With the Christmas season upon us, I thought I would give some tune up advice on marriage (which we all need from time to time). What are the things that light your spouse’s fire? What things make them feel loved and make them more loving toward you? What things make them feel unloved? If someone asked you to list these things out – could you?
In two previous posts, I discussed “The twelve attributes of marital love” and “Is attraction required for marriage?” I built the case from a Biblical perspective that there are two kinds of love within marriage. But first let me give a reminder of the three main types of love found in the New Testament:
Family, or instinctual love (Storge) – Most human beings have an instinctual love toward their parents and their children. There are some exceptions as in the case where a parent abuses a child and that child may have no love left for their parent, but in most cases love happens instinctually between parents and children.
Emotional, or Friendship love (Philia) – This is love based on either romantic feelings between a man and woman, feelings of infatuation, or love that is based on common interests. This kind of love is almost 100% based on how much each person puts into the relationship, whether it is a same sex friendship, a dating relationship, or a marriage.
Unconditional love (Agape) – This is a love that is based on a choice, a commitment to love someone no matter what they do. This is the kind of love we are told that God has toward his children (those who trust in his Son). This is highest form of love, because it not based on feelings, or anything that the recipient of this love has done.
Most people think there is only one kind of love in marriage, unconditional love. It is true that unconditional love (Agape love) is the only required loved in a marriage.
For most couples having a friendship and romantic love takes a lot of work, and often times it fades and needs to be rekindled.
If I were to sum up the articles I have written on this subject, it would be that we are required to show love toward our spouse in these ways:
Be kind to them, even when you don’t feel like being kind. This kindness includes having sex with them, even when you don’t feel like it (the Bible calls sex a required “kindness” in marriage).
Support them, even when you don’t feel like supporting them.
Sacrifice yourself for them, even when you don’t feel like it.
Protect them, and their honor, even when you don’t feel like it.
Forgive them with an unending forgiveness, even when you don’t feel like it.
Now one would think that if a spouse loved someone the way I just described, that Philia love (romantic friendship love), would naturally come from this. But the truth is, this is not always the case. Many Christian marriage books give couples false hope that these things alone will help to spark romantic and friendship love in a marriage, but this is simply not true.
More is required for Philia (romantic friendship love) in marriage
Philia (romantic friendship love) in a marriage is NOT an unconditional love. In fact it is a VERY conditional love. You get what you put into it, plain and simple.
The Bible says in the Galatians 6:7;
“…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
The law of sowing and reaping very much applies to Philia love in marriage. You get what you put into it, if you want Philia love (romantic friendship love) you have to put something in to get it.
His and Her Fireplaces
At the beginning of this post I showed an image of fire place. I believe that is a great way to describe Philia love in marriage (as opposed to Agape unconditional love). You and your spouse both have Philia love fireplaces:
In the man’s fire place I put respect and sex. In the woman’s fire place I put Talk and Time.
And yes I reference sex in the man’s fire place and not in the woman’s. I am NOT saying women don’t want sex or don’t have a desire for sex. But things like talking and time spent together, especially going on dates, is what lights most women’s fire and gives women the desire to have sex.
There are many other types of logs a man and woman may need besides these two things, but I can tell you that for the vast majority of men and women, these are the bare minimum requirements to stoke the fires of friendship and romance in a marriage.
Without these things, don’t be surprised if your relationship grows stale and cold.
So for guys, if you are wondering why its been a long time since your wife wore that special lingerie for you, or why she has been crabby and disrespectful toward you, first ask yourself when the last time you sat down and really talked with your wife. When was the last time you took her out on a date?
For the gals, if you husband has not taken you out in a while, or perhaps he is not spending much time talking to you – as yourself when was the last time you rocked his world in the bedroom? Or maybe you have been having a disrespectful attitude toward him?
An astute observer who knows the Scriptures well might point out a key issue here. Wives are commanded to respect their husbands in the Scriptures. Wives are also commanded to have sex with their husbands in the Scripture.
So in essence this answers the age old question about sex and romance – it is the chicken and egg question. Which comes first, sex or romance? Since sex is required, and romance is not this tells us which one comes first.
Ladies – most men are simple creatures, you show a man respect, and give him the gift of your body that God has blessed him with, and most men will crawl over hot coals to show you how much they love you. It really is that simple.
Ways the fire goes out
The three main ways that His or Her love fire place go out are:
Neglect – just not doing anything. It’s not that you did anything unkind toward your spouse. It’s just that you have not put any new wood into their fireplace lately.
Unkindness – Criticism in a marriage or degrading your spouse will in any way is like taking a bucket of water over to their fire place and pouring it on it.
Disagreements – Sometimes you feel like you need to say something to your spouse. You know it may end in a disagreement, or heated discussion. Just realize when you do this you might be taking a bucket of water and pouring it on their fire. So choose your battles wisely, always ask yourself – “is it worth it?” Many a couple routinely knock out each other’s fireplaces with disagreements that did not need to be said.
But let me clarify something on this disagreement section. Sometimes a spouse must speak up, knowing that it will upset the other spouse. There has been many a time that I voiced a concern with my wife, knowing it might cost me something for a little a while. If this is done for the right reasons, and a Godly purpose, you must do this.
But then realize that you need to come back and rekindle the fires of Philia love again in that spouse.
While Philia (friendship romantic) love is never commanded in marriage (as opposed to Agape love which is), it is something worth striving for. It definitely makes it much easier to love your spouse with an Agape love, when you have a Philia love as well.
Also I believe that while God does not specifically command Philia (friendship romantic) love in marriage, he wants us to do everything with all our might. He wants us to do everything to the best of our ability, to enjoy being with that person he has placed us with in marriage.
So if you don’t know what lights your spouse’s fire – then find out today! Talk to them and strive for your marriage to be the best it can be, not merely meeting the minimum requirements.
Feel free to comment and share some things that you know make your spouse feel loved and stoke the flames of romance in your marriage.