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Renewing Affections between Husband and Wife
Paul J. Bucknell
Many things can hurt a marriage, but here we want to focus recovering the lack or loss of affection. This loss of affection for the other partner can lessen love, intimacy and lead to marriage erosion. Perhaps you yourself have faced this problem in your own marriage. We need to learn how to properly deal with this problem.
Husbands and wives are designed differently and react differently to this problem. We later will look at this problem from both the husband and wife's perspective, but first let's deal with some common issues.
Vision of Unity
A couple will always feel uncomfortable dealing with problems if there is not an agreed upon common goal. The goal helps the couple realize they are not competing but running together and need each other's help. God has given us the life vision of oneness or intimacy. We are declared one but now must work it through so that it is true of our lives together.
For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31).
Paul calls this oneness a great mystery in Ephesians 5:32. This teaching has great implications in our marriage goals as well as how we as husbands or wives use our bodies for the benefit of the other. Can you not agree with your spouse that your common marriage goal is to grow toward deepening intimacy? You will serve the Lord and each other to obtain that goal even when your affection for each other is dwindling.
The Foundation of Marriage is NOT Feelings
Marriage is not based on feelings but on covenant.
We need to remember that marriages are not based on feelings but commitment. This is critical in any discussions about the lack of feelings for each other. Because the couple is married, divorce is not an option. They are one. Once one, they cannot be made two except by death. The wedding might be dependent upon feelings but not the marriage. The marriage is an oath made before God and man and must go on.
We all need to remember that marriage is different from other relationships because it is built on covenant rather than preference. We must not question the validity of our marriages. This is the foundation upon which we deal with all the fuzzy feelings and difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.
This does not mean that we just tolerate a distance between each other. Who wants a stale marriage?! The couple has a greater goal of deepening intimacy. This is just one more area that needs to be worked through. If the feelings are not honestly dealt with, then the intimacy will suffer as frustration and misunderstandings grow. Marriages can always be renewed by God's grace because one is building upon the truth that they are one even if there are other differences. Fears and Honesty (More on material on fears can be found on Overcoming Anxiety: Finding Peace, Discovering God)
Fear holds many couples from being honest with each other. While they are being caught in silence, their marriages disintegrate before their eyes. When one begins to lack affection for his or her spouse, he or she begins to fear that their marriage is falling apart too. They have heard lots of such stories. The evil one instigates all sorts of anxieties and fears here. But this is simply not true.
Marriages are not based on our fears or feelings but on our promises. As one questions his own feelings, they also begin to fear what his or her partner might say. But no matter what, darkness proceeds in the darkness. We need to bring the truth to light (Ephesians 5:7-11). We need to value our marriages enough that we will take those brave steps to cause our marriages to grow. Allowing our fears to grow just make things much worse. Fears cause distorted judgments. In order to throw off fear, we might address our partner positively, "I want our marriage to grow closer. Will you pray for me during this difficult time." As your spouse asks what the problem is, then share the problem along with your hope for deeper intimacy.
"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)
Heart affections are closely meshed with our feelings. Other physical and circumstantial situations affect these feelings such as emotional traumas like death in the family or simple fatigue. We should not gauge the validity or depth of our relationship on our feelings. This is more difficult for the wives whose feelings are more deeply integrated with her whole person. Their special integrated design can lead to belief that feelings are the same thing as reality. Her subjectiveness can lead her to wrong conclusions. Men, too, can also be affected by feelings. Fears and anxieties play havoc on all who entertain them! Our feelings about our marriage does not make it true. Our marriages are established by covenant.
Fantasy Partners and Adultery
One of the major times couples face lost affection for their partners occurs when a partner has started putting their affections on another person. A spirit of rejection sets in which leads to further distance and loss of hope. An honest and calm discussion about whether ones heart is cast upon another is needed. Adultery is a potential problem for both husbands and wives. The more the wife works outside the home, the more this becomes a possibility. But neighbors too can be a potential site. Men have problems where they regularly meet women.
Hosea was greatly grieved from his wife's disloyalty. Adultery starts in the heart. If dreams or fantasy are part of either spouse's mind, they need to be stopped. 'Heart disease' leads to 'heart attack.' Deal with the disease. Some people regularly practice 'spouse substitution' where they dream or imagine being with other partners. This is not harmless but cancerous. If this continues, you can be sure the relationship is just functioning at a physical level and the intimacy of ones marriage is gone. Honesty hurts, but one needs to get serious with the problem. Confession and repentance is necessary. The spirit of adultery disbelieves the oneness of marriage and must be rejected as evil.Issue of True Love
Others will feel untrue or hypocritical if they make love but do not feel love. We must remember, however, that love is not primarily a feeling. Love is a commitment of care. Love often needs to operate without warm feelings. The mother loves the child and changes the baby even in the middle of the night when her feelings are not that reliable! Marriage is based on this loving commitment made on our wedding day. "Whether for good or bad, sickness or health, ... unto death due us part." True love is characterized by faithfulness rather than feeling. Feelings best help us pay attention to the emotional needs of other.
Here are the four special sections that encourage husbands and wives to make the best decisions at times there is loss of affection.
>>>>> Husband's Special Guidelines if Wife is Unresponsive
>>>>> Husband's Special Guidelines if He is Uninterested
>>>>> Wife's Special Guidelines if Husband is Inattentive to Her Needs
>>>>> Wife's Special Guidelines if She is Uninterested