Lesson Three
How to Love – A Mental Attitude

“I don’t think my husband loves me. He never pays any attention to me. He’s away from home most of the time, works an extra part-time job, and then, when he is off on Sunday, he sleeps all day. He doesn’t even go to church anymore. The first two years of our marriage were fine, but in the last three years things have been getting worse and worse. I don’t even know if I love him anymore. Maybe I married the wrong man.” Does this story sound familiar? This is the attitude of a person who does not know the true meaning of love.

All will surely agree that love is an important ingredient in a successful marriage. By understanding the true meaning of love, Christians can see beyond the attitude that prevails today.

Hollywood and popular music promote the myth that love is a mere feeling. However, Scripture says that love is not a feeling but a mental attitude that prevails despite illness, heartache, and financial difficulties. As matter of fact, unpleasant circumstances often provides opportunity for real love to grow. Real love, then, is “an unselfish or self-sacrificing desire to meet the needs of the cherished object.” Though this definition is neither poetic nor romantic, it is accurate.

The key theme of love is “meeting needs.” The Christian can choose to love any cherished object; and, loving it, he will determine what the cherished object’s needs are and how he can meet them. For example, a man may love his car. If he does, he will spend time waxing it, tuning it, and buying gadgets to dress it up. He will give both time and money toward its maintenance.

On a more elevated plane, love for God also fits this definition. One who loves God will attempt to understand and meet His needs. Of course, Acts 17:24-25 indicates that God, in reality, needs nothing from men “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things”; but He asks certain things of them, desiring their good. He asks obedience “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).

He desires praise and worship “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8), and He bids men fellowship with Him “The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:7-9). If a man truly loves God he will respond to His commands and requests.

The same principle applies to married love. In O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi,” the poor man sold his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair, and she sold her beautiful long hair to buy a chain for his watch. Though each of their gifts had lost any extrinsic value by the time it was received, the motivation behind the giving made the gift precious. Both the husband and wife had demonstrated their love to each other.

In order to utilize these established principles, the Christian must first understand his partner’s needs. God has created man and woman to complement each other by supplying differing needs: emotional, intellectual, and physical.

A WOMAN’S NEEDS:
Security is one of the two basic desires of a woman.
Most women recognize this psychological need in themselves, and a good husband will also. Being consistently supportive, being present at crucial times and acting wisely in solving various family problems are all ways in which a good husband can meet his wife’s need for security. Every Christian husband should obtain his strength from Christ and then strive to point his family toward this same rock of security.

The husband must also seek to exhibit his love and give security through communication. He should talk with his wife daily. This verbal communication is even more  important than the physical communication for women. Women need a time to sit down and converse about simple, everyday matters. Although such conversation seems unimportant to the wheeling-and-dealing executive husband, it is imperative for maintaining a sympathetic understanding in marriage.

A good husband will also be careful not to make his wife jealous or give her any reason to question his love. In addition, men and women who are naturally jealous or who lacked love as children need a double dose of affection.

It is tragic to see a man who would rather be mothered than meet his family’s needs, for both the wife and children become very insecure in this situation. A good husband will seek to fulfill his responsibilities rather than insist on being pampered constantly.

A woman’s second basic need, the homemaking need, is interwoven with the desire for having children and providing those children with a good environment. A woman needs knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, dust-catchers, and all kinds of dainty things to make her “house” a “home.” Her negligence in housekeeping is one sign that her needs are not being met. Consequently, a sensitive husband will do all he can to keep the house well maintained. A good coat of paint in the kitchen can do wonders since a wife spends most of her time there; and although the man controls the budget, he should allot his wife a certain amount yearly to spend as she wishes on the home. Nagging cannot change a woman’s unkempt housekeeping habits, but keeping the house in good condition will go a long way toward changing her.

A MAN’S NEEDS:
Many a woman wants to change her husband after the marriage, but this desire can only lead to problems. She may complain that he spits in the sink, throws his clothes on the floor, or leaves his shoes by the TV every night. She feels that he needs to change these bad habits, but the wise woman doesn’t say a word. Instead, she praises the Lord that her husband doesn’t chew tobacco; then she concentrates first on turning chores like picking up his clothes and shoes into labors of love and second on meeting his needs.

Man’s first need involves his ego. A wise woman will never tear down her husband, either in private or public. The coffee-clutch chats about “that terrible husband of mine” are very dangerous. Even subtle nagging at home tears down a husband’s ego.

A wise wife will build her husband up before the children and others. Comments such as “We have the best daddy; we are so proud of you; you’re a wonderful lover” all go a long way in cementing the love relationship. A true helpmate encourages her husband and builds his confidence.

Man’s second basic need is his physical need – both for food and love. The old adage, “The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” is a true saying. Never bring up problems before supper. A man can become very nervous, jumpy, and irritable when he is hungry.

A loving wife will also meet her husband’s physical need for love – she will not refuse him. Problems arise in a marriage when the partners think in terms of their own needs rather than the needs of the other. Though a woman may not have such strong physical needs as a man, she should remember that one of her husband’s basic needs is physical love.

