Chapter 5 Just what is love anyway?

My heart is breaking.  I woke up early to news that another couple is splitting up.  It hurts so much to break up – I know!  And to prevent that from happening, I pray every person who is in a relationship, wants to be in a relationship, or is healing from a broken relationship will read my blogs, and especially this one…it is the key to marital bliss, to a love affair that marriages are meant to be, to a divine love and something I had to find.  Married or not, if you are living with each other without the “paper” you are in essence “married” and our experiences could be beneficial.

In my last blog post, I introduced the topic of marital love.  The word “love” has so many connotations in our culture.  After our divorce, I felt so miserable, how did we lose the love we once had?  What was love anyway?  How do you stay in love?  I loved being married, but my marriage lost its love.

Being a trained investigator by profession and training, I was going to figure this love thing out! I love to do research, so I found the perfect source, being a Christian, it was in the Bible!  And the supplemental book I used, which comes straight from the Bible, was a book written by Ed Wheat, M.D. and Gloria Oakes Perkins. I am going to quote directly from several pages in Chapter 5 that clearly explains love, or rather, the five facets of love!

You see, marital love is not just a simple act or emotion.  It is a range of actions and a range of emotions.  The GREAT news is that you will experience what I call “divine” love (and I now have it in my life) when all these are in place (and trust me, it is not hard to allow these all to flourish in your relationship – buy the book if you need help in restoring your love).  As Dr. Wheat started the book out and states later, after these quotes, marriage was designed to be a love affair!

Directly from “Love Life for Every Married Couple – How to fall in love, stay in love, rekindle your love”:  Chapter Five: Ways of Loving, picking up on page 63 through 68:

You cannot pick and choose the kind of love you prefer and discard the others.  Each builds on the other. Each has its own special, significant place, as you will find when you begin putting all these loves into practice in your marriage.  But if they are quite distinctive, they are also interrelated so that the physical, emotional, and spiritual processes overlap  and reinforce each other in the act of loving.

The first facet of love we will consider is suggested by a Greek word the Bible never calls love. However, it describes a very important aspect of the love affair between a husband and wife. This word is epithumia, a strong desire of any kind – sometimes good, sometimes bad. It means to set the heart on; to long for, rightfully or otherwise; or it can mean to covet. When used in the Bible in a negative way, it is translated lust. When used in a positive way, it is translated desire, and this is the meaning we refer to. In marriage, husband and wife should have a strong physical desire for each other that expresses itself in pleasurable sexual lovemaking.

Sex is not the most important aspect of your relationship, but it is a definite indicator of the health of your marriage.  If tension exists in other areas of your life, it will usually show up in your sex life. On the other hand, if you have no sexual closeness, your total relationship may be affected as a result. Sometimes your sexual responders are turned off because of various pressures of problems.  This is not uncommon and can, in almost every case, be remedied.  Even while you are trying to work out other problem areas of your relationship, you can learn physical  communication together and experience mutual pleasure in your sexual life, so that restoring and building sexual desire becomes and important part of the whole experience of falling in love with your mate….The facet of love known as physical desire should never be ignored in a marriage.

The next aspect of love to be discussed comes from a familiar Greek word that does not appear in the New Testament, although its Hebrew counterpart is used in the Old Testament. I (Dr. Ed Wheat) am speaking of eros, the love that, more than any other kind carries with it the idea of romance. We might think of eros as totally fleshly because of our English word “erotic,” but this is not the case.  Eros is not always sensual, but it includes the idea of yearning to unite with and the desire to possess the beloved. Eros is romantic, passionate, and sentimental. It is often the starting point for marriage, being the kind of love that lovers fall into and write songs and poetry about.  It has been called rapture … exquisite  pleasure … strong, sweet and terrifying because it is so all-absorbing.  (My noteIs this why many do not want to commit to marriage?)

Eros has a problem, however.  It needs help because it is changeable and cannot last a lifetime all by itself.  Eros wants to promise that the relationship will last forever, but Eros cannot keep that promise alone.

