Missing the Love Connection
The Biggest Challenge of All: Love and Affection
Love covers a multitude of sins. Whatever you neglect, don't let it be this one.
In the hierarchy of feminine needs, most men know that affection is the odds-on favorite for women. It's the doing that is tough.
Women have a deep-seated need for tenderness and focused affection the kind a gentle-spirited, kind husband would offer his wife. But what if tenderness is tough for you as a man? Exactly what is the affection that they seem to crave?
The Beatles were right in the lyrics to one of their first hits, "All You Need is Love." But why are the simple things in life so complex? When all the votes of the women are in, the results are predictable: "All we need is love." Most men know this about their wives, but the doing of what we know is the tough part.
A SIMPLE SURVEY OF COUPLES
When the two of us set out to write these pages, we thought ten seemed like a good round number to search for as we sought the top ways that men drive their wives crazy. For men who really wanted to do it right, what were the ten most common errors that husbands fall into in their husbandhood?
We put our lists together based on the twenty years of experience in our own marriage and then began to ask married friends for input from their own experiences. We eventually developed a questionnaire that we sent to quite a few of our acquaintances across the country and around the world.
The results that came back from everywhere were fascinating. No matter where couples live and regardless of economic or social standings, there are amazing threads that run through all marriages.
Among some of the highlights, we learned:
People seem to have the same problems in their marriages, no matter how long they've been married.
People tend to be more forgiving of each other the longer they have been married.
No one has a perfect marriage.
Husbands are quite transparent and knowledgeable about their inadequacies.
Wives, by and large, are forgiving of their husbands, but also understand their faults clearly.
Without a doubt, there is a common thread when it comes to the top issue that creates conflict and difficulty in marriage which leads us to the point of our first chapter.
Once our research was in, the obvious became very clear: love is the key. Perhaps we're restating the obvious, but for us it was good to reaffirm the place of love in every woman's heart. Unfortunately the word "love" is used for everything from "I love these nachos" to "of course I love you, honey." So why is this often used and most popular concept at the root of the needs of every marriage? Let's take a look.
One of the questions we asked the husbands in our survey was this:
The First Question for Husbands:
"What do you think is your wife's number-one need that you should fulfill!"
Here is a sampling of answers, which became a singular constant chorus:
From a pastor: "I find that the quicker my wife and I can get off the surface behaviors to the underlying issues, the better we progress. The greatest single need of my wife is to be loved. I guess Paul had it right in Ephesians 5!"
From friends on the West Coast: "Two words sum up her greatest need: 'affection' and 'attention.' "
From acquaintances in the Southwest: "This question is a no-brainer for me. She needs my encouragement by paying complete attention to her."
From the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado: "Sue needs my continual love and acceptance."
And from California: "She needs to be cherished, not just through words (although they are critical), but through thought and deed."
This is just a sampling, but enough to see a steady theme of love and affection that comes through loud and clear. Unfortunately, as we anticipated, though we had asked an equal amount of questions three each of wives and husbands, we found that the majority of our responses came back from women. Of course men are too busy for
TOP TEN TIP
Just Say "I Love You"
From a wife in Illinois:
"It may seem like a little thing to him, but
I need to be told every day that he loves me. I just can't
such silly things as questionnaires especially when those questions have to do with such an often guilt-ridden area as your own marriage relationship! We were thankful for the men who did write some very helpful responses.
THE POWER OF LOVE
Try this simple experiment. Using the word "love," think of a song that has this four-letter gem in it and sing it. Are you singing? O.K., now try to think of a second song. We can't hear you! Now go for a third. We guess that you had absolutely no problem coming up with your songs.
Isn't love amazing? It is, without a doubt, the theme of more songs that have been written than any other topic, bar none. And some of these songs that come to our minds so easily (too bad we can't remember more important stuff this easily) pack a solid punch. Yes, even country music, which happens to be in the camp of Hans' favorite types of songs.
Even if you are not a lover of country music, please give us a chance with this example. This is a great place to repeat the words of that great chorus from Wynonna and Naomi Judd. Look at these lyrics, study them, and hear what they say. Better yet, get the album and listen to their inspiration!
