Note for my wife: Unlike my typical posts, this one is not addressed directly to you, though it’s about you.
About nine months ago, I committed to doing an intentional act of love for my wife every day for a year and I’ve been keeping track of my project—which I’ve called 365 Acts of Love—at my blog. In that time, I’ve committed a wide variety of acts: I’ve written my wife numerous love notes, given her tons of massages, taken her on a whale-watching tour by helicopter, filled our living room with balloons (which were themselves filled with candy and love notes), watched the kids on various occasions so she could go shopping or get coffee with a friend, taken her on a sunset cruise, and the list goes on. As it turns out, this year has been one of the more challenging years of my life.
What drove me to make this huge commitment? Whether or not some lesser commitment would’ve sufficed (an act of love a week, maybe?), I took on this project to rekindle my love for my wife. When she and I first started dating, growing in love for each other was easy. But then, life happened: we had kids and we worked hard to pay the bills and to keep me in school. Keeping our romance aflame got put on the back burner.
Still, it seemed to me that things were okay. My wife and I enjoyed each other and lead relatively happy lives. However, she would occasionally tell me that I wasn’t doing much to show her that I love her. That seemed absurd to me. As she said that more and more, my response changed from confusion to utter annoyance.
Then everything came to a head about a year ago. While driving to the beach, we got into a heated discussion. She told me that I don’t do much to show her that I love her and I maintained the opposite. I told her that I show my love by consistently helping out around the house, being there for the family all the time, going grocery shopping with her every week, working really hard to support our family, etc. I got frustrated because I couldn’t understand why that wasn’t enough. “I’ve given everything for you and our family and I’ve loved every minute! What more could you want from me?!” I thought I had her. How could she argue with that? Very well, it turned out. She said she appreciates those things, but she wants more. She said that she wants to be romanced, but that I don’t do that. She was right—I rarely brought her flowers or told her that I love her or wrote her love notes or held her hand or told her she’s beautiful or took her on dates. Somewhere along our journey, I stopped romancing her. In spite of all that I did for her, I took our relationship for granted.
After that conversation, I decided to change. But I knew that unless I did something systematic, the change wouldn’t last. So I came up with the idea for my blog. It required me to be consistent with its built in accountability and seemed like a great opportunity for change. I thus committed to 365 Acts of Love by creating the blog and posting this resolution:
You are my beloved and I am yours. But after several years of marriage, I’ve grown passive about our relationship–no longer do I passionately pursue your love nor express mine. I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I know that I want it to change. I love you, but desire to love you more and want you to feel loved by me. So, starting today, I’m resolving to commit a different, intentional act of love for you every day for a year, so that our relationship may thrive once again . . . By blogging about this journey, I hope to preserve the memory of this year as a gift to you.
Since I started this project, I’ve realized that my problem is more than just a lack of romance. By not putting the effort into our relationship that it required, I was being selfish. I wasn’t romancing my wife, not because the kids or school or work got in the way, but because my thoughts, desires, will, etc. were all turned toward myself. And it ate away at our relationship.
But 365 Acts of Love has changed things for the better. For one, it’s made an astounding difference in our relationship. 42 days into the project, I said this:
I’m happy to say that after 42 days, I don’t just see a need to romance you, I want to romance you. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 343 days.
And 70 days into the project, my wife told me this:
I feel like we’re friends again. Happy friends. Not just roommates . . . It’s clear you’ve been thinking about me during the day. Like how you gave me that coffee card . . .You’ve been so romantic lately. That’s exactly what I’ve wanted from you this entire time. That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about.
Our relationship has really grown and we’re more unified than we’ve ever been. We’re experiencing a joy that’s been absent for a while. We’re happy to serve one another and we’re setting our sights on serving people outside of our family.
365 Acts of Love is also changing us as individuals. I’ve noticed that serving my wife and family comes more naturally than before (though it’s still a struggle). In addition, my desire has strengthened a ton to keep our relationship and our family together, healthy, happy, and centered on God. And I’ve gained a renewed desire to be the kind of man that God designed me to be.
As for my wife, she’s happier—even giddier—and more confident. She’s more willing to try new things, daring things (at least for her), like riding in a helicopter. She’s putting a bunch of effort into centering our home around loving and glorifying God. And she’s opened herself up to me like never before.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve taken away from 365 Acts of Love is that developing a good relationship requires great care. As an analogy, consider the work it takes to grow a garden. No one expects a garden to flourish from a few days of hard work. Instead, it sometimes takes months of daily hard work for it to be fruitful. In other words, gardens don’t self-maintain or self-improve. But neither do relationships. Both require consistent and careful attention and cultivation. Left to themselves, they wither and eventually die.
I put a lot of work into my marriage at the beginning to get it to a certain level (so did my wife!), then expected it to stay there. I thought that after a while my wife and I would be able to just sit back and enjoy our lives together. But when I stopped working hard, our marriage slowly and almost imperceptibly withered. Although things could’ve been worse, they weren’t where they should’ve been. I’m so glad I started 365 Acts of Love when I did.
I would encourage all of you married folks to consistently and carefully attend to and cultivate your marriages. If your relationship is great, don’t expect it to stay that way without effort. If it’s bad or mediocre, work hard to change it. It’s possible that your hard work won’t bring about the change you expect. But your relationship won’t be good unless you try.