Marriage Minute

December 27, 2023

What is a 3-word phrase that can either mean so much or so very little? I love you. Wait a minute and hear us out. I think we have it wrong. The model Jesus gave us for love in a marriage is pretty clear. Agape love is what we should be after. 

The Bible does use a few different words to describe types of “love” and it’s in Greek of course.

Phileo- friendship, shared interests, or “brotherly love”

Eros- sensual or romantic love

Agape- love of choice, serving, other-oriented, Christ-centered

Yes, a marriage should have some phileo. Maybe a few shared interests (loving/serving Christ hopefully is up there). No doubt, eros has a part to play in marriage as well and somebody better shout an amen to that. But agape…not being motivated by anything superficial or emotions, but a choosing and acting upon the choice. Saying I love you doesn’t really convey that, does it?

Back in 1987, there was an infamous couple whose names were Buttercup and Wesley. Buttercup would ask Wesley to do certain things and his response was, “as you wish.” Could it be that a repetitive line in The Princess Bride actually conveys agape love more than a more common 3-word expression? Typically, when we say ‘I love you’, it’s to convey an emotion or feeling. 

Think about it- how often do we say that to our spouse each day and not think about the meaning of what we’re saying? Are we saying it to convey our emotional feelings or are we saying it to convey that I’m willing to die to my selfish wants/desires and serve you? We’re thinking it’s mostly an eros expression. We live in a culture that is so frantically driven by emotions, that we throw out a phrase like it’s yesterday’s junk mail to placate an emotional need…when truly, it should be an action to convey a choice.

For couples dealing with hurt, that 3-word phrase is a hollow gesture. In fact, it might be closer to throwing gas on a fire in the short term than a healing gesture. Saying I love you after uttering unkind words or some form of betrayal, you’re likely to get a statement from the great theologian Travis Tritt, “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” If you don’t know how to love your spouse, ask them. Unexpressed feelings/thoughts or not-asked questions can dry up a marriage. That’s all part of communicating. Yes, you should know your spouse’s love language, but that may only be something surface-level (that’s a post for another day). 

Communicating is the key here. If I think I can love my wife (agape) today by helping out with some house chores, that may not be the best approach. My wife doesn’t need help doing that. I don’t fold clothes very well, not for a lack of effort (folding fitted sheets is just another form of kryptonite honestly). The agape that serves her best is for me to come home from work, be present with my kids, and not have my head buried in my phone or the TV. That is more agape than grabbing a laundry basket or washing the dishes. And you know how I know that? I asked her.

I said, “What’s the best way I can serve you and tangibly show my love for you daily”? To my surprise, I got the answer above. Husbands, without asking we typically think to help out more around the house, try to get the kids in line (if we work out of the house during the day), and maybe grab some flowers or go out for dinner. And when it’s received not the way we thought it would be, we might say “I did these things because I love you.” But the choosing…the agape Christ-centered/other-oriented love should drive us to ask our spouse, “How can I convey to you today, in a non-verbal way that I choose you”? Husbands, ask your wives. Wives, ask your husbands. You may get an answer you did not expect.

And just maybe, the next time your spouse asks you to do something, instead of the reaction response of 3 common words, you change it up with “as you wish.”