How to Love Your Wife
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Matt and Lisa JacobsonMatt Jacobson was an executive in the publishing industry for 25 years and has been a teaching elder/pastor at Tumalo Bible Fellowship for the past 16 years. Matt is also the founder and teacher at FaithfulMan.com, an online social media community focusing on the topics of marriage, parenting, and biblical teaching. He is the author of 100 Words of Affirmation Your Wife Needs to Hear and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. He lives with his wife,...more
What does it mean to love your wife like Christ loves the church? Today on the broadcast, authors Matt and Lisa Jacobson share practical tips for loving your wife in a way that honors her and the Lord.
How to Love Your Wife
Bob: If you’re a husband and a Christian, do you know what job one for you is? Matt Jacobson does.
Matt: God has already stipulated what our first priority is, and our first priority is that little phrase, “Love your wife like Christ loved the church.” The reason that we have to get that right, as Christian men: if you don’t love your wife as Christ loved the church, you’re actually disqualified for leadership in the local assembly.
See, it’s not optional to have a wife who [is] cherished. If you show me a church that is full of godly men, I can show you a church that’s full of cherished wives.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 26th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. What does it look like for a husband to really cherish his wife? Matt and Lisa Jacobson give us some help with that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I have been thinking about this subject a lot.
Dave: Boy, oh boy! What subject is this, Bob?
Bob: I’ve been thinking about love. Part of the reason is because, as you guys know, I just recently wrote a book that came out called Love Like You Mean It.
Bob: We have a cruise by that name. So now we’ve got a book by that name, as well.
What I did in the book was go back to 1 Corinthians 13 and looked at all of the characteristics of what love is according to the Scriptures. The conclusion I came to is that most of us have a very superficial idea of what love is. When we get married, we’re in love with the romantic comedy idea of love, not with the biblical idea of love. I think we set out pursuing a You’ve Got Mail-approach to love rather than a “You’ve got Jesus”-approach to love, and that’s a very different approach.
Ann: I think our culture sets us up for failure in those regards, because we really don’t know what love is.
I bet Mary Ann is a recipient of all your learnings.
Bob: As soon as I start applying it, she will be; yes. [Laughter] All I’m doing is writing about it right now.
But we’ve some friends, who are joining us on FamilyLife Today, who have been thinking very wisely and practically on this subject. We’re glad to have them. Matt and Lisa Jacobson are our guests. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Lisa: Thank you so much!
Matt: Thank you.It’s really great to be here.
Bob: Matt and Lisa live in central Oregon, in the Bend/Sun River area there. They’ve been involved in the publishing world for years. Matt is pastor of a local church in the area.
Did you decide to do this as a book first, or were you just starting to brainstorm together: “How can we do a better job of loving one another?”
Lisa: Actually, it grew out of us sitting around in a café one day, which we often would do; we’d go and write together at one of the local coffee shops. As we were sitting there, we were kind of holding hands, and I had my latte in my hand. We were just enjoying one of those moments in marriage, where you go, “You know what? This is good”; and we’re just thankful for enjoying the fruit of all we’ve been investing and growing in over several decades.
Lisa: As we were talking about it, we started thinking about how much of our marriage that we’re enjoying today is a result of little choices that we’ve made over time—and how, oftentimes, we look at marriage, and we think of those big topics/those big, hard things—that is a part of marriage; I’m not minimizing that—but how much of just the happiness/the closeness is a consequence of daily choices of doing things or saying things that communicate love to the other person.
It was kind of a casual thing, where we said, “You know, let’s just write down all the little things you can think of that you’ve done that you feel contributed to what we’re enjoying today.” He said, “Okay, I’ll write down my list, and you write down your list. We won’t look at each other’s lists,” so we weren’t going to cheat. We came up with a hundred, literally, of—
Lisa: Yes, and we thought, “You know what? Other people might even benefit from those little things that make a huge difference.”
Bob: Those lists are what became the books you’ve written: 100 Ways to Love Your Wife and 100 Ways to Love Your Husband, which are books that give you those bullets/those nuggets that are all about practical things we can do that are just little adjustments we can make that have a huge impact on a marriage over time.
Ann: Lisa, did you come up with your list of things you had done to make Matt feel loved; or did he say, “This is what you have done that has made me feel loved”?
