God intends your loving cup of marriage to be brimful and running over with joy and pleasure. Here's how it can be.
How pleasurable is your marriage? Are you enduring a living death when you could be enjoying the many pleasures God makes possible in marriage? Last month you were asked to rate the "LQ" (love quotient) in your marriage. Then we explored two ways to love your mate — with agape and with the love of belonging, which together form the commitment phase of marriage. If you have been faithfully giving these loves to your mate, you have raised your LQ by two points. There are three additional ways to love your mate and increase your LQ. This phase of marriage could be called the pleasure phase. Let's look at these three ways.
Lovers cherish each other
The Greek word phileo describes the love of cherishing. This word is used in the New Testament to designate brotherly love, fondness, affection and cherishing. This is the third way to love your mate. The apostle Paul clearly described phileo when he wrote, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Rom. 12:10). Cherish is the word we will use to describe phileo. Cherish means "to value highly, to hold in high esteem." Physically, your mate should be the most valuable person in your life, and spiritually, the most valuable after God. You treat things of value with lots of attention and tender, loving care. If you do that with inanimate objects, shouldn't your mate receive even more cherishing? As with all the forms of love, you cannot get phileo. You can only give love. You can cherish your mate — here is how. Cherishing is sharing. In Romans 12:10 Paul described the love of cherishing as brotherly love. Brothers share. In biblical times married couples affectionately referred to each other as "sister" or "brother" (S. of Sol. 4:10, 8:1). How much sharing do you do with your mate? Do you share more with friends than with your own wife or husband? Your whole life should be shared together in a pleasurable way. Sharing is doing things together. Invite your mate to share a hobby. Together you could collect stamps, refinish old furniture, exercise or any number of enjoyable hobbies and projects. The main objective is that you have fun while sharing together. Sharing is communicating with your mate. Wives often complain, "My husband doesn't talk to me!" while husbands lament, "All she does is nag, nag, nag!" Such statements are signs that neither partner is communicating effectively. Effective communication does not start with either listening or speaking. Surprised? Perhaps you thought it was all in listening and speaking. True communication, like true love, starts with giving — outgoing concern. You must seek to understand (this is the give way) rather than to be understood (the get way). The emphasis should be placed on your giving. Seek to understand what your mate wants to share rather than to "get" your mate to understand you. This approach to communication will open many new opportunities for sharing. Cherishing is touching. How often during the day do you touch your mate? Only at bedtime? Could you and your husband or wife be called the "untouchables"? If this is the case, your marriage is missing a great deal of joy. Couples often touch too much when they are dating, but appear to be handcuffed after they marry. Lovers love to touch. It sends the message, "I love you." It tells your mate: "You are important to me. I cherish you." The lack of touching conveys the exact opposite meaning. Reach out and touch your mate. Weave touching into the daily fabric of your life. Give your mate a warm hug in the morning. Sit close together at home or in the car. Reach over and lovingly hold hands. Think about times you can touch your mate; then touch, touch, touch to your mate's pleasure. King Midas' touch turned everything to gold, but the loving touch turns everything to love. Give your mate a touch and you will give phileo, the love of cherishing.
Lovers are romantic
Eros is the word used in Greek literature to describe romantic love. It is the love about which ballads and poems are written. Eros is the love that can light up your marriage and take it from boring, black-and-white silence to technicolor 3D, 50-mm excitement, in Dolby sound. Here, then, is the fourth major area in loving your mate. You may be thinking, Romance is just a Hollywood production — surely God doesn't want us involved with that mushy stuff. Well, here's news for you — good news for your marriage. Eros — romance — is real. God inspired a whole book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon, to describe the proper kind of romantic love in marriage. The Bible also describes the love Jacob had for Rachel: "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed but a few days to him because of the love he had for her" (Gen. 29:20). Only romantic love could make seven years seem like a few days. Jacob was euphoric — on cloud nine. He was high on eros. Yes, romantic love is real, and you really need to give it to your mate. In many cases, wives have little trouble understanding eros. Quite often, they are starving for romance. Husbands tend to ignore romance, and do not fulfill their wives needs. Wives desire romance. Romance must come before sex. God wants you to give the pleasure of romantic love to your mate. Are you a fighter or a lover? If you have not been giving romantic love, you probably have been fighting. Now is the time to become a lover, not a fighter. There are three keys to developing romantic love: climate, imagination and surrender.
