For the first wedding ceremony I officiated, I developed an analogy using the bride's bouquet as a picture of a thriving marriage. I explained how those beautiful flowers required water, sunshine and proper pruning to grow, and I related each of those basic horticultural needs to a particular relationship skill (communication, spiritual relationship, conflict management). Unfortunately, the only thing I could think of for my last relationship point was fertilizer.
"Much like fertilizer helps flowers grow, if you want a strong marriage, you need to spend time each day fertilizing each other."
The guests started laughing. As I tried to recover, the groom whispered, "If you would finish your point, I could get on with fertilizing my bride!"
Despite my botched analogy, there was an important truth about marriage that I was trying to convey. I hope the young couple could see past my words to understand this key principle: For a marriage to thrive, each spouse must invest time and effort nourishing the relationship.
Ephesians 5:28-29 reminds us that a husband should care for his wife with the same intensity he nourishes his own body. To nourish is a behavior, so husbands must spend time every day doing things that help a wife feel loved. Like the apostle John explains, "Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions" (1 John 3:18, NIV, emphasis added). Instead of only telling your wife that you love her, your job is to learn how to love her with your actions. To do this successfully, you must take on a servant's mindset. Nourishing means seeking to put her needs before your own (Philippians 2:3-4).
Next, figure out which specific actions help your wife feel loved. Don't make an educated guess or treat her the way you would like her to treat you. Don't apply the Golden Rule here! Your guess may be different from what your wife actually needs or wants. The best way to do this is to have your wife complete this statement:
"I feel loved when you . . ."
During each season of marriage, your wife will need something different, and those needs could change in an instant. Stay current on what she needs today.Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family.