Want to ignite that loving feeling? Here are seven ways:
1. Tell your spouse “I love you,” and then do it.
Voicing your feelings of love to your spouse is important, but there’s much more to love than words. Marital love is also about how you treat your spouse. Paul tells husbands to love their “wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Read 1 Corinthians 13 and look for how many words Paul uses to describe the active nature of love. Author Bob Goff nails this point by giving his bestselling book the title Love Does.
2. Say you’re sorry.
There is a popular quote from the 1970 movie Love Story that states, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” While Jesus never had to apologize because he never sinned, it is a different matter for the rest of us. Say you are sorry for whatever you have said or done that has hurt your spouse and mean it.
Note to offended party: Forgive your spouse, and leave the wrong in the past where it belongs. If you have trouble doing this, ask the Lord for his help and keep trying. You would want your spouse to do the same for you. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus commands us to forgive those who trespass against us (Matt. 6:12).
3. Sandwich any criticism with praise on both sides of it.
If you would like your spouse to make a change in some area, discuss it privately. Sandwich the request between two things you appreciate about your spouse. Be kind and sensitive when sharing, and try to be as positive and affirming as possible. Ask your spouse if there is an area in which you can also improve. Both of you should make a dedicated effort to make these changes as much as your conscience and abilities allow.
4. Be thankful for what you’ve got.
Appreciate your spouse’s good qualities and minimize in your mind aspects of your marriage that are not what you would like them to be. This requires maturity, sacrifice, commitment, discipline, and, generally speaking, character. Maybe your spouse isn’t providing as much money for the family as you expected. Maybe he or she has serious health problems that prevent you both from experiencing a normal marital relationship. Even if you encourage your spouse to make certain changes, the results may be minimal. It’s lovely if you can be happy, but a marriage should be focused on something far more important: honoring God in all.
5. Give of yourself sacrificially.
Putting yourself first on a regular basis is a sure-fire way to damage a marriage, or any relationship for that matter. On the other hand, some people wrongly think that being unselfish means they must allow their spouse or significant other to abuse them. Marriage does involve sacrifice—lots and lots of sacrifice. If you aren’t willing to give sacrificially, don’t get married. If you are around someone who abuses you, get away to a safe place—even if it means another physical location.
6. Do something fun together.
God made fun, and he wants us to enjoy the good gifts of his creation. Make time for enjoyable activities with your spouse. Marriage is a journey. Try to avoid constantly evaluating the quality of your relationship. Feelings ebb and flow over time. This is a normal part of marriage. Try to do fun things together as much as you possibly can.
7. Repeat above steps as needed.
A healthy marriage takes a lot of work, but it’s worth all the effort and sacrifice. Keep going. Seek out support from your pastor, extended family, friends, and trusted resources. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:2,
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Don’t just go through the motions. There is never a point in time when spouses should neglect their marital relationship. Marriages need tending, just like every other growing thing in life.