We had barely been married a year when he said those terrible, heart-breaking words. I knew something was ‘off’ in the weeks previous. He wouldn’t touch me anymore. He barely spoke to me – at least not the way he used to. Sleeping in the same bed was like sleeping with a stranger. And forget about any kind of intimacy. It just wasn’t happening. I was hurt, lonely, and headed for trouble. We both were. And those words confirmed that what I was sensing was true. So early in our marriage, neither one of us knew what love meant. And because Marcus wasn’t a believer, he certainly had no idea What It Means For A Husband To Love His Wife.
I gathered my courage and asked my husband what was going on. He responded with:
“I love you but I’m not in love with you”.
Nice, hey? Just what a new bride wants to hear. This is what I call “Hollywood Love” – the fluff we see in movies.
This is what I call “Hollywood Love” – the fluff we see in movies. And it’s crap. Sorry for the crass word – but it is what it is. It is ‘love’ based upon feelings. Fickle feelings. It isn’t true love.
Well, things obviously worked out since we are happily married and on to year 20. Those early years were still rough and painful. It wasn’t until I received a lot of healing from the Lord and he came to faith in Jesus that marriage got better. My husband will be the first to tell others that he had no idea what it meant to love his wife before he was a believer. This is a different kind of love. Not a worldly love or how the secular world views love. This is a supernatural love from heaven.
Let’s see what it means for a husband to love his wife by looking at scripture.
What Is Love?
Ephesians 5:25 talks about how the husband is to love his wife. But sometimes we need to dig deeper in order to really get the gist of a verse. In our culture, we have one word for love – just love. Sure, we can whip out the thesaurus and find several synonyms, but they all basically mean the same general, all-encompassing thing.
There are, however, there are 4 different words for love in Greek, each with its own specific meaning.
First, we have Storge which is the affection parents and children have for each other.
Second is Philia, a love between friends.
Third is Éros which is a passionate love, an intimate love.
Finally, we have Agápe, which is God’s supernatural love.
The word Paul uses for love in this verse is agápe. Paul assumes that a husband and wife already feel philia and eros in their marriage (otherwise, why did they marry?). Note I said ‘feel’ – because these versions of love are feelings. Agápe is a decision for higher love. It is a choice to love.
A Definition Of Love
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 gives a very clear picture of what love is.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Now, instead of using the word love, put your name in and read it. Try your husband’s next – or better yet, have him do this with you.
Convicting, isn’t it?
Now replace love with the name of Jesus.
Doing this activity should not condemn or shame you, instead, it ought to make you want to love like that. This is healthy love. This is Agápe love. This is the love a husband should have for his wife (and vice versa).
It’s a Choice
So, Paul is saying that to truly love your wife as Jesus loves the church, there is a decision that is made in addition to the heart. You see, “it is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing” (Guzik’s Commentary).
“Agápe love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given. It gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.” (Guzik’s Commentary)
Paul is encouraging husbands to go beyond kindness and compassion by choosing austerity in consideration for their wives. So, basically, a complete act of selflessness. Christ has a self-sacrificial love for the Church and husbands are to have this same kind of love – self-sacrificial
What About Submission?
God gave husbands and wives these commands for marriage for a reason. They balance each other out. They compliment each other. When one is out of balance, or both are out of balance, trouble ensues. Husbands may abuse their headship, creating an oppressive environment instead of a holy and freeing relationship. And wives end up becoming controlling and cold.
When a husband loves his wife the way he ought to, she will have no problem with Godly submission. I mean in general, sometimes it is difficult when I want to go shopping and Marcus says ‘no’;) But I do strive to submit to him because I am commanded to, for one, but he sure makes it easy for me to submit. So easy.
What Can I Do To Encourage Agápe Love?
Are you wondering what you can do as his wife to encourage Agápe love in your marriage? Well, there are a few things. But first, let me say something you can’t do – or try to do – and that is control your husband. It’s just not going to work, friend. He is responsible for his behavior and you are responsible for yours.
Here is what you can do to foster Agápe love:
- Pray. I know, it might not seem like much. BUT…any change that has occurred in my marriage has been because of prayer. Don’t give up on praying for your man.
- Submit. Oh, I know the argument well – because I’ve tried to use it. “I’d submit if he loved me better”. Yeah, I get it. BUT…it doesn’t work that way. That is not what scripture says. Paul didn’t say, “Wives, submit when your husband proves his Agápe love to you.” We submit because we honor God when we do. I know it isn’t easy, but it is good.
- Talk. Communication is key. Plan a date night with your hubby and bring some planned out discussion questions. I LOVE these conversations with my man. Sure, they are uncomfortable for me at times because I have to hear something I don’t really want to hear…but it is for the good of our marriage. I created some printable discussion questions that include the topic of Agápe love and submission. These are available below. Keep them stashed in your purse for date night (tip – pick just a few to discuss in one outing). There are some blank ones for your own questions..make them as saucy as you wish;)
- Forgive. If you want to quickly destroy your marriage, keep holding on to that grudge. Healthy marriages practice keeping short accounts with each other. With God’s grace and His Agápe love for your husband, you can choose forgiveness. Ask Him for a softened heart.
- Remember. You are a team. You are doing life together. Root for each other. Encourage each other. Be on each other’s side.
What About That Hollywood Love?
I am sure you want to know what happened to “I love you but I’m not in love with you”. Well, my hubby did come back to me after talking to his mom…and a lot of prayer by me. He started to understand what true love was. It took a while, but he displays true Agápe love now…and we are both still learning.
How do you and your husband foster Agápe love?
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