Lisa: That’s a good question. Yes, I wrote down the things that I have tried to do to communicate and express love to him. When he looked at my list, he said, “Yes, this is absolutely right on,” because I didn’t know; that’s just what I thought.
The same thing—when I looked at his list—I thought: “Oh, that’s funny. I didn’t know you were even mindful that you were doing that. But now that I think about it, that did make me feel loved,” or “Those are the kinds of things that help carry us through, even the hard times.”
Matt: If you have a beautiful marriage, a lot of people look at that and they go, “Wow, they’re just lucky. They won the marriage lottery! They just get along so well together; it just worked out for them. They kind of fell in a hole backwards and ‘Wow, look, a beautiful marriage.’” [Laughter]
But everybody knows, who has a great marriage and who enjoys the best that God intended for them, they know that that’s something that you actually built together. It’s not something that happened because you got lucky. That’s really what the book is about. It’s about those simple little things that you do every day—see, having a big, beautiful marriage isn’t about that one big thing you did to get there; it’s not that destination you arrived at—it’s built on a lifestyle and a lifetime of making choices every day/simple little choices in the normal days of marriage, that say, “I love you,” rather than choices that say, “I love me.”
Dave: That’s in your opening page: “I love you,” rather than “I love me.” Talk about that, because it’s easy to be selfish—
Matt: It is.
Dave: —at least, for me it is—I don’t know about everybody else.
Dave: I mean, that’s a choice to not be selfish and to consider somebody else more important than yourself—your spouse.
Matt: That’s exactly right. You know, there’s that little phrase in the Bible that gets passed over—well, I think in application, it gets passed over—we bandy it about. It says, “Love your wife like Christ loved the church,” and we’re going, “Oh, yes, yes, yes, that verse/that phrase in Ephesians." That is something that we need, as men, to spend some time meditating on. Because it’s the big job that God has given us to do as husbands: “Love your wife like Christ loved the church.”
You’re right; it’s very easy to be selfish. It’s very easy to think about me and the thing that I don’t want to do in that moment. Often, in marriage, they’re such little decisions/they’re little moments in your marriage and in your day, choosing for yourself or choosing for your spouse.
Ann: Well, I like that you said that it’s a choice, too; because we’re all faced with that. It has to be, I believe, an intentional choice. It’s not always based on how we feel about our spouse at the time.
Matt: That’s right.
Ann: Sometimes, you’re doing it because God has told us, or commanded us, or has encouraged us. But that’s not easy either. Have you felt that at times, Lisa?—like, “I don’t want to love him or respect him. I don’t feel like it.”
Matt: Well, not really in our case; because it’s so easy for her. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, you’re that guy!
Matt: Yes, I make it really, really easy. [Laughter]
Dave: No, honey, I’m that guy. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh yes, you are.
Ann: You are that guy! [Laughter]
Dave: —in case you were wondering.
Matt: There’s a few of us around. I mean, there’s just a few of us. [Laughter]
Lisa: No, I think that is so true. I think that, as far as that choice and the difficulty of that choice is, oftentimes, as a believer, we look at verses in the Bible that talk about the kinds of ways we’re supposed to treat other people with kindness/with patience—you know, those verses in 1 Corinthians 13, for instance—and we think about it for “those other people out there.”
For example, I’m at the grocery store. I go through the line at the cashier, and she is clearly having a bad day. She’s kind of grumping at everybody. I’m a little irritated myself, because I’m trying to get through and she’s going really slow. I get up to the line, and she’s [grumbling murmurings]. I have this kind word for her: “How was your day?” and “Thank you so much!” I kind of feel good about myself, because I have just made her day, even though she was having a hard one; and “What a testimony of God’s love that was.”
I go home, and I get in the door. Maybe Matt’s having a hard day, and he’s feeling a little bit edgy; right? Now, my response to him is—
Ann: Well, let me take you to a part in the book.
Lisa: Oh, okay! [Laughter]
Ann: One of the points is: “He needs a warm, welcoming wife.” You begin by saying, “I hear his footsteps—unmistakable, firm, solid-feet man steps—quite different from the quick pattering of all the little feet I’ve heard throughout the day. Madly chopping and slicing, I never even looked up when he entered.” Take us into the rest of what happened.
