It is relatively easy to be attracted to someone. It is something else to love them. There are times when I look at my wife and the affection is so strong, I feel I might burst. There are also times I am so frustrated with her I’ve got to get into another room. But throughout it all, there is a deep and perplexing desire to love her, to make it clear what I really feel, think, and believe about her.
We’ve created holidays and big romantic moments as opportunities to express our love. And it works. But it isn’t really enough. Well-meaning and well-intentioned marriages often find themselves on the rocks because it is hard to express love in the day-today. It is hard to love. It takes effort.
Here are a few ways you can express love to your spouse any and every day.
Nothing means more to a person than truly listening to what they have to say. Everyone is in a hurry to be heard. We are in a rush to say what we want to say and don’t feel as though we have much time for anything else.
When we listen to someone, here is what we are saying: your thoughts, ideas, stories, etc. matter to me more than whatever I had planned to be doing right now. I value your thoughts so much, I will put down my own plans, my own thoughts, and learn from what you have to say.
This doesn’t mean you have to like everything they say or that you shouldn’t set up boundaries (I can’t talk about deep things right before my wife goes to bed, she just can’t listen well and asks me if we can talk in the morning).
I don’t have to tell you your spouse is incredible. They have a lot to say. They see the world unlike anyone else on the planet. They care uniquely. You can learn a lot from them. Don’t listen just to pretend to love them. You married them for a reason, you must see some value in them – stop cutting it off when it tries to express itself because you are too focused on your own agenda.
Anniversaries and birthdays and holidays are great. But the kinds of celebrations that really express love are the ones that connect with your spouse’s values and vision. Call out the greatness you see in them. A kind word. A brilliant idea. Their sense of humor.Sometimes we think our spouse knows exactly how, when, and why they are so great. It is so clear to us! But a) they don’t always know and b) even if they do, they need to know you see it too.
One of the things they don’t tell you about marriage is that it is mostly full of the mundane. Sex takes up a very small percentage of time you spend together. So do vacations and holidays.
A surprise is a positive interruption in the day. It intercepts our preconceived notions and elevates them. Create moments of surprise for your spouse. Take them on a date, break out into dance moves or random song, or initiate a game while you’re walking down the street.
The essence of surprise is not to interrupt life to save you from the mundane. It is to elevate the value of the mundane so you can discover the truth – everyday life is the best thing about marriage.
This might sound like narcissism, but the truth is one of the best things you can do to love your spouse is to be yourself. The best version of yourself. Be honest. Be kind. Be courageous. Speak the truth. Share your emotions. You are in a partnership with your spouse and we often think of caring for our significant other as if they are a distant and alien other. They are your partner! You are a part of the puzzle.
The reason we do this is we either want to cast ourselves as the hero – always loving well – or the victim – always needing to be loved well. The truth is we are always both… and neither. Marriage is about unity and your partner has chosen you. Allowing them to love you – to hear you, surprise you, celebrate you, etc. – is the other half of your relationship. It is like one of those nuclear weapons in a superhero movie that takes two simultaneously turned keys to activate.
We put ‘be You’ last for a reason. This isn’t about you taking over the relationship and being the star. But be you with humility. It is exactly half of what matters in the relationship. One of the most inspiring things you can do is be the person they love. Address your own character. Loving one another is a partnership, not a shield to avoid addressing what is going on in our own hearts.