If we were to ask you, “What’s more important in marriage, Feelings or Actions?” you would most likely reply, “Actions, of course.” That is because mature adults who are thinking rationally and objectively (at this moment in time), know that we can’t always trust our feelings. In fact I (Steve) have learned that it is a rare occurrence where I can trust my feelings. I believe that is because feelings are ME focused and not OTHERS or CINDY focused. If left to my own tendencies it would all be about me “feeling good.” It is also true that our actions can sometimes be motivated by our feelings. This is where we need to “test” the motives behind our actions. We think this will become clearer as we proceed through the rest of this week’s Marriage Message. And while the story that is told deals with a couple on the verge of divorce, we all can — and should, learn a lesson from it. The story comes from the book, Courtship After Marriage, by Zig Ziglar: Don Hawkins, who spent almost 20 years in the pastorate, tells a story of
the time a couple from his church came to see him —en route as a last stop before seeing their respective lawyers about a divorce. It seems the husband had become involved in an affair. His wife became angry and decided to retaliate in kind. According to Don, the tension was electric. The husband sat on one side of the room hurling accusations. The wife sat on the other side, cold as ice, but occasionally blasting away with fireball-type epithets at him. Don suggested to this couple that they go back to that point in time where they were in love. To which the man replied, “But I don’t love her anymore.” Don said to the man, “You do respect the Bible, don’t you?” “Yes,” he replied. “Well, Scripture says, ‘Love Your Wife.’” “Yes, but we’re not living together as husband and wife. We have separate bedrooms.” “Oh, you’re living in rooms next to each other?” “That’s right.” “Well, Scripture has a word for you, ‘Love Your Neighbor.’” ‘The young man retorted, “I don’t feel like she’s a neighbor. We relate to each other more like enemies.” To which Don replied enthusiastically, “That’s great. I have good news for you. Scripture covers that base as well. It says, ‘Love Your Enemies.’” Both husband and wife told Don, “But we just don’t feel like loving each other, and we certainly wouldn’t want to be hypocritical, would we?” Don said, “Why don’t we suspend the discussion of hypocrisy for a week?
Let me encourage you to go back to treating each other like you loved each other.” To the husband he said, “You call her from work.” To the wife he said, “You have a nice meal prepared.” And to both he said, “Speak kind words to each other, even try to show some physical affection with an occasional hug or touch of the hands. Let’s see what happens in a week’s time.” The following week, the couple returned to Don’s office. He was surprised to note that instead of taking seats on the opposite side of the office, both sat down on the same couch. Turning to the husband, Don asked, “What’s the deal?”
To which the wife replied, “He’s been nicer to me than he’s been since we were married 10 years ago.” Smiling, the husband said, “I guess you can love your enemy.” Now, I don’t want to mislead you. As Don shared this with me, he was careful to point out that this couple’s problems didn’t just disappear
overnight or vanish like a fog in the morning sun. There was a lot of hard work to do to resolve the conflicts, anger, bitterness, and hurt that had built up over years of marital neglect. Yet by turning to the kind of actions they practiced for each other in the very beginning, by starting the courtship process over —they became motivated to work on their marriage relationship.
Okay, so what is the lesson for those of us not on the verge of divorce?
Like Cindy and me, you may never even consider divorce as an option. But that doesn’t mean our marriages reflect the love of Christ. And, if we are honest, we have all had conflicts, anger, bitterness, and hurt that have built up over time due to marital neglect.We believe that if we decide NOW to implement loving actions in our marriage it is not only going to improve our relationships now, but it will help us to regain the proper focus (Christ first and our spouse second) and help to heal past hurts. For further study as a couple, we recommend you go to our web site and you both read Marriage Message #105 — Living in an Intentional Marriage and Marriage Message #142 — When Loving Feelings Take Effort. And, if you are highly motivated but don’t know where or how to start Loving Actions, go to the web site and in the Communications section read the articles, “100 Ways to Love Your Husband His Way” and “100 Ways to Love Your Wife Her Way.” We pray God’s richest blessing upon your marriage. God Bless! Steve and Cindy Wright