GIVE A LITTLE LOVE
by Paul Kennerley, performed by the Judds
(Used with permission of Warner Brothers Music)
Well, you can buy a diamond ring and slip it on my hand,
Or put me on a big ole plane and fly me to a foreign land,
Show me rows of fancy clothes and say,
"Honey, you can take your pick,"
That would be mighty kind, but it ain't gonna do the trick,
Give a little love, mmmmm a squeeze and a little kiss,
Give a little hug, mmmmm I want some more of this,
Take a little time, yea, and make a little fuss,
That's what a woman wants . . .
So give a little love.
One of the wives responding to our questionnaire opened her heart wide for us and shared this anonymous insight about her cries for love from her husband, who is actually quite a wonderful fellow. The first question we asked the wives was this:
The First Question for Wives:
"Describe an action, attitude, or habit that your husband practices that frustrates you or hinders your relationship."
She described what she considered a lack of an action, something that is seriously missing in their relationship:
First there is a lack of touch. I need to constantly remind him to "pretend he likes me" (teasingly) by holding my hand or putting an arm around me or a hug his family was not very affectionate that way so it is not taken personally. But I still crave that kind of affection.
The more we listen to the basic needs of women, the more we understand the profound wisdom of Paul, a single man who nevertheless was given great understanding about the bond of marriage, who exhorted us husbands in Ephesians 5, "Husbands love your wives."
HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES
Let's look at this classic New Testament marriage passage in the Book of Ephesians. Paul was lifting love to its highest level when in Ephesians 5, he told us husbands to love our wives as "Christ loved the church."
The more we think about this image, the more challenging it seems to be to apply the biblical mandate. Married love is to reflect in the home the relationship that Christ has to His bride, the church. Listen to the words of Paul:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph. 5:25-28)
The word used here in Ephesians for love is the word used in the New Testament for the highest form of love. It is not eros, which means mere affection, romantic attraction, or passion, which is what the media usually thinks of when it sings about and displays human love between men and women. No, this is the word agape, the selfless sacrificial love that puts others' needs before one's own. This is that kind of love that caused Christ to come to earth in the first place to redeem us as His church.
In Warren Wiersbe's commentary on Ephesians, Be Rich, he highlights some of the most important reasons why God designed marriage. Among them:
To meet mankind's emotional needs: "It is not good for man to be alone."
To meet mankind's social needs to have children and continue the race.
To meet man and woman's physical need to fulfill their God-given desires.
To meet the spiritual purposes in marriage as the husband and wife experience with each other the submission and the love of Christ.
If the husband takes this model seriously the Christ and the church example he will love his wife in these ways. Again quoting Wiersbe:
He will love her sacrificially if he is submitted to Christ and filled with the spirit, his sacrificial love will willingly pay a price that she might be able to serve Christ and glorify Him.
He will love her with a santifying love to sanctify means "to set apart," and with this aspect of love their relationship is protected and set apart from others.
He will love her with a satisfying love marriage is meant to be a mutually satisfying experience. Man is not just to get his own needs met, but to nurture a relationship that is truly mutually satisfying. (Be Rich, Warren Wiersbe, pp. 50-51.)
HOW MANY TIMES
IS TOO MUCH?
from Jim Smith
"I will tell you something
else I have learned about women. You
cannot tell her too many times a day that
So when we get to the bottom line, love is what women seem to need the most. That seems to be the obvious reason why husbands are exhorted to love their wives in New Testament admonitions. It may seem like restating the obvious, but to listen to wives from Maine to California, it is a modern-day problem for today's husbands as much or more than it has ever been.
Perhaps we husbands need the gentle prodding of the words of Jesus
Himself, "If you know these thigns, you'll be happy if you do them."
HERO HUSBANDS WE KNOW
Donna and I have known Robertson and Muriel McQuilken for twenty-five years. We first met them before we were married, as young students at Columbia International University in Colunbia, South Carolina. Robertson was president of the school, and Muriel was a very gifted woman of God in her own right, who exercised many gifts in many directions both around the school and in other venues.
Muriel McQuilken, in fact, played an important role in bringing the two of us together. Hans was a senior in 1974, and Donna was an incoming freshman. "I'm about to graduate and am unattached, so certainly the woman I will marry is not at this school," Hans reasoned. He and several of his friends were all leaders on the campus that year, unattached seniors about to go out into the world and leave their mark. Then one spring day in early 1974, Muriel pulled aside Hans and his three cohorts and said, "Men, there is no girl like a CBC girl [back then the school was called Columbia Bible College]. You better get busy and find one before you leave!"
