Love between Husbands and Wives
In the strongest marriages, husbands and wives have a deep relationship and share a deep sense of meaning. Couples get along, support each other’s hopes, frustrations and dreams, and build a purpose for their lives together. Marriage should be synonymous to love. They should spring from the same motives and cover the same human needs.
Many couples have difficulty at making adjustments to marriage and to each other. Expressions of love are essential in strong marriage relations. It is necessary because some people become emotionally insecure when they do not feel the expression of love and care towards them. (Markos, 2003)
Psychologist Robert Sternberg (1988) made a triangular theory or love. He argued that love consists of three components: (1) intimacy, (2) commitment and (3) passion. Intimacy is when two people share several secrets and details of their personal lives. This is usually shown in romantic love affairs and friendships. Commitment is the thought and expectation of a relationship to last forever. Passion and sexual attraction are seen mostly in infatuation as well as in romantic love.
“The Art of Loving”, a book written by Eric Fromm (1956), discussed issues about the concept of love. The author argued that love is expressed by means of giving oneself to another. The “giving” part should not necessarily mean giving material things. It is more about giving one’s time, love, care and affection to a certain person. In addition, love can be classified into several types, with brotherly love being the most fundamental. Also, love is incompatible with other issues such as responsibility, labor and respect.
Fromm explains that the most essential part of giving is not based on material things but giving oneself to another. It is a rewarding experience to see joy on other people who give themselves (love or service) generously. This enriches both self and others. As givers, people experience the ability to change the world in a small but very important way.
The Objectives of Marriage
Once a man and a woman get married, their primary intention should be to live together in tranquility. Marital bond should generate love and kindness and achieve companionship of the spouse in the psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. It should create the motivation towards the preservation and continuation of human race through child birth. (Maude, 1998)
Love in a marriage sometimes fades, not so much from angry battles, sexual frustrations, financial problems, or in-law difficulties, but because it exhausts itself trying to scale the wall of communication failure. Those who take time to learn the principles of effective communication will discover, as a result, a new dimension in their marriage. Most marriage counselors list communication difficulties as a major cause of marital difficulty, but it is not only a difficulty in itself—it often shows up a symptom of wider, more disturbing problems.
An in-depth research amongst marriage guidance counselors where several happily married couples were compared with the same number of unhappily married couples came up with the following conclusions. The happily married couples (1) talk to each other, (2) conveyed the feeling that they understood what was being said to them, had a wide range of conversational subjects, (4) showed sensitivity to the feelings of the other partner and (5) sought to keep communication channels open. (Holmes, 1999)
Lawrence Crabb, a Christian psychologist, after studying the subject of marriage for many years in a clinical context, says that a husband’s most basic need is significance, which involves adequacy, respect and admiration. On the other hand, the wife’s most basic need is security, which involves love, acceptance, sensitive and thoughtful caring. It is then concluded that husbands should give their wives’ need for security and wives should in return give their husbands’ need for significance.
While this is one of the most important things that husbands and wives should take into consideration, truth is that in practice, most marriages fail to function in this way. Husbands view marriages as an opportunity to feel significant through their wives. Wives, in turn, think of their husband as someone who will give them the sense of security in themselves. Instead of focusing on being a giver, they focus on being the receiver; each partner looks at the other to meet his or her needs. In fact, the key problem behind most marital difficulties lies right at this issue. Once a couple begins to focus on receiving rather than on giving, they begin to engage in a type of behavior that is self-defeating. Unconsciously, they attempt to manipulate their partners to give what he or she needs. The energy they spend to accomplish this proves to be counter-productive, as it breaks the laws of a healthy relationship.
Maturity in Marriage
Many people go into marriage hoping that in some way it will help them overcome their emotional immaturity. But marriage, in itself, does not solve people’s emotional problems. It merely gives them an arena in which to work. An emotionally immature person is not suddenly made mature upon entering marriage. The magic words spoken in front of the altar do not suddenly make people grow emotionally. One of life’s tragedies is the fact that people grow up physically and reach the age when they can legally be married but they never grow up in their emotions.
David Mace, a well known writer on marriage in the latter half of the twentieth century and described by someone as the “dean of marriage guidance counselors”, said “There are no unhappy marriages, only marriage partners who are immature.” A dictionary definition of maturity is “full development of the mind, body and spirit”. Most people fail to qualify at this count. One has, to a greater or less degree, immature sides in him. In the area of emotional maturity a person has to be able to rely on himself, take responsibility for his own actions, know that what happens to him is not half as important as what he does about it, and learn from every experience he undergoes. One of the basic traits of a mature person is being able to control his emotions whatever they may be, and not let the emotions control him.
