Paul Tripp gives some excellent advice to those who are struggling with love in their marriage in his book, What did you Expect? He likens marriage to a garden bed, explaining that for the garden of marriage to grow and produce fruit, both a husband and wife must be busy pulling the weeds of sin, and planting the seeds of love, grace and Christlikeness. He explains that often the problem in many marriages today is not that their isn’t enough love, but that their might be too much. What does he mean? He means that often times spouses are spending too much time loving themselves instead of loving one another, and above all loving God.
It is vital for a husband and wife to be committed to one another and to love one another. But what is even more important is that they both love the Lord above all else. In, What did You Expect? Tripp gives us some excellent Words of Wisdom that we should take to heart. He writes,
“The problem in our marriages is not first that we don’t love one another enough; no, the problem is that we don’t love God enough, and because we don’t love God enough, we don’t love one another as we should. Could it be that we are so busy loving ourselves and making sure that our spouse “loves” us in the way that we want to be loved, that we have little time and energy left to love our spouse as we should? Could it be that we are so busy working to co-opt the other into the service of our wants, needs, and feelings that we are too distracted to notice all the opportunities to love that every day gives us, and too busy making sure that we are loved to do anything about these opportunities even if we noticed them? Why does all this happen? It happens because we have replaced love of God and rest in His care with love of self and the anxiety of “neediness.”
Again, what this means is that you don’t fix a marriage first horizontally; you fix it vertically. It’s only when we have confessed our lack of love for God – his plan, his purpose, and his call – and it is only when we admit that we have replaced his agenda for us with our selfish agenda that we will then be free to begin to love one another in the way that his grace makes possible. It is then that manipulation gets replaced by ministry. Rather than working to co-opt your spouse into your service, you find joy and satisfaction in discovering ways to serve him or her. You want to look ahead for impending needs. You want to do things that bring him joy. You want to share her griefs and carry her burdens. When these desires are mutual, your marriage does not become perfect, but it becomes a place where real unity, understanding, and love have room to live, breathe, and grow.”