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Nourishing Your Spouse

Love isn’t just a feeling; it is action and behaviour. It’s important that you regularly nourish your relationship with your loved one in ways that speak love to him/her.

Couples who nourish each other put love into action. They sacrifice by putting each other's needs above their own. Both members of a thriving marriage strive to discover exactly what helps the other feel loved. They invest time and energy looking for ways to encourage each other according to their spouse's love needs. Strong couples support each other's goals and say through their actions, "You are valuable to me."

Cherishing is an attitude, but nourishing is an action. To cherish is to love, esteem, and treasure someone in your heart. To nourish is to communicate that love in ways the other person finds meaningful. Nourishing is all about edifying or building up. It's a question of helping your spouse achieve his or her fullest potential. The key is to encode the message in a language he or she can understand.

Effective nourishing involves four steps: 1) Exercising the will; 2) putting the will into action; 3) supporting actions with words; and 4) learning to speak your spouse's special "love language." Let's take a closer look.

1. Will
Nourishing is based on a resolution to identify your spouse's strengths and find creative ways to stimulate them, draw them out, and enhance them. This isn't something that happens automatically. On the contrary, it's an investment you have to decide to make. This requires foresight and enough

imagination to envision who and what your mate can become as you encourage him/her to achieve his/her potential. The closest, most intimate relationship you can ever experience is with your spouse. That relationship is so close that you literally become one. As you love yourself, you are to similarly love your spouse. As you want the best for yourself, carry this same attitude for your spouse.

Bottom line: you are responsible to help your spouse become the best. You're to care about and spur his/her continuous mental, intellectual and emotional growth. You're not responsible for the outcome, but you are responsible to nourish this aspect of his/her life. If you're like most people, it's likely that you've never looked at marriage in this light before. If so, you need to make up your mind to see it this way from now on.

2. Actions
If cherishing is an attitude, nourishing involves the actions that stem from that attitude. Just as there are some foods that are more nutritious than others, there are actions that can nourish your spouse in powerful ways. In general, they all boil down to service – selfless, sacrificial, other-oriented service.

Selfless service dictates that sometimes, you have to put your spouse’s needs above your own. This demands much humility and a paradigm mind shift but if both parties practise selflessness and always look out for the well-being and interests of the other, the marriage will be phenomenal.

3. Words
Actions speak louder than words. Every husband and wife needs to learn how to put this saying into practice. But it's important to add that this does not mean that words don't count. They do.

Indeed, words carry great power. An old proverb said that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  How many lives have been destroyed by the cruel words thrown at them in their childhood? “You are useless.” “Stupid boy.” “You are fat and ugly.” Words are powerful and have the ability to tear down or build up lives. What a sobering thought.

Nourishing means coming alongside your mate in moments of weakness, speaking uplifting words, and offering needed support. If you don't shower your spouse with encouraging, loving words daily, you're essentially starving him/her. And when that happens, the whole relationship suffers.

4. Finding your mate’s love language
Marriage counsellor Dr. Gary Chapman says that every individual has a primary "love language." We have to learn to speak that language if we want that person to feel loved. You can talk all you want, but until you master the correct expression, there's a good chance your spouse won't even hear your professions of undying devotion. According to Dr. Chapman, there are five basic love languages:

Words of affirmation. Some people thrive on being verbally recognised and acknowledged. If your spouse falls into this category, realise that he/she craves your words of spoken praise and appreciation.

Acts of service. The saying "Actions speak louder than words" is especially true for certain individuals. If that's your mate, you'll be amazed at what an impression you can make simply by taking out the trash.

Receiving gifts. Some folks attach a great deal of significance to receiving gifts. It doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate. Remember, it's the thought that counts.

Quality time. Other husbands and wives value the gift of time more than anything else. Give this person your undivided attention if you really want him/her to know how much you care.

Physical touch. Finally, skin-on-skin contact is highly important to some individuals. If physical affection is your spouse's primary love language, nothing will communicate your love more clearly than a simple touch or kiss.

Do you want to help your spouse grow and flourish? Then learn his/her love language and start using it. You'll be surprised what a difference it will make!

From the Focus on the Family website at focusonthefamily.com. © 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Questions for Discussion

  1. As your spouse: "What is your special "love language?" Fill in the blank for each other: "I feel loved when you __________."
  2. What are some ways I can learn to speak you love language more effectively in the days and weeks ahead?
  3. How can I serve you selflessly?