One of the first things my husband and I had in common when we met was a low self-esteem. We were smart enough to know we were looking for love in all the wrong places, but too naive to think all we needed was each other to fill the empty places. About two years ago, we sat, squeezing each other’s hands as we watched Fireproof. We could relate to the couple on the screen in many ways. When our marriage hit the seven year mark, it nearly ended as well. As Caleb got to his knees before his wife on the screen, I flashed back to my own seventh year of marriage.
After making the choice to try to work things out, my husband had purchased a diamond ring for me. Up to that point, we could only afford an emerald ring and I remember going several weeks if not months without wearing it, sure the marriage was over. It was supposed to be a surprise, but he slipped up about it a month prior to our anniversary. Since my mom was in town, we took advantage of the free babysitting and stayed overnight in a hotel to celebrate what we hoped would be a new marriage from that point forward. My husband dropped to his knees as I sat on the bed– a nearly identical scene to that in the movie– and as he fought his own tears, asked me if I would be his wife and spend the rest of my life with him.
I too, have struggled with respecting my husband and the less I feel loved by him the less I feel like respecting him. I remember heeding the advice of a divorcee and co-worker many years ago — as she told me my husband had to “earn my respect, and if he didn’t, he didn’t deserve me”. What a fool I was!
You can’t get your husband to love you if you can’t show him respect regardless of his actions!
I won’t tell you it has been easy. Nearly eleven years have passed since he slipped the shiny diamond ring on my finger. Just after our 11th anniversary, we also had the opportunity to reinstate our wedding vows in front of our church family as a covenant between us and God. I can’t help but wonder how much just those vows have made a difference, but no matter how tough things get, I just can’t bring myself to give up- no matter what I might feel during those times when my faith is tested the most. More recently, life has taken a toll on both of us, and we have done very little to nurture our marriage due to both us being overwhelmed with children, finances, and external obligations.
We leave out key ingredients, such as praying together daily, and then wonder why we feel disconnected! In my personal prayer time, especially when I am not feeling loved by my husband, I have made a point of asking God to help me love and respect him anyway. Sometimes that means being quiet and not nagging him. Sometimes that means meeting his physical needs even when I don’t feel he ‘deserves’ it. What amazes me is the difference between doing those things on my own strength and doing them after I have prayed for God to help me. I have even asked God in awe, “How can I possibly feel this way about him after what he did (or didn’t do) this week?”– Amazed at how much I long to be close to him despite his actions or words!
I am living proof that if you dare to ask God to give you Agape love for your husband during the times you don’t ‘feel’ anything; don’t be surprised if the next time your husband brushes past you in the hallway, you get butterflies in your stomach! I am in the middle of an online bible study written by Beth Moore called Living Beyond Yourself. This week’s focus is on the first aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: Love. There are many different words for Love in the Greek language. Eros means grasping, longing, desire and often a selfish love that is focused more on getting pleasure instead of giving. Philos is a “friend love” and can include putting others before oneself as well as betrayal. Then there is Agape love, which includes the 14 aspects described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I will not attempt to paraphrase Beth Moore’s in-depth description of each of these aspects. However, her conclusion (as well as my own) is that it is impossible for humans to love others in this manner all of the time. We must ask God to help us and we must have the desire to love others, especially our husbands in this way!
If I am honest with myself, I know I absolutely cannot love my husband without loving God first. Often this is as simple as including Him, seeking Him first with all my heart, and being completely honest with how I feel in hopes He will change me. With our 20th wedding anniversary just two years away, my goal is that we finally work through the kinks and the circles of conflict that have been holding us back. By the time we celebrate 20 years of marriage we will have a truly fulfilling, rewarding marriage that friends, families, our children and more importantly, ourselves, know is healthy and vibrant!