My wife and I were married on June 1, 1974 in New York City. The Lord has been so gracious to us. Certainly there are couples who have been married longer, but perhaps after 40 years I can share a few helpful things with husbands or husbands-to-be.
First of all, something that we’ve all heard many times, but of which we may need to be reminded especially in our culture which equates love with “romance” and the exhilarating feelings which accompany it. Love is not a feeling, but a lifetime commitment—which we made before God Almighty in the presence of witnesses.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit—especially love, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—is to be cultivated not only toward outsiders but especially toward your wife. It’s much, much easier to be “nice” to outsiders than to your wife.
Women are generally more sensitive than men. Therefore when speaking to our wives—especially when giving them direction—we are to be gentle, subtle, and even diplomatic if our wife’s temperament calls for it.
In the morning when you wake up after you have spent several hours sleeping next to her, greet her sweetly. Something like “good morning, Honey…did you have a good night’s sleep?” She’s not a piece of furniture to be taken for granted, even after you’ve been married to her for forty years. In Christ she’s your body, and needs to be pampered and reminded that you care for her just as you care for your own physical body.
A warm hug, along with words of appreciation for her from time to time will go a long way—whether or not the “feeling” is there.
When you go out together, hold her hand along with other similar gestures of affection. It’s a nice habit to cultivate. It’s also a witness and encouragement to others. When we were on a working cruise last year we needed to sit down with a saleswoman to get our voucher for a free hotel stay. I was holding my wife’s hand. When we told her how many years we had been married she commented that she was surprised and commended us for handing hands even after nearly forty years.
Husbands are commanded to love their wives. So they do such things not because of a romantic feeling they might be sensing at the moment. They do them out of obedience to the Lord.
In our culture, men can be easily tempted to sin against their wives through adulterous affairs or through pornography. How can we defend ourselves against such strong attacks? The Holy Spirit in us gives us the authority to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11). Whenever we are tempted to sin against our wives in such a way, we should quickly say “No!” and rebuke our flesh authoritatively. And it will back down; we will escape from temptation. As believers, our flesh is under our authority. We treat it strictly as we would our servant (Luke 17:1-9).
We will remember that someday we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). If we have sinned against our wives while in the body and later repent, we will of course be forgiven. However, because of what we did while in the body, at the judgment seat of Christ we might suffer loss in our eternal reward in the next age. A healthy fear of God (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) helps us to resist the works of our flesh and the devil, and to love our wives.
And what happens when we fear the Lord and make the decision to love our wives as our own bodies in our daily lives?
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Although according to its immediate context this scripture applies to God’s provision for our material needs, I am convinced that it also applies to obeying God in our marriage as well. If we first seek his righteousness by obeying his holy commands to love our wives as our own bodies, “all these things will be given to you as well.” You and your wife will in fact experience love, joy, peace, and contentment in your marriage. As has been taught in some circles, feelings following faith and not the other way around.
First resolve to obey the Lord with regard to your relationship with the woman you have freely chosen to be your wife, and the blessings and godly contentment will follow.