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 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.
My Second Guest Post:
Through the course of my project to commit an act of love for my wife every day for a year, I’ve learned much about my marriage, my wife, and about life in general. (I still have a lot to learn.) For starters, I learned that taking my wife to Chuck E. Cheese for Mother’s Day is not a hot idea, nor is climbing a tree filled with poison oak. But here are a handful of my more substantive lessons:
1) My marriage is not about me. It’s not about my wife, either. The primary purpose of my marriage and my blog is to glorify God.
At one point during 365 Acts of Love, I stopped focusing on my relationship with God in order to focus on the blog. I knew that if I kept that up, it would’ve undermined one of my purposes for the blog, that is, to better my marriage. How do I figure that? Well, anything that is not built for God and his glory—whether a business, a life, a marriage, or a blog—is built in vain. And nothing built in vain is successful. Even a seemingly good marriage is a failure if it’s not built on bringing glory to the only one worthy of receiving glory.
So, early on in 365 Acts of Love, I committed to doing my project with the aim of glorifying God by loving my wife in a way that pleases him.
2) Loving my wife best requires putting my relationship with God before my marriage. When I put God first, when my soul is anchored in him and his faithfulness, I won’t be shaken by the ups and downs of life and I can focus on loving my wife through it. Additionally, I’ll be able to love my wife when she seems unlovable (though that doesn’t happen often).
3) I can’t make my marriage successful on my own, but need God’s grace for that. This is the case because nothing good that I have or do comes from me. It’s all from God.
This realization has driven me to prayer over and over in the past year since prayer is a means by which God grants grace. I’m learning to daily and persistently plead with God that he would give me the grace I need to live with my wife in a way that pleases him.
4) Putting my wife’s needs and desires above my own is one of the best ways for me to express and increase my love for her. Love is often portrayed as something glamorous and exciting. But typically it’s unglamorous and pedestrian. It involves everyday, nitty-gritty stuff like laundry and dirty dishes and screaming kids, not just flowers and chocolates and surprise dates. It involves giving her the comfortable side of the bed, carrying stuff into the house for her, letting her pick what to watch on TV, pumping gas for her because she hates to do it, giving her the last of the chocolate, running errands for her, cleaning the bathroom when it’s her turn, etc. Though it’s fun to do the romantic stuff, most of the loving that goes on in a marriage involves the everyday stuff. And in fact, my wife just might appreciate the latter as much as (more than?) the former.
Additionally, self-sacrificial love is tough. It’s a battle, something you fight for, not something you fall in to. Consider what Christ endured to love the world:
[Christ] . . . being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Phil. 2)
That’s pretty serious love, but God calls husbands to love their wives in the same way—by giving up their interests for those of their spouses. I want to apply this in my own marriage. As the apostle Paul says in the context of the above passage, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
5) With all this giving of myself that I’m supposed to do, what’s in my marriage for me? Well, for one, if my wife takes Paul’s advice above (which she usually does), there’s a whole lot in it for me. In fact, when we both consistently live out the scriptural commands for relationships, our marriage is pretty great.
But what if my wife doesn’t put my needs and desires above her own? Well, I’ll still get a lot out of our marriage because I’ll find much joy in serving her if I sincerely and consistently devote myself to it. At first, it can be painful and annoying, but with practice, it becomes more natural and carries great satisfaction with it. More importantly, though, I’ll be doing what God requires of me even if I don’t get anything out of it.
6) Consistent loving acts, not romantic feelings, keep a marriage together for the long term. Consider these words from Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage regarding the relationship between acts and feelings of love:
Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love. Love between two people must not, in the end, be identified simply with emotion or merely with dutiful action. Married love is a symbiotic, complex mixture of both. Having said this, it is important to observe that of the two—emotion and action—it is the latter that we have the most control over. It is the action of love that we can promise to maintain every day (103).
7) I’ve relearned how fun marriage can be when I make it a priority. Through this year, my wife and I have gotten a lot more lighthearted with each other and the little things that used to annoy us about each other don’t do so as easily. This relates to the joy that I talked about above.
8) Some of the smallest things can make my wife very happy. Little acts, done consistently, are very meaningful and important for our marriage, even though my wife does enjoy my grandiose, romantic gestures. For one of my acts of love, I spent three hours at a coffee shop memorizing a soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet. I then came home and performed it for my wife. I thought she would be very impressed. Instead, she said, “I’m glad you did that for me, but why did you spend three hours at a coffee shop memorizing that when you could’ve just hung out with me?”