Lisa: On that particular day, he came behind me and he kind of did the little love thing/the little husband love thing. My first response was, “I don’t have time for this.” Literally, that’s just all I’m thinking: “I’m trying to make dinner. I’ve had a big day. I don’t want this.”
I caught myself, thinking: “What in the world am I thinking? Why would I not have time for love and to just enjoy this moment of affection?” I could see him pull away; he kind of feels my rejection.
Bob: You’re tensing up.
Lisa: Yes; which, now I think about it, probably wasn’t that great. [Laughter] I thought, “Okay, wait a second.” I turned around; and I thought, “What would happen if I turned around and leaned right back into him?” It worked; it was very effective!
Lisa: I thought, “What a difference the whole rest of the evening would be, just by that exchange of love and just being a little playful right there in the kitchen in front of the kids.” The rest of the evening was fun. It was warm. The kids—they pick up on that, too, so they also—the bickering, that had preceded this evening, was somehow better and lighter.
Bob: We’ve talked about this as “adjusting the thermostat”; because you can cause the room to go cold or you can cause the room to be warm, based on how you respond to one another. When it’s warm, everybody’s comfortable and happy; and when it’s cold, everybody’s kind of tensed up. You don’t want to drive the temperature lower in your house; you want to keep it warm.
Matt: The irony is that, if we’re not careful, that we can just be very mindful of giving our best to all the people that don’t really know us/all the people that we bump into in life. What we really should remember is: “No, we need to give the best to each other.” We need to give the best to each other—that’s really what you’re talking about.
Dave: I tell you—when you see your spouse give the best to somebody else, you get resentful,—
Dave: —even if it’s your kids!
Dave: I know Ann’s felt this from me with the church/with my job—that it’s more important and the people there are more important.
And yet, there are times—and I’m sure, Matt, you’ve felt the same thing; because you’re a pastor as well—there are times I have to remind myself: “Wait, wait, wait. I’m called to love;”—not that I don’t love the people in my church—but “I am commanded by God to love my wife and my children and lay down my life for them.”
Bob: —at a different level.
Dave: —totally different level.
Matt: This is such a critical point, because ministry can be very deceiving; because after all, it’s ministry for God. You know, we don’t want to let other things get in the way of that.
But the fact is: God has already stipulated what our first priority is; and our first priority is that little phrase we talked about a moment ago: “Love your life like Christ loved the church.” It’s not optional to have a wife who [is] cherished. If you show me a church that is full of godly men, I can show you a church that’s full of cherished wives. There’s no such thing as being a godly Christian man and not having a cherished wife. All of the ministry, all of the endeavor, all of the effort poured into other things does not negate the responsibility that we have to cherish and love our wives.
Satan is so good at making us think that these other priorities are equally as legitimate; so that our wives are then competing with the church, competing with the children, and competing with all of the other—our jobs—and all of the other things we have going on.
The reason it is so critical is because everything else, relative to the Great Commission, grows out of that relationship. Now, I know that that might be overstating the case for some; but hang with me for a minute. The Great Commission is the job that the Lord gave the church to do; right? It’s not just evangelism; it’s discipleship.
Bob: “Go therefore, make disciples of all nations,”—right.
Matt: Right, so discipleship—Jesus says, “Teaching them everything I taught you.”
Here we have a man, who doesn’t love his wife; and he’s supposed to be discipling his children; alright?—so failure right there. You’ve taught your children something wrong about marriage; you’re discipling them away from what God wants you to disciple them toward.
Number two, if you don’t love your wife as Christ loved the church, you’re actually disqualified for leadership in the local assembly; you’re disqualified. Pastors out there—if you don’t have a marriage, where you can say, “Follow my example in marriage,”—if you can’t say that from the pulpit, without embarrassment, you’re disqualified for the role you’re in.
It’s so critical, as men in the church, to love our wives/to do what God has called us to do; because all of these other things, and really, the Great Commission itself, is affected by how we are living examples of what God has called us to do and what He’s called us to be.
Dave: Talk about this: What does it mean, “…as Christ loved the church,”—“Love your wife as Christ loved the church”?
