I remember fondly the period of dating my wife. I remember going to pick her up and stopping at the store to pick up flowers. I would swing by the coffee shop and buy her a gift card because she loved their drinks. One day she came down with a nasty cold that put a stop to our plans for the day. But it did not stop me from seeing her or spending time with her. I stopped by the store and picked up chicken soup, soda, crackers, and tissue, and I hung out with her at her house.
It is not unusual to show affection and appreciation towards someone we care about during those dating years of getting to know one another. The relationship is new and interesting and we are eager to spend time and get to know one another. We desire to show the other person that we sincerely care for them. We desire to help when they are in need, show love when we can, and make them feel good throughout it all. So what happens when we get married and the newness of the relationship wears off? Why do some of those loving dating behaviors seem to fall to the wayside?
When we date there is something new and exciting in it. But even more than novelty there is this desire to prove things to the other person, to put our best foot forward. I buy you flowers to prove to you that I care about you. I buy you chocolate to let you know that I was thinking about you. I buy you a gift card because I want you to understand that I listened when you made that comment in passing that you love their coffee. I stopped over at that place you like and bought you that thing you like because I've watched you place your order and made a mental check of it. I want YOU to know that I am THINKING of you. So in a way we are showing them that we care but we are also still vying (subconsciously) to win them over. But over time, once we're acquainted and even married, those drives seem to stop. "I've won your hand, I've gained the prize I desired and now I can sit back and ride this wave into the sunset. I married you thus you know I love you so now I don't have to do those anymore? Life is good!"
Scripture is full of wonderful texts about showing and giving love. We are to show love as God showed us love in sending his son (John 3:16) which is this beautiful sacrificial love for others that we are to emulate. We are to love others as a reflection of our relationship with God (1 John 5:3; John 13:34). Of all the things in the world it is "love" that is over it all (1 Cor 13:13). What do these have to do with marital love? I share these things because we all need reminders of what love is.
Love is a beautiful word that is both descriptive and active. We can give love and show love as well as have love and be love for others. Love is a feeling, a gift, an action, a place I'm in, a choice I make. And my favorite aspect of love is that love is all about someone else. But within all of these different showings, work, and aspects of love, what is constant is that love is ongoing.
I know that for myself many of the things I enjoyed doing while dating fell to the wayside once the rings were on. There are more demands on our attention and life is more complicated. I'm good about bringing flowers on special occasions but those are few and far between. My wife and I do a good job spending time together once the kids are in bed, but those random acts of love from our dating years are sporadic at best. But our investing in one another deserves better than sporadic. Marriage should not end our expressions of love; we should strive to continue dating. Consider these thoughts on how you can continue to show one another love in your married life (this is a helpful reminder for me as well).
These are only a few suggestions. The key is to keep putting effort into investing in your spouse. After dating and marriage, we all tend to know our spouse pretty well, so use that knowledge to your advantage. Your spouse is worth the continued love and affection. We'd love to hear what random acts of love that your spouse has appreciated!
Dr. Robert Ritzema
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra