There is power and significance in the number 3. Some even say it is the perfect number. Have you ever thought about how much of our lives and world is organized in 3’s?
Past, Present, Future
Birth, Life, Death
Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Beginning, Middle, End
The Triple Threat
Body, Soul, Spirit
3 Point Sermon
Morning, Noon, Night
3 Kings who brought 3 gifts
Physical, Emotional, Spiritual
He rose on the 3rd day
A cord of 3 strands cannot be easily broken
Even…The 3 Little Pigs!
I believe the power and significance of 3 applies to love as well.
In order for love to do its best work, it has to do 3 things. Love has to SEE. Love has to CARE. And finally, love has to DO something. Consider these components the “3 strands of love”, or the “trifecta of love”, that won’t be easily broken.
Loving your spouse requires you to first see them. In order to see your spouse in a way that leads to love, you have to notice them. Another way to say it? Seeing your spouse requires entering their world. Seeing your spouse is the “entry gate” of love.
This sounds easy enough, but the busyness of our lives tempts us to live in a constant state of distraction which hinders our ability to see anything past what is happening in our own world. To-Do lists, appointments, chores, work and home responsibilities, all lead us to become more focused on getting things done than taking time to invest in our relationships.
My week day mornings are very regimented. I have a morning routine that I go through that cares for and invests in my body, emotions, and spirit that sets me up to perform at my best the rest of the day. If I’m not careful and disciplined, my morning routine can be disrupted and delayed which forces me to play catch up the rest of my day. I don’t have a lot of margin in the mornings.
Some mornings I am behind, rushing to get out the door, and in the spirit of getting things done and getting to my appointments on time, I miss seeing, or noticing, my wife. Yes, I see her physically, and we exchange quick and routine pleasantries, but I don’t really see her. I don’t notice non-verbal cues or body language that might indicate how she’s doing underneath the surface. I notice her physical presence, but I’m not present enough with her to notice how I might be able to love her. My world gets in the way of seeing and entering her world and causes me to miss opportunities to love her the way I should.
What about you?
How is being consumed with your world causing you to miss seeing your spouse’s world? Where can you slow down, eliminate a meeting, or create some purposeful space or margin to be present with your spouse so you can enter their world and see them…really see them, in a way that informs how you can love them?
Love requires good sight, but it also requires a caring heart. If you see your spouse clearly but don’t care about what you see, you’re falling way short of what love should look like. Love sees AND cares.
One of the best ways to do this is to emotionally respond to, or mirror, what you see your spouse going through. If you see your spouse down in the dumps, ask what’s wrong, and offer some care and comfort. If you see your spouse in an overly good mood, notice them by asking how their day has been and look for ways to rejoice and be happy with them, “’I’m really glad you had a good day today!”, or, “I’m so glad you had that experience today!”
Romans 12:15 succinctly summarizes this point well, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” When you see your spouse rejoicing, rejoice with them. When you see your spouse mourning, enter in to their world and mourn with them. I believe applying this principle can do more for the emotional health of your relationship than just about anything else.
The reason many marriages don’t experience this type of emotional care is because of unresolved conflict. Unresolved conflict leads to hurt which shuts down emotional care giving. If you’re struggling to care about what your spouse is going through, start by asking God to soften and remind your heart of the love that might be buried under a pile of unresolved hurt. Then, start the process of getting rid of the pile of hurt through confession and forgiveness.
I’ve heard it said that love unexpressed isn’t love at all. I couldn’t agree more. A good intention of love just isn’t enough. A thought of love is good and a step in the right direction love, but if you don’t do anything in response it isn’t love. It’s only a thought.
A client recently summed this up well by re-purposing Homeland Security’s catchphrase, “If you SEE something, SAY something.” If you see your spouse doing something good or see that something is wrong, say something to them. Comfort them. Praise them or encourage them. Respect them. Or if appropriate, help them with a task or chore.
Back to my morning example…
More times than I’m willing to admit, my morning routine goes long and I’m rushing out the door to be on time. Even though I miss seeing Star’s world because I’m so wrapped up in my own, many times she sees mine, comforts mine, and does something in response. She notices I’m hurrying, asks if everything is ok, comforts me, and initiates doing something to help me get out the door on time. She takes a step out of her world, willingly enters mine, and sacrificially helps me. This may seem like a small insignificant example, but it means the world to me because it is models the trifecta of love to me: seeing, caring, and doing.
Ask God to open your eyes to see, give you a heart to care, and the strength to demonstrate your love to your spouse. Your marriage will be better for it.
Love Changes People
Love also changes people. When we love like Jesus loves, it changes people. I’ve seen it time and time again in my own life and in the lives of our clients. Watch a talk Star and I gave at a local church recently talking about this Trifecta of Love and how it changes people. Feel free to jump to 3:30 to skip over our embarrassing attempt at being funny for our intro :)…
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.