long time. But the testimony of God is – how many of you prayed to receive Christ one night and just became like the apostle Paul the next day? Right?
It’s a journey. And the same is true in your marriage. In every area, you learn to communicate, you learn to develop a satisfying sex life for both of you. You learn to come up with a financial plan and a budget that works for you. You learn to relate to your various in-laws in ways that are both accepting and set boundaries.
But isn’t it a journey doing all that? And somehow – I played basketball and baseball in college and then a few times overseas. What I can tell you is when I coach kids, is here’s the deal, you’ve got to learn to dribble, you’ve got to learn to block out, you’ve got to learn to pass, you’ve got to learn to rebound.
There are fundamentals and skills and you have to practice and practice and practice and then you put it all together.
It’s a process. And you’re going to be, in forty-one years, I’d like to say, “Oh, we don’t argue, we never have any problems,” but I’d be a liar. Now, we don’t have the kind of arguments that attack each other. And after forty-one years, I know her buttons and she knows mine. And,
I mean, she’ll, I’m still, my love language is words of affirmation, so guess what, I am super sensitive when the tone of her voice is even a little bit critical. If it’s a twenty-five-cent criticism, in my brain, it goes twenty-five dollars. And I have learned not to respond too much but, ooh, it kind of hurts.
So, let’s go through the five love languages and then I’m going to give you some keys to discover yours.
The first love language is words of affirmation. Some of us, words are super powerful. A compliment. A word of appreciation. For some, just saying some words, right? Recognizing things about your character. Saying something out loud in front of the children that, where a wife says she respects you. Being out in public and saying a compliment about your mate. Something you admire about them.
And I don’t mean in some phony, artificial way. And some people, you’re not verbal. And your married to someone that their number one love language is words of affirmation, and you know what? They are starving. And you go, “But I cook great meals!” They are starving. “I gave him a nice gift,” or, “I gave her a nice gift.” They’re starving. What they need is words of affirmation. So, what do you do? You go into training and you come up with devices to become a person who shares words of affirmation, because love is a choice.
What is it that allows them to come alive? What fills their tank? And then you just become a student who says, “I’m going to flat out choose to figure out what fills her tank,” or, “fills his tank and whether it comes naturally or not naturally.”
See, you go into training. How in the world can we give more energy to our profession,
more energy to our business than we would to the person that we lie in the same bed with and say, “I don’t know what it’s going to take, but I’m going to learn and then I’m going to do it when it feels good, I’m going to do it when I don’t feel anything at all, and I’m going to do it when it feels bad.”
Because that’s what love is. That’s what real love is, because you’re going to serve them. So, words of affirmation is self-explanatory. But think of all the different things that you can say.
Sometimes it’s asking questions. “Tell me a little bit more about that. How did that go? How did that make you feel? What happened in your day today? Wow, that’s very interesting. That was very insightful. I just, I’m amazed at how God has your mind work and you process information. I really thought the way you interacted with our son after he was so disrespectful, boy I’ll tell you what, you’re a godly man. I’m honored to be married to you. How you responded to your boss or that supervisor and the way he treated you. Wow, I’m so proud to be your husband,” or, “be your wife.”
The second one here is quality time. This is just being with one another. For me and Theresa, it is our, it is our common love language. And I’m guessing it’s really probably number two. Maybe two point five for me. But I have to, I travel quite a bit, both here and internationally and before have pastored some churches that were pretty large, and so a lot of demand.
And so, we, every Friday, we had a date and just because of the age of our kids, I would drop them off on Friday morning because I had Saturday night and Sunday services. And we just had a four-hour block – twenty-five years.
And then what I learned was we had to connect because of our communication difficulties, after supper every night for ten, fifteen, sometimes thirty minutes. But we’re going to connect. And we actually went through a script. I mean, it sounds really structured, “What are you concerned about?” “What do you wish?” “What are you willing to do?” until we just got where every day, in supper or right afterwards, we would connect at the heart level. But we put it in.
Today, it is – we are early risers and we start most days in the wee hours of the morning where we get to see the stars. I learned acts of service. So, fifteen years ago, I started making coffee instead of her. I’d make it the night before and bring her a cup of coffee, sit on the floor, and just talk.
When I get home and we want to reconnect, often it will be, “Hey, do you need to go to the grocery store or Target or anything?” Because there’s just something about when you’ve been away from each other. She hates to grocery shop. To me, Costco is like, whoa! But just doing things together. Or, “Do you need to run some errands?” Just being together. “You need, you want to take a walk with the dog?”
And you just hang out. And there’s something that communicates to both of us that we are connected when we just hang out together.
And so, we do a lot of hanging out. And the good news is, that’s easy for both of us. So for me, that acts of service: are things fixed? Are things picked up? Early in our marriage, she would work very hard and she would do all the laundry and it would be on the bed, stacked. T-shirts and this and this and that.
And so, I would walk in, being very busy, and I would take all of them off the bed when it was time to go to bed and put them on the dresser. And they might be on the dresser for three or four days. And she would just look at me like, Don’t you love me? And you’ve got to understand, when you’re as warped as I am, “What do you mean, ‘Don’t I love you’?” “Well, there’s all the clothes that I made and spent all that time to serve and love you on the dresser.”
And forgive me, ladies, but I’m so hard-headed. “What in the world do clothes on the bed got to do with love? Love is about kissing!” Right? Love was like, in my brain, not – fixing the disposal and the washing machine leaks? What’s love got to…? What’s love got to do with it, got to do with it, got to…? Right?
And you know what I learned? I just, I literally, I had to write these things on cards. And every time I’d build a habit. As soon as I see it, I’d put it away. As soon as I see it, I’d put it away. When I walk by the trash can each and every day, I look in there and she’ll say, “Well, almost every day.” But it’s, because what have I learned? That means, “I love you.”
