Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Love & Affection

Now that you all have most likely grown gray hair and had 10 more grandkids since my last post, I feel it is time to splash a little more thoughtfulness around.

For a long time, I have been observing people who are married. The purpose of this observation has been mostly curiosity and making notes on what I want my marriage to look like. I have seen quite the broad spectrum of couples - affectionate, serious, happy, wise, kind, thoughtful, abusive, complaining, arguing, satisfied, in love, no longer in love, and so on. I have observed both newlyweds and couples who look like they may go 6 feet under together at any moment. Here are some of my thoughts.

- In many churches I have been a part of, married couples often sit together. This is a good thing (hopefully). However, they also often sit/stand/interact like co-habitating rocks. This does not make me excited about marriage. Occasionally, I see them hold hands or maybe even rub each others' backs. But the latter seems very infrequent. If the couple in question is in pastoral leadership, then they are often not sitting together and sometimes only get to share a few words throughout the service. The situation is even worse if the couple is in leadership AND has young children. This usually results in a couple of shouted words or plans from a distance of 15 feet or more. As you can imagine, this *ahem* wonderful showcase of marital love in church could easily make people (read: me) think that marriage is no fun and feelings for your spouse must be hidden while in public.

- However, in the last couple of years, I have seen a growing trend in the churches I've gone to (or maybe just my home church). I see couples actually showing affection for each other openly. Now, let me be clear about what I mean by "affection." I'm not talking about taking any clothes off or hands inside of clothing. That sort of thing should probably stay at home for the sake of younger or unmarried minds. I'm referring to holding each other, kissing, rubbing (mostly non-sensitive areas), caressing, whispering, gazing into each others' eyes, and those sorts of things. And I am DEFINITELY only referring here to those things expressed in the context of a marriage relationship. To cover my views outside of marriage would require a whole other post.

When I see a husband and wife showing affection for each other, I get really happy inside because God places such an extreme priority on marriage! In the lives of many couples, love and time together takes a back seat to work, ministry, kids, friends, education, etc. This, I believe, is tragic. If I am a married man, nothing should come between me and my wife connection-wise and nothing should come before the needs of my wife. Example: I've seen many husbands put up with lousy jobs that sap their energy and make them emotionally and physically dead to their wives in the name of keeping food on the table. I don't want to seem callous to the situations of these people, but in my opinion, a job is a means to an end - not the end itself. For me, a job allows me to spend more money on my wife and gives me more colorful and creative ways to pour out love on her. If the job starts to hinder my relationship with my wife, the job must yield because it is no longer functioning as an enhancer of love between me and my wife. If the job does not yield, I have just set a dangerous precedent in place for the course of our marriage. Once I've made the decision to put up with the loss of energy/time/love/relationship, it is much easier for me to make the same decision again later on in a different situation. This creates a pattern which, over time, can cause a couple to fall out of love with each other. Some signs of this are:

- Snapping at each other more frequently
- Not wanting to go the extra mile for the other person
- Viewing the needs of the other as a burden on you
- Wanting more and more time either by yourself or with "the guys"/"my girlfriends" apart from your spouse (not sure about the girls, but I've found that needing "guy time" away from my spouse is unnecessary - especially if she is my best friend.)
- Being 'out of sync' with each other (which leads to more of #1)
- Forgetting your spouse's likes/dislikes/priorities/dreams
- Loss of joy between the two of you

...To name a few. So husbands and wives, take my words to heart:

- Never be embarrassed to show affection, whether in private or in public - be proud of your spouse!
- Your children REALLY like to see you and your spouse loving each other. It creates a good, solid, loving atmosphere in your home and your kids will respond to it.
- Don't let religious systems or cultural expectations get in the way of your love. Religion (when Christianity loses relationship and becomes a set of rules and protocols) will always look down its nose at love because it is not 'proper' and makes couples who aren't in love anymore uncomfortable.