9) If I give my relationship with my wife priority over my relationship with my kids, I’ll do the whole family a favor. By putting her first, I’m making sure that our relationship is solid. This shows our kids what a loving and committed relationship looks like and they’ll likely copy our example when they get older. In addition, I’m giving my kids a stable family life, making them feel safe and secure.
10) It’s a lot easier to serve people outside our home if our marriage is good. If we’re constantly fighting or trying to work things out, we won’t have as much energy to love and serve others. But if things are going well at home, we’ll likely be united as we minister outside our home.
11) Through 365 Acts of Love, I’ve learned a little more about the value of determination, perseverance, and commitment. This project has been very difficult and has consumed so much of my time and energy. Every day, I have to plan, implement, and write about an act of love as well as keep up with school, work, family, and church. At times, I’ve simply wanted to escape or quit or fast forward to the end of the project or anything to get out of continuing it. But, I’m seeing it through one day at a time and growing because of it. At the end of this year, I’ll be glad I persevered.
My Third Guest Post
For this final post, I’d like to discuss some of the ways that 365 Acts of Love has shaped my relationship with and understanding of God.
(1) First off, through 365 Acts of Love, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of Christ’s sacrifice for me. Before 365, I could tell you all about Christ’s sacrifice—what he accomplished through it, what that meant for me, how that should affect the way I live, etc. I even had an idea of what it was like for him to go through such a sacrifice since I myself had made some (minor) self-sacrifices.
But through 365, I sacrificed more deeply for another person than I ever had before. It forced me to make huge changes to my day, and even my lifestyle, in order to love my wife. Those sacrifices gave me a deeper experiential knowledge of the nature of sacrifice, and consequently, a deeper understanding of what Christ went through in dying for myself and others.
Furthermore, the personal and tangible nature of my sacrifices made me realize how personal and tangible Christ’s sacrifice was. Christ, a real person, gave up his position in heaven to suffer and die in space and time on my behalf. He felt the pain of whips, the weight of the cross, and the sting of nails; the pain of wrath, the weight of sin, and the sting of betrayal. Compared to his sacrifice, mine are negligible. Even so, Christ’s sacrifice for me has become more real as I’ve experienced some of the pain (and joy) of serving my wife.
(2) I’ve grown deeper in my relationship with God. Because 365 is such a huge project, I’ve really had to rely on God to get through it. As part of that, I’ve been driven to prayer over and over and over this year which in turn has drawn me closer to God. I’m not saying that my relationship with him is perfect: I have such a long way to go that it’s not even funny (seriously, I’m not laughing right now). But at least I’ve made some progress.
(3) Finally, 365 Acts of Love has helped me view God less as an abstract, impersonal object and more as a person.
Before I explain this, allow me to give you a little of my backstory. I grew up in a Christian home, but it took me a while to make my faith my own. When I got to college, I realized that I didn’t have much evidence for thinking that Christianity is true. Naturally, doubts about my belief system cropped up in my mind. I eventually realized that I needed to investigate the truth claims of Christianity for myself to determine whether or not I should keep believing in it.
After much investigation, which involved some serious sacrifices of time and money for my wife and me, it seemed to me that Christianity was true. So I continued to believe in it. Even so, accepting it had more to do with accepting certain propositions as true than it did with developing a relationship with God. Furthermore, I think I (unintentionally) viewed God himself as more of a proposition or a concept than a person.
Over time, though, God became more personal to me as I attempted to grow closer to him. This relates to my blog in the following way. 365 Acts of Love expedited my transition from viewing God as a concept to viewing him as a person. It seems that a catalyst for this change stemmed from the fact that I began to view my wife more like a person, which was a result of 365 Acts of Love. Basically, 365 forced me to treat my wife with more respect and show her more love—that is, it forced me to treat her more like a person. As it did this, I began viewing her more like a person. And somehow, this affected my view of God. I really began to see him as someone with reason and emotions and desires and a will, as someone I could relate to. I don’t know why the change in perspective toward my wife changed my perspective of God, but it did.
Overall, I can’t believe how far-reaching the effects of 365 Acts of Love have been. And I’m sure it has been more effective than I realize and will continue affecting things for the better. I’m so thankful that I chose to do it.