And I resisted and I didn’t like it and I was ticked off and it didn’t make sense. And then finally I thought, Chip, do you love your wife or not? Answer: yes. Well, if that means, “I love you” to her, why don’t you just shut up and do it? And so, I just started shutting up and doing it. And then she has very sacrificially learned to talk and give words of affirmation and encouragement.
And she would probably say, “Yes, he’s verbal – we’ve had conversations where, oh my gosh,” she’s almost afraid, “So, what are you learning right now?” “Oh, I’ve got to tell you!” “I don’t want to hear it.” She goes, “I don’t want the whole sermon right now. Let me get it later.”
Or, “What is going on with you or what happened when you were in China or whatever?” And I have to learn to, I’m still learning. But she listens. She asks questions. She gives me words of affirmation. And it fills my tank. And I’m learning to fill her tank. Words of affirmation, quality time, you drink coffee, you take walks, you go to coffee shops. Yes, you actually walk around those little shops and then, at times, sit on the bench outside and say, “I’ll just be here. Why don’t you take your time in there?” But you go.
The third is receiving gifts. Some people, that’s their love language. And they don’t have to be expensive. But you make something for them, or sometimes they are expensive. And see, by the way, now here’s where conflict comes. Some of us, by nature, are spenders and some of us are savers. Some of us, when we see money and the way we think about money, we think about saving and investing and that’s a good use of money. And other people think, This is money and what you do is you spend it to love people and do wonderful things.
When those two people get married, there’s a little conflict. And if they can, you learn to communicate, it’s a blessing because having money stacked up that make you feel secure somehow and not enjoying the good gifts God has given is not very smart. Or spending more than you actually have is not very smart either.
But in this whole issue of gifts, some people love surprises; some people hate surprises. Some people, a surprise with a gift is like – but it can be the gift of, I was actually talking with someone earlier and he was saying, “Valentine’s Day, I got a card in my lunch.
And then I got a card…”
His wife, little gifts, three little cards that said, “You matter. I’m thinking of you. I value you.” The gift of a phone call, the gift of a text, “I’m thinking about you today.” “I was at this little store and I know it’s really crazy but I know you collect those cups from different cities and I saw this as I was traveling and when I come home, I got it for you.”
My wife likes pink so sometimes when I’m traveling around and I’m not always sure about, I’m not the artist type, but maybe, that looks like it might fit her. And I’m not very good at picking it out, but I just bring her something. Now, that’s not real high on her list, but ask yourself: is that when you feel special?
And often, so much of this grew out of when you were a kid and your family and how they celebrated you.
Ask yourself: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service. I mean, it’s helping out. It’s working in the yard together. It’s taking care of things. It’s making sure they’re fixed. For some of you, that comes really naturally. And, by the way, here’s the thing, the unconscious thing most of us do is whatever our love language is, we express that to our mate because since it is loving to us, we assume it’s to them. And rarely is it the same.
The final one here is physical touch. And most men rank that pretty high. Don’t confuse that completely with sexual intercourse. I don’t know that I have met many men ever who have told me most women probably have no idea how deeply affirming a man feels when his wife wants to be with him and really expresses her love sexually. It just is the way it is.
But physical touch is far more than that. That can be a squeezing of the hand, it might be when you’re sitting you sit close to them, it might be a tap on the shoulder when you pour a cup of coffee. It might be when you’re sitting, I’ve seen someone rub someone’s hair.
But there are people that, our whole bodies are made to be touched and there’s something about – think of what happens in a crisis. What is the first thing that people do in the middle of a crisis when they see one another? They hug. Right?
And so, here’s what I want you to do. I’m gonna, uhm, and I want you to write down what you think your top two love languages are. And let me give you two ways if you’re, if they – for many of you, it’s like you know right now. But here’s one way: what bothers you the most? What really bothers you the most?
Like, if, “How come he didn’t notice I did all the dishes?” “How come she didn’t notice I cut the lawn, I fixed this, I did this, I did this?” Or, “How come, I mean, she didn’t even say thanks. There were no words.” If it really bothers you, that’s a good indicator it’s your love language.
The other one is is what do you ask for the most? When you’re getting really honest and you’re saying, “Hey, at some point in time,” what says “I love you” to you? What are you asking for? What do you want from your mate the most? That is probably your number one love language.
I mean, listen carefully. Unconsciously what we do is we all have challenges in our marriage and, okay, it’s a problem. And he does this or she does that. And she doesn’t do this or he doesn’t do this and it really bothers you.
And you keep looking at that and you focus on that and focus on that and focus on it.
And you know what you start doing? You start looking at your relationship through that lens and then pretty soon, “This isn’t a good marriage and I don’t really like this,” and you become very, very negative. And the fact of the matter is, if you would pull that way back, you have really, in general, a really good marriage with lots of normal problems and here’s the thing. If you focus on that little ten or twenty percent that’s negative, it will grow. If you begin to fill up your mate’s need for love in the language that makes sense to them, I will tell you what, this thing will keep shrinking and shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.
And then there are some things, we’re going to talk about how you really deal with. But you’ll have capacity. You’ll have some capacity to deal with it in a way that isn’t critical and it’s not make or break.
The biggest thing I see with couples is you think you have these problems that are insurmountable and you have fallen out of love and there is no hope or you’re on the edge when what you don’t realize is you’re just on the twenty-five yard line, you just need to make a couple more first downs and believe me, there’s a great future ahead of you. But you’ve got to make a couple first downs.
We can’t do this, Lord, without You. Fill us with Your Spirit. Fill us with Your power.
Lord, help us to choose to love when we don’t feel like it – that’s probably when we love the most.