Jim Burns and Doug Fields are two of our favorite people here at Thriving Marriages. They don’t just have great insights into marriage, they live it out in their own marriages. They recently wrote a book called The First Few Years of Marriage. If you’re in a young marriage, or know someone who is, this is a great resource. To give you a glimpse, today’s post is an excerpt from the book. Enjoy!
A Successful Marriage Requires Serving Each Other and Falling in Love Again Every Day
I (Doug) remember the exact moment I looked into the eyes of my own Cathy and knew it was love. It was a powerful and transforming moment. It was the same for Jim.
If you want a healthy marriage, you must discipline yourself to fall in love with your spouse over and over again. This action is a continual choice. There’s that word again. The choice to keep falling in love is less about romantic feelings and more about routine actions. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, routine refers to an action that is “performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.” This definition fits marriage perfectly. You don’t choose to love your spouse for a special reason. Instead, you love your spouse for no reason at all. That’s what love is. It doesn’t demand a reason.
True love is sacrificial, and if you want to become a better lover, you’ll learn to serve your spouse daily. Serving others is the ultimate sacrifice. It means laying down our lives for someone else. The apostle Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus offers solid marriage advice: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The word submit also means “to serve.” When you have a servant’s attitude toward your spouse, you are literally acting like Jesus. Serving is your choice: you can choose to be either a servant lover or a selfish lover. If you’re a servant lover, you’ll look for ways to serve your spouse through simple, routine, ordinary acts of kindness. You’ll do it for no special reason or payback; instead, you’ll serve as an expression of your love for your spouse. You can fall in love every day and express that love in practical acts of service.
Following her husband’s death after forty-six years of marriage, Sue Johnston wrote, “Four children, 46 bouquets [of flowers] and a lifetime of love were his legacy to me when he passed away.” She continued, “On my first Valentine’s Day … ten months after I lost him, I was shocked to receive a gorgeous bouquet from [my husband]. Angry and heartbroken, I called the florist to say there had been a mistake.”
The florist responded, “No, ma’am, it’s not a mistake. Before he passed away, your husband prepaid for many years and asked us to guarantee that you’d continue getting bouquets every Valentine’s Day.” The attached card read, “My love for you is eternal.” That thoughtful, incredible husband chose to serve his wife “till death do us part” and beyond. He was a servant lover. You can experience a healthy marriage like that no matter what circumstances you’re currently facing.