Maturity is one of the mot neglected areas in a relationship. Some of the greatest marital problems arise in this area causing the break-ups of even the finest Christian marriages. Spiritual and emotional maturity should always be integrated. If one person in a marriage continues to function at an immature level where his or her inner child of the past in still in control of his or her emotions then he has the tendency to remain on the same level. It is only when the emotional level is dealt with will this issue be resolved.
Extending Common Courtesy toward Each Other
Courtesy and manners are a grace that should be part of every person’s life, but in this dying generation there seem to be a dying art. Love inside marriage should always incorporate courtesy towards each other. Wives who would like to be treated like a queen should treat her husband like a king. Being thoughtful to each other and showing love and affection make a lot of difference.
Sometimes, it is the little things that help cultivate a good loving relationship. Husbands should open the door for their wives. Wives should say respectful and encouraging things to their husbands. Both should be polite to each other inside their home as much as they are polite when they are out. Married partners should never air each other’s shortcomings, weaknesses or deficiency when other people are around. They should never criticize their partners in front of friends, family or relatives. When they have anything to say which express displeasure, they should share it with their partner only, and not with anyone else. Husbands or wives should never criticize their partners. Nothing causes people to feel “let down” more than knowing that their partner has been disloyal to them by criticizing them to someone else.
When husbands find the excitement beginning to disappear from marriage, they should find any way for it to go back to what the relationship originally was. A husband should buy his wife a bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates or some other inexpensive but chosen gifts. As he gives it to her he could also explain that it is a token of appreciation for the pleasure his wife gives him in their marriage. This is because a woman usually appreciates the small unexpected gifts more than she does with the ones beautifully presented to her during birthdays and anniversaries.
Wives can best bring pleasure to their husbands by taking an effort to look as well-groomed as possible. Appearance is not everything, but when a woman takes time and trouble over her appearance, this brings husbands a tremendous sense of pleasure. Husbands take pride at seeing their wives taking time to improve their appearance as often as possible.
Common courtesy and minding one’s manners also refer to simple things such as cleanliness to body, speech, and clothing. It means respect and thoughtfulness. It is a husband remembering to telephone his wife if he sees he is going to be late home. It is a wife slipping a note into her husband’s lunchbox to say “I love you” or the husband doing the same for the wife. It is a man walking side by side with his wife instead of three or four paces ahead of her. It is a woman refraining from loading on to her husband the difficulties of her day until he has eaten his meal.
Conflicts are inevitable but they can, if one knows how to handle it, improve marriage rather than tear it apart. A husband or a wife can compromise in a conflict, but the danger is they might compromise some important principles. They can also resolve conflict by facing the root problem and getting into the bottom of the matter. This is the only way to approach conflict. All the other ways are just “cop-ups” because they don’t help a relationship grow. Growth and maturity develop when married partners face issues and not dodge them.
Another important thing is to discover the sensitive area in someone’s partner’s life. Husbands should find out what bothers his wife most and wives should do the same. This helps maintain the love between husbands and wives. Keeping no secrets to each other or being open about everything also cultivates a good married relationship. Husbands and wives should share each other’s fears, hopes and dreams.
The gift of sexuality has provided man and woman, within them a marriage bond with the most complete way to express and share the love that they need to have for each other. One of the major problems between husbands and wives in relation to the matter of sex is that they fail to recognize the important psychological differences between a man and a woman. A man, for example, is aroused sexually with what he sees while a woman is stimulated more with what he hears. When a man watches his wife undress in preparation to going to bed, he often becomes ready to engage in a sexual intercourse. He sometimes forgets, however, that his wife does not respond as readily to the idea of sex as he does and then fails to be understanding and tender as he ought in seeking to bring her to sexual readiness. To a woman sex does not begin in the bedroom but in the living room. She sees sex to begin with a tender touch, continuing with affectionate words, and then some time later reaching its climax in the act of intercourse.
