Sunday, 15 February 2015

How to grow your love for your spouse

I love Valentine's Day.  I know some people think it is a fake holiday invented by greeting card companies but I don't see it that way.  It is a ritual, and rituals are reminders that focus our attention on something we otherwise could take for granted and even forget over time.  I also see it as a challenge to step up my game and make sure my wife feels as deeply loved as possible.

I loved her the day we met and I loved her even  more deeply the day we got married.  I didn't think I could love anybody more than that, yet here I am over 25 years later, loving her more than ever before.  That is the magic of love.  Perhaps the explanation is that I've always loved her as much as I was able to love, and over time that capacity to love has increased allowing me to love her more.

I believe there are things we can do to increase our capacity to love our spouse (and others), and it doesn't matter if the relationship is already super or if there are some real challenges to work on.  There is always room for growth and we should make an effort of some kind to perfect our love for our spouse.  If we are not moving forward we are backsliding, so don't get too content.

But what do we do in order to love our spouse more?  Here are some ideas.

Love God more than you love your spouse.
If you love God more than your spouse, you will love your spouse more than if you put your spouse at the top of the list.  It sounds counter-intuitive but it is true.  In Gal 5:22 it says "the fruit of the Spirit is love" and from this we can know that love is a gift of the Spirit.  Those who rebel against God are described as having hearts that are hard (Moses 6:27) and the Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from those who harden their hearts (Hel 13:8).

When the Spirit of the Lord withdraws, the gift of love goes with it.  When we put God first and submit our heart to Him above all else we can be blessed with a greater measure of the Spirit of the Lord, and with that a greater capacity to love.  Or, as John said:
1John 5:1-2
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
Increasing our love for God is the same as increasing out love for our spouse as well, so the suggestions below apply to both.

You can not truly serve somebody from the heart without coming to feel greater love for them.  Faithful Bishops, Presidents, missionaries, teachers and more testify on their release (if not sooner) of the love they have for those they have served.  That love grew as a result of the service they gave.  The same is true in a marriage.  As you serve your spouse, your love for them will grow.

If you are not deliberately doing some kind of act of service for your spouse on a daily basis, start today.  It doesn't have to be anything big or elaborate or prepared in advance, but it does need to be a genuine act of service done with a willing heart.  If we do something grudgingly "it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift" (Moroni 7:8).  If you are already serving them daily, can you do better?  Are you actively on the lookout for an opportunity to do something to make your spouse's life happier, more comfortable, more joyful?

Nobody wants to be taken for granted by their spouse, but it can be so easy to do just that.  If we are not attentive with a grateful heart we can overlook the little acts of service our spouse does for us, or come to just expect them as something they are supposed to do anyway.

No spouse is perfect, so if we go looking for what it is that our spouse is failing in, we will find something.  Chances are they are aware they could do better at that too, but if they are not recognized for what they are doing right, why bother working harder to do more things right?

Turn that habit around, notice the things your spouse is doing well and praise them for it.  If it is something you have come to expect from them realize there are spouses out there who do not do that.  Make a point of giving praise and gratitude both in private and in front of others when appropriate.  Perhaps use social media to express your thankfulness as well.  And always be as specific as possible when expressing gratitude or giving praise.  Pretend you are trying to convince your spouse, because some spouses need to be convinced

If a couple makes a point of doing those things, I'm confident that their love for each other will grow and flourish.  Even if there are troubles, having the Spirit of the Lord is present with service and gratitude creates an environment where healing and progress can happen.  Rather than go 'back to normal' now that Valentine's Day is over, start laying the foundation for a Valentine's Day next year where you can honestly say you are more in love with your spouse than ever before.