Well, in fact, Muriel was half kidding and half serious. She did feel that we all four needed a woman of God to stand by our sides as we went out to make our mark on the world. And she must have known that all four of us were already seeing and showing interest in certain women on campus. By graduation, all four of us had found our future mates! And now, over twenty years later, we still thank Muriel for giving us that gentle and wise shove that we needed.
Years later in the spring of 1986, Robertson and Muriel came to visit us in Vienna, Austria, where we were living and working as missionaries to Eastern Europe. We had great days together showing the two of them our adopted city. We noticed right away, however, that something was not right with Muriel. Her memory seemed to have gaps as
she would tell us the same stories repeatedly. We thought we know what might be worng but said nothing. Soon we would learn that our worst fears were true.
Muriel McQuilken had developed Alzheimer's disease, and today lives with Robertson in their humble home in Columbia. She is unable to speak and care for herself. We have visited Robertson and Muriel several times in their home since this heartless disease incapacitated her and we have been overwhelmed by Robertson's love. To sit and watch him feed her and care for her as if she were a newborn is a humbling experience love in action from a husband to his wife, who can no longer return the favor.
In 1990, Robertson stunned the evangelical Christian community by stepping down as president of Columbia International University, because his wife needed full-time care. He stated that he wanted to give back to her some of the nurturing care she had provided him for so many years. Over the six years since then, her condition has deteriorated, and Robertson has shown many of us deep insights into the mysteries of love in marriage.
It seemed amazing enough to all of us that Robertson McQuilken gave up his career to care for his wife. But even more significant is to see his constant and unfailing love for her each and every day as he cares for her much the way a mother cares for a helpless newborn. The situation has deteriorated from bad to worse in terms of her ability to function at all. Among the many painful effects of this disease is loss of control of most of her bodily functions, and of course she no longer talks.
How can he keep up this kind of commitment? How can you love when there is no payback in return? Listen to these recent words of insight from Robertson, one of our all-time most honored hero husbands. We all wonder how he doesn't get tired taking care of Muriel when he gets no payback from her:
Recently, a student wife asked me that. Cindi has sort of adopted us.
As we sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee, she said, "Don't you ever get tired?"
"Tired? Every night. That's why I go to bed."
"No, I mean tired of . . . " and she tilted her heard toward Muriel, who sat silently in her wheelchair, her vacant eyes saying, "No one at home just now." I responded to Cindi's question, "Why, no, I don't get tired. I love to care for her. She's my precious."
"Well, I certainly would." Cindi and her husband are handsome, healthy, smart people, and yet she admits that it is hard constantly to affirm one another. What happens when there is so little to commend? How does love make a difference?
Love is said to evaporate if the relationship is not mutual, if it's not physical, if the other person doesn't communicate, or if one party doesn't carry his or her share of the load. When I hear the litany of essentials for a happy marriage, I count off what my beloved can no longer contribute, and I contemplate how truly mysterious love is. (From "Muriel's Blessing", Christianity Today, February 1996, p. 33)
from Gary Smalley
"If a couple has been married for more
than five years, any
persistent disharmony in
their marriage relationship
The powerpoints for this first chapter could be stated in one word: LOVE. But we all know that the knowing is one thing but the doing is something else. Here are a few tips on getting and keeping the love commitment strong and growing in your marriage:
1. For Both of You:
Learn each other's love languages. Husbands, ask your wife what ways she needs for you to best communicate your love to her. Wives, do the same with his love needs. Make a list write them down, for these can become your lifelong goals to work on in your relationship.
Get out your New Testament and read over the passage on love in Ephesians 5. Then memorize the passage to let the reality of the picture of Christ and His church sink in. Be vulnerable with your wife. Ask her ways that you do get your love across. Also ask her what you are not doing that you should do to encourage her with language she relates to. Then try to make it a habit to consistently love your wife in the ways she would like to be loved her love language, not yours.
In a gentle spirit and without nagging, try to help your husband understand your needs for love. Beyond the needs, help him learn the things he has done well in your marriage to communicate his love for you. Then share with him at the right moments, when he is vulnerable, ways that he can express his love in even better ways.
4. Both of You:
If you have been married for more than five years and you find that there is no love in your marriage, seek professional help. Before you give up, seek help from a solid Christian counselor or pastor who can help you rebuild your love.
Chapter Two || Table of Contents