Couples should keep in mind that a husband and a wife should be responsible at meeting each other’s sexual needs all of their lives. The husband is responsible to meet his wife’s sexual needs. He must lovingly and tenderly caress her so as to complete her sexual experience as possible. A husband should not expect his wife to meet her sexual needs through masturbation and neither should a wife expect her husband to meet his sexual needs in this way. If they are motivated by love they will want to meet each other’s sexual needs. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. This concept needs to be at the forefront of each married couple’s thinking for it then breaks the vicious circle of self-centeredness and motivates a man and a woman to be givers and not takers in a relationship. (Dinovella, 2005)
Keeping the Lines of Communication Continually Open
There is no doubt that the heart of marriage is its communication system. Communication has been defined as “the process in which two people share both verbally and non-verbally in such a way that their message is understood”. Communication between husbands and wives consists of three components: Talking, listening and understanding. (Spurlock, 2005)
No marriage can develop unless the partners take time to talk to each other. If a married couple is extremely busy with a growing family or business demands, they should allocate certain times of the day for the purpose of just talking together. These times are seen to be creative opportunities to share thoughts and feelings with each other, for it is only in the sharing of thoughts and feelings that mutual respect, trust and love can flourish. (Drew, 2003)
The second component of communication is listening. Many marriage partners concentrate so much on getting their point across in a conversation that they fail to pay attention to cultivating the art of listening. An invaluable device in building good communication techniques, particularly when a couple is discussing a relationship problem, is to practice listening to one’s partner without interrupting, and rephrasing what his partner has said. The partner then has the opportunity to confirm that what he has heard is precisely what he or she intended to convey, or if not, a correction could then be made. This practice takes discipline, but it can be a valuable tool in building good relationships.
Listening has been defined as “not thinking about what you are going to say when the other person has finished speaking”. If one focuses at what he is going to say rather than what the other person is saying, he misses the importance of communication. Listening is concentrating so much on what the other person is saying that one becomes more conscious of the person more than himself.
The third component of communication is “understanding”. This means trying to understand not just what one’s partner is saying but why he or she is saying it. This does not mean playing the role of an amateur psychologist but seeking to understand the context in which a partner makes decisions, or arrives at conclusions.
For example, a wife used to get extremely irritated with husband whenever he opposed her over buying even an inexpensive item for the home and was confused why her husband was acting that way. One day she said to him, “Darling, help me understand the difficulty you have in agreeing to buy small and necessary things for the home.” The husband was taken aback for a moment but, with a little gently and genuinely loving persuasion, he began to share with her that having been brought up in an atmosphere of frugality he found it difficult to spend money on anything unless it was an absolute and urgent necessity. His wife responded to this and said that she could understand why and how he felt that way, bearing in mind the circumstances under which he had been brought up, and that she would do her utmost in the future to keep purchases to a minimum. Immediately the husband felt that he was understood and gradually began to change. Within weeks his attitude was completely different, and although he still had negative feelings about making purchases, in the atmosphere of loving importance given to him by his wife, he surmounted his problem and to a great extent overcame a lifelong difficulty. It is absolutely amazing how people change when they know they are understood.
Professor Howard G. Hendricks (1973) in his book “Heaven Help the Home” says that “roles always determine a relationship”. In other words, if one does not have a clear understanding of the role that he or she plays in a marriage, then it soon undermines the relationship he or she is in. Understanding the role that a man or woman has to fulfill is of the utmost importance to the preservation and happiness of a marriage. Admittedly, the idea of roles in a marriage is almost lost in the pollution of the twenty-first century which we are passing, but despite the blurring of the issue between men and women, its clear importance should be quite clearly emphasized.
The wife is required to be joyfully submissive. Submission that is not given joyously will hinder a married relationship instead of help. If a woman has difficulty in submitting to her husband, she fails to see that submitting to her husband is a responsibility that each wife has to accept (Cahill, 2003).
Some women find it extremely difficult to be submissive, because from the early days of their marriage they were obliged, by reason of their husband’s weakness or inadequacy, to take the initiative to play the leadership role. But this is no reason for maintaining a role that she should not assume. The wife is designed to lean and not lead in a marriage, and when she finds herself leading she ought to stand back and let his husband do his responsibility instead of allowing herself to do it. Many men are quite content to let their wives lead, and in this case the woman should gently pull back from the leadership role, letting the responsibility fall gradually upon her husband so that he begins to function as the “leader” of the relationship.
Some wives, on the other hand takes this issue of submission too far and become overly submissive. They obey everything their husbands tell them to do without equivocation. It is of course important for this kind of wives to remember that they are free not to follow any command that they feel is not right. A wife should develop a disposition and readiness to support her husband’s leadership role in the family, but she should also consider what she thinks is right or what she thinks is wrong.
One of the greatest fears of a man is to be dominated by a woman, while one of the greatest fears of a woman is to be treated like an object instead of a person. Those fears never arise in marriages where roles are properly understood and lived out, because these roles determine a relationship.
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Drew, P. (2003).Lasting marriage takes more than love. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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Hendricks, Howard G. (1973). Heaven help the home. Wheaton, Illinois: U.S.A. Victor Books.
Holmes, K. (1999 March 17). Love and marriage: Crisis in the making. Tri-State Defender, 4 (12)
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Maude, Micheal R. (1998).On love. (Eric Fromm’s book ‘the art of loving’). Love Management.
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Sternberg, Barnes, Robert & Micheal (1989). The psychology of love. Yale University Press.