The climate for romantic love
The climate in which romance is given is important. Eros is emotional and sensitive and requires a warm climate to flourish. Project a warm, positive attitude toward your mate. Ask God to help you remove any negative feelings you may have had in the past (Eph. 4:31-32). You are making a new beginning in your relationship. Your giving of kindness will go a long way in producing a warm climate for romance. Decor, a lover's grooming, is an important part of the romantic climate. Since eros is sensitive to sight and scent, your grooming or the lack of it can turn your mate on or off. Be clean. If you want to get next to your mate, make sure you are tidy. Wives, keep your hair neat and pretty. Husbands, shave those whiskers. It is difficult to go cheek to cheek with a cactus. Exercise personal hygiene and also use a little cologne or perfume to spice things up. Dress neatly, even around the house. Wives, dress as appealingly as possible for your husbands. Husbands, dress to please your wives. Find out what your mate likes to see you in; then aim to please. The "look of love" produces a romantic climate. Solomon spoke of the power of romantic eye contact when he wrote, "You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes" (S. of Sol. 4:9, NASB). Couples who are in love look at one another often. It has been said that "the eye is the mirror of the soul." It is also true that the eye is the mirror of love. Create a romantic climate with your mate through eye contact. Look warmly into your mate's eyes when you talk. In public situations, occasionally look for your mate, catch his or her eye and smile or wink. You will be sending the message "I love you" from your eyes to your mate's heart. Nothing warms the romantic climate like the giving of affection. Our generation has been stripped of its "natural affection" (II Tim. 3:3, Authorized Version). We have become cold and aloof, even in our marriages. Take your marriage out of the ice age by giving warm affection to your mate. Kissing has always been a symbol of affection and warmth. You should make kissing the official form of greeting your mate. A kiss in the morning is a pleasant way to start the day. Kisses throughout the day are an excellent way to sustain your mate's affection all day long. Set a goal to kiss your mate 20 times a day — morning, noon and night. Solomon's bride desired his kisses: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth — for your love is better than wine" (S. of Sol. 1:2). As wine makes the heart merry, so do the kisses of romantic love. Little things mean a lot. In no other area of marriage can so little mean so much as in romance. Have you stopped doing the little things? Now is the time to start anew.
Romance is all in the mind! The imaginings of your mind can be a powerful tool in becoming more romantic toward your mate. Solomon said we are what we think (Prov. 23:7). If you think romantically you will act romantically. Jesus Christ, of course, spoke of the sinful effects on the mind that lusting after a person who is not your mate will have (Matt. 5:28). But have you ever thought about the other side of this scripture? Usually for every good there is evil and for every evil there is good. It is obviously wrong to have lustful thoughts about someone else's mate, but it is good to have thoughts of desire toward your own mate. God told Eve that her "desire" would be toward her husband, and the same applied to Adam (Gen. 3:16). Solomon instructs us to use our minds in this way: "Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well.... As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love" (Prov. 5:15,19). Even when your mate is out of sight, never let him or her be out of mind. Use your heart and imagination to create positive, pleasing thoughts about your mate (Phil. 4:8). Think about your mate's attractive qualities. Hear his or her warm and reassuring voice. See that beautiful smile. Take mental stock of your mate's inner and outer beauty. Proverbs 29:18, AV, says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." We can also say that where there is no vision, there is no romance. Launch yourself into the future through your imagination. Think about how you will be romantic with your mate when you are together again. Visualize warm and thrilling romantic situations where you are actively giving love to your mate. If you use your mind and imagination, your thoughts will reinforce your feelings and actions of romantic love.
Surrender is another key to developing romantic love. You must surrender and give this type of love to your mate. We have seen that eros — romantic love — is real, and the need for it to be revived in your marriage has been made clear. You have been equipped with the principles and applications of romantic love. Now it is up to you. Do not grieve the spirit of eros. Do not withhold the romantic love your mate so desperately needs from you. Add another point to your LQ. Surrender and let love flow!
Lovers are lovers
The fifth way to love your mate is with sexual love. How is your love life? God intended it to be pleasurable. You and your mate have the capacity to reach that high level of sexual enjoyment. Even if your sex life has been unfulfilling, you can change it for the better. The place to start improving your sex life is with the application and giving of the other four loves. Sexual love has been placed last in this series of points because its success is dependent on the other areas. If you are to improve your sex life, first improve the rest of your marriage. The prudish, Victorian approach to sex as being one of the necessary evils of life is wrong. The modern new morality is also wrong. To properly give sexual love to your mate, you need God's positive attitude toward sex. God created sex, and He says that it is good in marriage (Gen. 1:27-28, 31). God inspired Paul to write, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4). For "bed" Paul used the Greek word koite, which literally means cohabitation or coitus. The translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible were ashamed to use the word coitus, so they used bed, and the Revised Authorized Version perpetuates this translation. But God is not ashamed of this beautiful act of love. Neither were Adam and Eve, before Satan got to them in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:25). You have a God-given responsibility to give sexual love and satisfaction to your mate. God commands husbands and wives to satisfy one another's sexual needs: "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband" (I Cor. 7:3, NASB). Your body actually belongs to your mate, and your mate's body is yours (verse 4). With that authority comes the responsibility to take care of your mate's body as if it were your own (Eph. 5:28). Never abuse your mate's body. Handle it with tender, loving care. You should never refuse to give sexual love to your mate or use it as a weapon or for leverage (I Cor. 7:5). On their wedding night, as Solomon and his bride were in the very act of sexual love, God said to them — and He says to you and your mate tonight — "Eat, friends, and drink, until you are drunk with love" (S. of Sol. 5:1, New English Bible). For more detailed information on this important area, write for Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong's free book, The Missing Dimension in Sex.
Increase your love quotient
What is your LQ? After studying these five ways to love your mate, your love quotient should be five points higher. If you give these loves, your marriage will become more contented and pleasurable. Finally, listen to God's admonishment: "Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun... for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun" (Eccl. 9:9).