For Men, Love, Purpose

3 Ways I’m Pursuing My Wife & How it Multiplies Our Love

As a follower of Christ and a husband, I’m learning what it means to truly love my wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).  That oft-quoted marriage passage is chock full of depth. Most days I find it’s charge unbearable. I’m a man… a human man. I sin and I have selfish tendencies. How can I possibly love my bride as Christ loves us? How can I possibly be to her what Christ has been to me? I can’t.

It’s under the weight of the Gospel that I find most relief. In fact, it’s when I am crushed by it that I am most free to love Selena the way I should. It’s as if hope is just on the other side of hopelessness, which, when reached gives way to a sweet relief that is confounding and inexplicable.

I’ll quickly explain…please bear with me.

A quick theology of the Gospel (if there is one)

If we see the Gospel as a list of to-dos that help us live a life worthy of salvation, we are overwhelmed. If you’re not overwhelmed by the requirements of “being good enough”, your view is distorted: either you view God as less holy than He is, or you see sin as less putrid than it is. When we see God as the perfect, Holy God he actually is (and not just a divine genie we ask for things and circumstances we prefer) the chasm between him and us grows uncrossable.

This realization, this hopelessness in myself, is exactly where the power of the Gospel transforms my heart. My good works are forever inadequate to satisfy the requirements of salvation (Isaiah 64:6). So I must rest in Christ and his work, not my own. It’s my only option.

Finally, I receive the Gift.

It’s at that point of helplessness when we truly put our weight in the person and work of Christ, and we hope he is strong enough to hold us. We finally realize our utter need and desperation for Christ to be true, for his work to be enough, and for his love to save us.

And that is the Gospel: Christ is true, his work is enough, and his love has saved us!

Ok, so how does understanding the true Gospel help me love Selena well? In every way.

A man’s pursuit

When I remember that Christ is good enough, loving enough, and powerful enough to save me, my identity is sure and my every need is met in him (2 Peter 1:3-4). Christ becomes my ultimate pursuit. I no longer look to Selena to satisfy me completely. (Related: My Wife Doesn’t Complete Me)

I do find joy and satisfaction in her, don’t get me wrong. And I love it when she gives love to me in ways I enjoy! However, I don’t require that from her for my peace, identity, and personal completion. Weird? A little. Counter-intuitive? Absolutely. Good news? For her and for me.

So, full in Christ, I’m free to love and pursue Selena as I should: as Christ loves his church and gave himself up for her. I can now do this, not from a place of obligation or duty, but from a place of joy and abundance that comes only from knowing and being known by Jesus.

3 ways I’m learning to pursue my wife

We’ve spent a good bit of time discussing concepts, so let’s get practical.

A man in love is in constant pursuit. His every action is directed toward what – or whom – he loves most. If you watch a man’s pursuit, you’ll see what he really loves.

As a husband, I have vowed to pursue my bride above all else (other than Jesus).

How can I possibly do that? I’m far from perfect, but here are a few ways I’m learning to love Selena well.

1) Give her my time.

For Selena, quality time is her top love language, so I must become fluent in speaking it. Whenever possible, I try to carve out extra time for us to be together. This means some other things I want to do get axed, but the reward is well worth it.

2) Give her my attention

It’s one thing to be in the same room, it’s another to be present together. I’m learning to engage with her and our little girls emotionally…mentally. There’s no substitute for the focused attention a husband/father can give is family, and only I can give it to them.

3) Give her my affection.

Too much time passes between hugs and “I love yous” if I don’t make a conscious effort. I’m learning to tell her I love her as much as I think it, and I’m learning to give her physical affection that she enjoys (not just the kind that leads to sex): tender touches, thoughtfully grabbing her hand when in public, and hugging casually without pretense or expectation.

Love that gives, multiplies

Notice how every one of these ways starts with the word “give”. That’s love. Love is generously giving of yourself to another without demanding anything in return. Do I receive love back from Selena? Of course! But love doesn’t demand it.

That’s exactly the love Christ gives us: free of strings and beyond measure.

Finally, that’s the beauty of a marriage centered around the Gospel: both husband and wife are always learning what it means to be full in Christ and how to give generously to each other as a result. It’s a perpetual cycle of giving and receiving that multiplies love in a way that only the Gospel can.