Matt: Okay, one of the ways Christ loved the church is He sought the church. Remember that parable of seeking out the one lamb that was straying?—right?
Matt: He’s a pursuer. He is seeking out; He is pursuing His bride. So that is one thing that we, as men, need to do.
Lisa likes being kissed. Every wife likes being kissed the way she was kissed on her wedding day. She never stopped desiring to be kissed that way; she never stopped desiring to be desirable to you. She never stopped desiring to be pursued by you. So number one: pursuing our wife—she is a priority; we care about how she feels; we care about her day; we care about her heart—that’s one thing: pursue—loving your wife as Christ loved the church.
Secondly, it means you get to sacrifice, big guy; alright? It means that all of those things that you want to do that are a priority—everything about your world and the things that you want to pursue as a person; it doesn’t mean they don’t matter—it just means that they get to be prioritized in relationship to this number-one priority that God gave you. You get to lay down your life for her.
Now, that looks different in every marriage. But one thing for sure, no matter what marriage you’re in, your wife knows whether she’s a priority with you. As I say, it’s different in every marriage. But you’re a godly Christian man, so how about spending some time really thinking about this and saying, “What would it mean for me to lay down my life for my wife? What would that look like in my marriage?”
Bob: We’ve got that spelled out—I mean, the general sense—“Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” There’s not a parallel I’m familiar with—wives/it says, “Wives, respect your husbands,”—but is there a specific spelling out of how a wife is supposed to love her husband, and is it different than the sacrificial expectations that Matt has just talked about?
Lisa: That’s a good question. Yes, it is different; because it doesn’t say the same thing to wives, that we are to—
Bob: You wrote two different books; right?—so there is how to love your wife and how to love your husband. There are differences in how we’re to approach this.
Lisa: Right; and I think, generally speaking, that wives are pretty good about loving. We have a better sense, probably, of what love looks like/what love means. That’s why we watch all those little romantic comedies you were talking about. [Laughter]
But communicating respect and submitting to your husband, that’s the part that we probably struggle with—that we have to spend more time considering on what that looks like—“How I can communicate respect and honor to my husband.”
Matt: You know, I’d like to speak to that issue for a bit. Because when we come to the Word of God and what it says to the husband or wife, we like to read our wife’s mail: “Hey; you know, God said to you that you’re supposed to do these things!”—
Matt: —right? I think we need to focus on our own mail; we need to focus on what God sent to us to do.
It’s amazing how beautiful a relationship can be when a husband truly loves his wife, truly cherishes her, truly lays down his life, pursues her—right?—isn’t selfish; but says, “I love you,” instead of “I love me” in the choices that he makes. It’s amazing how easy it becomes for a wife to submit to that guy.
Now, the Bible does say that it’s your responsibility to walk that way before your [wife]. If you’re not a believer, and you’re listening to this, this is just nutty; okay?—we get that. But for the person who claims to be a biblical Christian, this is how we’re supposed to walk; we’re supposed to make submission a beautiful and safe thing for our wives.
Ann: Well, Matt, as women are listening, they’re resonating with you; like, “I long for this. I want his. My husband really hasn’t ever done that. What’s the best way for me to approach him? Do I say, ‘This is what I’m not getting from you’?” What do you think, you guys?—you’re the experts.
Matt: Well, I don’t know if we’re experts; but what we like to say is: we have to decide whether or not we want to be biblical Christians, for starters. We just have to decide that, because if we are, what that means is the Bible gets to define how we’re going to go forward.
See, if you’re not willing to make that commitment on the frontend, then cobble it together and figure it out as you want. But if you’re a biblical Christian, you’re somebody who is involved in the church and you say, “No, I’m following the Word of God. It’s authoritative for every area of my life,”—that’s a starting point.
At that point, you have a situation, where a guy is literally going to do what the Word says or, at least, when he becomes aware of it. But for the wife, who’s feeling like, “You know, I’d really like this.” First of all, what I would say is: “Okay, we’re biblical,”—right?—“We’re biblical Christians; so that means you get to do what God calls you to do, regardless of whether he’s walking in holiness or not”; okay? Our personal holiness is not dependent on whether someone else is holy. It’s easier in marriage if we’re both walking in holiness. But if I’m not walking according to the Word of God, Lisa still can be yielded and submitted to what the Word says.