Realizing the differing needs of a partner and giving to fulfill those needs reduces many potential problems. However, unselfish giving has no thought of return. II Corinthians 9:6-8 reminds us that “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

The big question often accompanying the realization of this principle is “who is going to start the giving?” Man can give without loving, but he cannot love without giving. One woman told a counselor, “I started giving for a week, but it didn’t work; he didn’t respond.” The counselor replied, “If you have been acting selfishly for nine years, it may take five or six weeks before your husband will respond.” One can expect a time of insecurity, a time of testing, while a partner evaluates whether the change is genuine or whether he is just using it as a temporary gimmick to get his own way.

II Corinthians 9:7 directs the Christian to make up his mind to love, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver. He must make up his mind to sacrifice unselfishly of time, money, and energy in all kinds of everyday situations.

Some may argue that their partners are so hateful they simply cannot put this principle into practice. But Scripture says, God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”(II Corinthians 9:8). God’s power is available to every Christian who asks Him for strength when his partner criticizes or rejects him, then asks Him for the ability to love even when indifference, neglect, and coldness are part of the daily scene. He will help in these common situations as well as in the more difficult circumstances of drunkenness, sadism, perversion, and other forms of corruption. A Christian only complicates the problems by an unloving reaction and makes the partner’s problems his problems.

For the Christian couple, married love should be the basis for all other facets of love. If both are right with the Lord, they will experience a bond of unity. They will set their affections on the cherished one and determine that they will do all in their power to meet the other’s needs.

CASE STUDY:
Several years ago a ministerial student was seeking help for his 11-year-old son, who had psychological problems. The counselor began by asking a few routine questions like, “How are you and your wife getting along?”

The man answered with an explosive “Terrible! I’m thinking about leaving her.”

The counselor said, “If you do that, it will wreck your ministry.”

He then blurted out a list of her faults, including stubbornness, violent temper, and physical rejection for months at a time. He said she also stayed away from church and failed to do decent housework. He admitted that he had gotten so angered with her that he had spanked her a few times, only making things worse.

Originally, he had left a thriving business to study for the ministry. Now he was at the point of wrecking everything by leaving his wife. The counselor turned to 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 and explained to him the principle of giving and finished with verse 7 emphasizing that he must make up his mind to give. He stopped the counselor, by saying, “You don’t understand; she is a witch.” He again reiterated her faults to the counselor. The counselor explained verse 8 and suggested that he ask God for the grace he needed to start carrying out God's command to love his wife. The counselor went over the seven ways that women want to be loved (Reader, you’ll have to wait for lesson seven for that information.), then they prayed for God’s help for the husband. Three weeks later the counselor received the following letter:

“I have been by to see you several times, but each time you were busy. Since so much time has elapsed since you talked with me, I feel I must write this long past due note.

“Praise God for His promises and the truth of His Word. The promise that you called to my attention and I claimed there in your office brought almost unbelievable results. I went home from office and did exactly as you instructed me that day, and the results were immediate, though reluctant at first. We are enjoying, I believe, a home situation now that is normal for the school and work schedule that we all have to have. The violent arguments have ceased, and by the grace of God will not resume. We have been able to sit down and talk about problems more freely than ever. Another reward that this brought was a better attitude on the part of my son.

“We now go visiting on Saturdays, health permitting, and this has helped my wife’s attitude also. After all, this is what she is called to do as well as I. Thank God that this kind of help is available to those of us who desperately need it. I can, as you said, say now with conviction that I know this principle works. Again, thank you.”

They are now enjoying a happy marriage in a successful ministry. 

Fill In the Blank or Answer the Question:

1. Lesson Three is titled: “How to _________ - A Mental _____________ .”

2. _________ is an _________________ ingredient in a ________________    marriage.

3. Scripture says the love is _____  __  ______________  but a ________________________  that prevails despite ___________ , ________________ , and _________________  difficulties.

4. Real love is _________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

5. The key theme of love is “_____________________________________ ”

6. What was the motivation behind the giving of the gifts in O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi”? _____________________________________________

7. God has created man and woman to _________________ each other.

8. What are woman’s two basic needs?

(1)   _____________________________________

(2)   _____________________________________

9. Every Christian husband should __________  _____  ____________ from Christ and then strive to ___________  his

    family toward the same rock of _________________ .

10. The husband should ___________ with his wife ____________ .

11. This _______________ communication is even more important than the __________________ communication for     women.

12. A good husband will be careful not to make his wife _______________ or give her any reason to question his ________________ .

13. It is _______________ to see a man who would rather be ____________

than to meet his family ______________ .

14. Negligence in housekeeping is one sign that her ___________ are not being met.

15. _______________ cannot change a woman’s unkempt housekeeping habits.

16. A sensitive husband will do ______ he can to keep the house ________

__________________ .

17. What are man’s two basic needs?

(1) _____________________________________

(2)  _____________________________________

 18. If both husband and wife are right with the Lord, they will experience a _________________________________ .

19. They will do all in their power to ______________________________ .

20. God’s command for the husband is that he _________ his wife.

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