Building a Blessed Marriage Part 3

Cultivating Balanced Love

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock..." Matthew 7:24

Have you ever had your washing machine go out of balance?  If you’re not sure, then you probably haven’t, because if you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  That horrible, loud, pounding sound that rocks the entire house!  When the wash load is unbalanced, the machine doesn’t work smoothly or well.

Love, too, needs to be balanced.  

Robert Stenberg, a psychologist from Yale University, developed what he calls the “triangular model” of love.  Love, he contends, has three sides to it: passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Commitment is pretty straightforward.  It is the willful decision to be with someone no matter what.  It is the promise that does not change, no matter what is going on and no matter how we feel.  Part of the power of commitment is that it provides an anchor of security that brings us peace.  No matter how badly we mess up, no matter how stupid we are, our spouse will be there in the morning.  

Intimacy is the emotional bond between two people.  It is the sharing of our lives – knowing the other and being known by them.  This is the “best friend” quality of marriage.  We are known and accepted and loved for who we are.  The mask can come off.  Intimacy is one of our deepest human needs.  We long to be known, to be noticed, to be able to trust.  We can have certain levels of intimacy with our friends, but with our spouse, it is meant to be a deep bond.

Passion is what comes quickly to mind when we think of marital love.  This is the romantic impulse toward physical affection.  Early in relationships, passion can cause us to be preoccupied, even a bit obsessive.  

Perhaps at this point, it might be more helpful to describe the triangle as a stool with three legs.  If you try to build a stool on only one leg, or even on just two, it will fall.  Balanced love means that all three legs are present.

Passion without intimacy or commitment is self-centered.  Commitment without passion or intimacy is cold and lifeless.  Intimacy without passion can feel like friendship, but nothing more.  You get the picture.  You need all three legs.

So what does that mean for us?

We have to cultivate them.  We have to work on them.  We have to be intentional about them.
Life has a way of changing the legs.  Sometimes stress and fatigue make passion fizzle.  Sometimes the exhaustion of having young children means that we lean on commitment a little heavier for a season.  Life has a way of messing with the legs.

That’s why intentionality is so important.  So how do we cultivate these three legs?

To cultivate passion, get back to that early relationship romanticism.  Touch, gifts, surprises, kind words, dates, trips – you get the idea!  Be creative!  

To cultivate commitment, make it a part of your character.  Honor you word, meet your spouse’s needs, and be mindful of the great importance of commitment.  Think about God’s faithful, covenant-keeping, committed love for His people.

To cultivate intimacy, spend time together, listen well, share honestly, dream together, and focus on what is shared in common.  And grow together spiritually!

Obviously, much more can be said about all three of these legs, but the real point is not to merely talk or learn about them, but to actually do them.  Actively cultivate these three legs, and you will find that balanced love builds a firm and satisfying foundation in your marriage!

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