At this point, we need to draw a line between foolish temporary infatuations and the true romantic love to be found in a God-designed marriage. Infatuation has been defined as an emotional and fleshly response to false impressions or mere externals of another that have been overvalued or lusted after.  By contrast, genuine falling in love is a spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical response to the actual character and total being of another who embodies attributes long sought and admired.

Eros love, when enjoyed in the lasting context of Christian marriage, offers wonderful emotions and personal rewards that are the gift and creation of God Himself.  This kind of love is wholly emotional and cannot be summoned at will, but it appears as a sure response when all the other loves of marriage are set in motion. You will experience eros love in a rich, mature, particularly joyous form when you have mastered the art of loving. More than any other kind of love, eros transforms a mundane black and white existence into glorious living Technicolor. It is a delightful part of the love-life designed for marriage.

The third love of marriage, characterized by the Greek word, storge, could be described as a comfortable old-shoe relationship comprised of natural affection.  It meets the need we all have to belong, to be part of a close-knit relationship. The New Testament commands us in Romans 10:12 which tells us to ‘Be kindly affectionate to one another….’  It can also be considered a soothing and healing. Emotional refuge.  The marriage lacking this is like a house without a roof, where rain can pour in.  (My note:  I love growing older with Bill for aging is not fun!  And I am sensing as we get older, we really appreciate this love as our bodies begin  to fail and we are not spring chickens anymore! Just saying….)

The fourth love of marriage is described by the Greek verb phileo, which often appears in the New Testament.  We will be using the verb form as a noun in this discussion because it is the more familiar term for readers.  Phileo cherishes and has tender affection for the beloved, but always expects a response.  It is a love of relationship – comradeship, sharing, communication, friendship.  While eros makes lovers, phileo makes dear friends who enjoy closeness and companionship. They share each other’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, plans, and dreams-the most intimate things they would share with no one else.  They also share time and interests. A marriage without phileo will be unsatisfactory even if there is plenty of passion in the bedroom. A marriage with phileo is sure to be interesting and rewarding….

Moving from the physical to the spiritual in considering the five ways of loving, I have saved the best for last:  agape, the totally unselfish love that has the capacity to give and keep on giving without expecting in return. Agape values and serves in contrast to phileo, which cherishes and enjoys.  The New Testament often speaks of agape, for it was this love that prompted Christ to come to earth as a man on our behalf. God loves all mankind with an agape love. In addition, He has phileo love for those who are in relationship with Him through  Jesus Christ.

Agape love is of particular significance to those who are right now trying to save their marriage and to restore the love you lost. Of all the loves, agape is the one you can bring into your marriage immediately, because it is exercised as a choice of your will and has no dependence on feelings.  It is a love of action, not emotion.  It focuses on what you do and say rather than how you feel.

C.S. Lewis showed the difference between agape and the natural loves by using the picture of a garden. He described the natural loves as a garden that would soon run to weeds if left alone. This is inevitable because of  self-centeredness, willfulness, and the other sins resulting from the Fall. Agape love acts as the rakes, hoes, shears, plant food, and weed  killer employed by a skilled gardener to keep the garden thriving, orderly and  beautiful. When God planted the garden of our nature and caused the flowering, and fruiting loves to grow there, He set our will to tend them, to watch over them and care for them as a wise gardener should. This operation of the will is agape love–a knowledgeable and skillful love always concerned with doing what is best for the beloved.

A marriage possessing agape love can survive anything!  It is agape that keeps a marriage going when the natural loves falter and die….”

I hate to stop writing this and I hope I have wetted your appetite for more from this book!  It under $12.00 from either this Christian Book website or Amazon. It is a real bargain for the returns it promises. I am not being paid to say any of this. My motive for promoting this book? I found the cure for cancer so to speak, cancer in loveless marriages. Why not promote the cure that I received for a mere few bucks?

Every marriage would benefit from a refresher course on how to keep your love alive and flourishing! We love what we now have; and, our first 13 years were lacking several of these facets. We thank God, we had enough left that we could once again fall in love, had our love rekindled and now we are staying in love!

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6


Next up: Chapter 6 What destroys marriages – or at least destroyed ours?