The writer of the book of Proverbs uses a strong, passionate word to describe his wish for a husband’s love for his wife, “may you ever be captivated by her love” (Proverbs 5:19). The word captivated in this passage can also be translated “intoxicated.” I would say that both of these words are great descriptions of how I felt when I first met and courted my wife Julie. I still remember how I felt driving home after the first time I kissed her—it felt like I was floating on cloud nine. I probably could have been arrested for “love drunk” driving!
The question then becomes how a husband (and a wife) can maintain this kind of emotional heart passion. Part of the solution is to remember the feelings of dating/courtship days. I used to carry a picture of Julie with me that was taken when she was 20, her age when I first met her. Sometimes just looking at this picture brings back those old feelings. I also find it helpful to remember what we did when we were dating. Someone has said that we have dating and marriage backward: We usually date so that we can get married, but we ought to be getting married so that we can date!
I am indebted to author and speaker Gary Smalley for one of the best pieces of marriage advice I have ever heard. Several years ago, I heard him speak at a Promise Keepers event in Indianapolis, Indiana. He told the 50,000 men assembled in the stadium that day, something I have never forgotten and continue to use to this day. He took the phrase Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:21, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” and turned it into a powerful marriage insight. He did it by using the word “treasure” as a verb instead of a noun. In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that treasure and heart are connected. Gary Smalley then pointed out that we have the power to decide what we will treasure. He said, if we decide to treasure (honor, value, or cherish) our spouses, even when we don’t feel like it, our heart or our emotional, loving feelings will eventually return. You can’t keep treasuring someone without it affecting your feelings.
It is a universal principle that “right feelings follow right actions.” If you make a point of treasuring your spouse, even when you don’t feel like doing so, the captivating and intoxicating feelings of love will return. So when loving feelings in marriage begin to plateau or wain, the trick is to decide to treasure your spouse anyway. And if you keep doing that over a period of time, your heart feelings will return. This is not some psychological manipulation trick, it is simply the way God made us. This is the way willful choices and heart emotions work.
REFLECTIONS: What can you do regularly (regardless of whether you feel like it) to demonstrate to your spouse that you treasure him or her? Consider carrying a photograph of your spouse from when you were dating to help bring back thoughts and feelings from that time. The next time you get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, or lose your “loving feelings” toward your spouse, try this treasure principle—it really works!
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.