What I would say is: “If you’ve got a good relationship with your spouse, then this is time for conversation; this is time to get together.” Never try to deal with these things in the moment of emotional intensity. If you’re mad that your spouse hasn’t done these things and you want—and there’s a moment right there, where it’s brought all of this anger and frustration to the fore—that’s not the time to talk about it; let the day pass.
But come together and say, “Could we talk about something?” We need to get a place, where if we’re loving each other, I need to ask Lisa, “What are the things that I can do that make you feel loved?” Then conversely, she should be able to ask me about that.
Bob: This is something where we can all continue to grow and get better. The thing I love about the books the two of you have written is that this is not a sit down and get out your highlighter and study and read. You can read four of these ideas a day; you can read one day!
Ann: Yes, one a day; and if you applied it, you would have a different marriage in
Matt: You know what? I can say that we have had people say, “I’ve got a different marriage this week.”
One of the ways to love your wife is to respect your wife. Now, a lot of people—it’s kind of funny—I wrote a blog post; put it up about the business of a man respecting his wife. Somebody came back [deep voice], “Hey, hey, the Bible doesn’t tell men they’re supposed to respect their wives. It says the wives are supposed to respect their husbands.”
What I like to remind men is: “If you don’t respect your wife, you are in the process of destroying your marriage.” See, a lot of people say, “Well, this is what the wife’s supposed to do for the husband.” But I’ve looked deeply into this particular verse at the end of Ephesians 5—that people kind of highlight as: “Well, the wives are supposed to respect the husbands,”—and it is a huge misunderstanding to focus on that word, just “respect.”
The fact of the matter is, there is a definition in the Bible for that word; and it isn’t the typical word we use for respect. That’s why, in the King James, they actually have it right. You’re supposed to reverence your husband; okay? The word, respect, goes both ways in a marriage; and if you’re not respecting your wife, you’re in the process of destroying your marriage.
That word [respect] has a definition. The definition of that word is to defer in a reverential manner. He’s tying it right back into what happens at the beginning of that passage on the subject of submission. A wife is to yield to her husband in his role of leadership in the home and in the marriage. So at the end, it isn’t really talking about the specific subject of respect; it’s talking about to defer in a reverential manner.
You absolutely must respect your wife. It’s one of the ways in the book, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife, that you can love her.
Bob: Well, let me just give an example. You say in the book: “One way you can love your wife is to seek her counsel.” Somebody could say, “I can do that today. I can ask my wife, ‘What do you think we should do here?’”
Bob: Then you say, on the next day, “Listen to her wisdom after you’ve sought her counsel.” [Laughter] I thought, “Okay, that’s a good follow-up to add there.” [Laughter]
These are just some of the practical things that Matt and Lisa talk about in their books, A Hundred Ways to Love Your Wife; A Hundred Ways to Love Your Husband. You know, given what the past year has been like for all of us, the stress and the strain and the uncertainty, this has been a hard season for a lot of marriages. It’s hard to carve out time to invest well in our marriage/in one another.
So we thought: “Let’s make these books available to FamilyLife Today listeners. Anyone, who can support the ministry with a donation, let’s send them a copy of both books: A Hundred Ways to Love Your Husband; A Hundred Ways to Love Your Wife.” All you have to do is go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, make a donation, and request your copy of these books; and we’re happy to send them to you. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can donate, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. Again, that’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You should know we are grateful to those of you who join with us to make this ministry possible for so many others. When you invest in FamilyLife Today, you’re really investing in the lives, and marriages, and families of hundreds of thousands of people, who come to us every day for practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and for their family. That’s where your investments go; you’re building stronger marriages and families. Again, if you can make a donation today, request your copy of two books: A Hundred Ways to Love Your Husband; A Hundred Ways to Love Your Wife by Matt and Lisa Jacobson. Donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
By the way, I mentioned earlier the book I had written called Love Like You Mean It. In addition to the book, we have a ten-part small group series that you can go through with other couples or go through on you own as husband and wife. Find out more about the Love Like You Mean It video series, and how you can use that, when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about how we can do a better job of expressing our love for one another in marriage. Matt and Lisa Jacobson will here with us again. I hope you can join us, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; extra help today from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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