May your marriage be one marked by constant pursuit: of Christ first, and each other next. If so, I’m confident you’ll find all joy, satisfaction, and meaning that can be had by living your life and marriage in full light of the Gospel.

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  • BrettW

    Thanks for this post, Ryan. It was a good read and I will put it into practice. We’ve been married less than two months now and I see how important these things you’ve written here are – thanks!

    • Thanks for commenting, and congrats to you and your wife on being newly married!

  • MichaelEFear

    Great stuff Ryan. A friend shared this article and I enjoyed it. This line especially hit it on the head. Applies to SOOO much more too.

    “It’s under the weight of the Gospel that I find most relief. In fact, it’s when I am crushed by it that I am most free to love Selena the way I should.”

    • Thanks! And it’s so true. The problem is that I tend to try and stand up on my own, when I should instead be crushed! Thanks so much for sharing, friend.

  • CJ

    This only works if your wife wants to be pursued. I spent 20-plus years of marriage being an over-pursuer, a pleaser and sinking everything I had into my marriage only to find out that I have married an independent avoider who feels like my pursuit is nothing more than being to “clingy” and “needy” and “smothering” to her. So now I have to do the opposite. I have to stay as far away as I can from her, let her have her space, let her have her walls and boundaries, not being able to touch her (hugs, kisses, cuddling, etc.), be emotionally or spiritually connected.

    It’s killing me inside not have the closeness and connection, but that’s what my wife wants. She does not want to be pursued (although I would LOVE to be pursued, but that’s another story altogether).

    Yes it royally SUCKS, but that is life and that is the way my marriage is right now.

    • CJ, asymmetrical pursuit is extremely tough. It sounds like you and your bride may benefit by reading “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman if you haven’t already. If you have read it, some help communicating and understanding each other would be beneficial.

      By help, I mean counseling, pastoral care, and intentionally reading/applying biblical principles to your marriage together. If your wife loves you, she will want to find a way through this difficulty, and sometimes that can only be found with someone else speaking biblical truth into your situation.

      • CJ

        Thanks for the reply, Ryan. At this point, we can’t read the “Five Love Languages” because she already knows what my main two languages are is unable to meet them at this time. We are actually trying to go through the “How We Love” book/workbook on our personality differences and we have been in counseling almost weekly for a year now. Just praying that we can find a way through Christ to bridge the gap our marriage desperately needs!

    • J

      CJ, I feel your pain, brother. My wife is allowing her previous hurts to choke our marriage too. It’s a brutal thing to try to reconcile in yourself when you are called by virtually everyone to pour yourself into your marriage and your spouse does not welcome or reciprocate it. People are quick to advise with good intention, but limited or no experience. That just makes things worse.

      I have read the 5 Love Languages. Also read Love & Respect, many other marriage/communication books, listen to Jimmy Evans, been through a marriage class at our church, done my own counseling, etc. I’ve come to the realization that a painful, neglected marriage is God’s will for me right now. You can do everything in your (Christian) power to love your spouse right, but if He won’t get involved in their heart, it will not change. You can’t make anyone love you. And you can’t make God get involved. Hope is the only thing sustaining me and even that is fading quickly.

      • CJ

        Amen, brother. I will pray for you, too. While I am letting God remold me and allow me to feel His love for me, it just kills me daily to no longer have any type of connection with my wife other than sharing a bed and an apartment together. Other than that, it is the most cold, depressing state I have ever felt in my life.

        It is amazing to wonder how this woman seemed to be so in love with me so many years ago (seems like a distant memory), how she smiled at me, would touch me, would want to pray with me. Now the walls are so high and so thick that I wonder why she just doesn’t walk out the door.

        She tells me that she is praying daily for God to give her love for me back into her heart again, but it has been years upon years now and — much like you — I am just losing hope. We go to counseling almost weekly, but it gets us nowhere. It hurts even more that she is so happy and warm to her friends and our children and I have to witness this firsthand daily, but then when she is with me or looks my direction, that warmth turns to bitter cold and hardness.

        I pray to God daily that some day we could reconcile and that this winter season would thaw. Just have to keep praying and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting….

  • EF0323

    I really appreciate how you began at the gospel. That’s where everything should begin, but it’s so good to have a reminder.

  • Josh

    That post has some real meat to it, Ryan – thanks for the challenge.

    • You’re welcome, Josh. Thanks for reading and commenting! Glad it helped you.