Category Archives: Marriage

THE MECHANICS OF LOVE (This is not as boring as it sounds.)

THE MECHANICS OF LOVE (This is not as boring as it sounds.)

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Love is more than an emotionSome say love is an emotion, maybe even an uncontrollable passion or desire. Many define love as a tangible intangible, something we know and feel but find hard to define or describe.

As if walking in and out of Taco Bell, mucho people fall in and out of love. On a good day, they are consumed with warm fuzzies for their hunk or hottie. They’ll post on Facebook or Twitter, “Isn’t he adorable?” “My babe is awesome!” But on the not-so-good days, their minds wonder and their hearts wander. “Maybe I can do better.”

Not too long ago, I asked a 20-something to define love in her world. She instantly replied, “Love is like when all I can think about is him and like all I want to do is be with him because he like makes me so happy.”

For her, love was a feeling—an emotional high that made her ecstatic.

I asked her, “What are you going to do when you go days or weeks or months and he’s not making you so happy anymore?”

She laughed and said, “That would never happen with us, but if it did, he’d regret it!”

Love is more than convenience

Recently, I read an article about love, written by Hanan Parvez . Here’s what he said:

  • “Love is an emotion that motivates us to seek happiness.”

  • “Why do we fall in love with someone . . . because they satisfy our emotional needs.”

  • “We fall in love with those who have what we need.”

Our culture says love is fun. Love is about feeling good. Love is erotic. Love is about being happy and having our needs met. Love is what it is, and it can’t be manufactured. Love is about me.

I disagree.

Love is work

In fact, before you exit this blog and look for the unsubscribe button, give me five more minutes and read on.

What if love is a choice?

What if love goes beyond, way beyond, feelings and emotions, and is based on something far more secure and steadfast?

What if love can be manufactured?

Let me explain.

In my over forty years of marriage, there have been times (lots of them) when I’m emotionally spent and easily irritated. There are times (many of them) when I’m not sure my wife and I even like each other let alone love each other. Frankly, if I were to define love the way our society does, then I’ve fallen in and out of love with Laura hundreds of times.

If my love for my wife is based solely on my feelings, then our marriage is destined to fail. However, if my love for Laura is built on and driven by something far more than emotion, then neither the state of my heart nor any circumstances we face will derail our bond.

Do I deny the emotions often attached to love?


Am I saying you should love like a robot that is programmed to do so without any feelings?


What I am saying is that love, true love for my wife, is a decision I made to invest in her, to care for her, and to honor our marriage. It is a resolve to stand on a covenant of choice in our marriage rather than a contract of convenience.

Love is a decision

When I feel nothing, I love. I choose to do what’s best for her and our marriage.

When I feel irritated, I love. I choose to treat her as I want to be treated. (It’s called the golden rule, and it applies to marriage.)

When I’m bored and there’s not a lot (or any) passion, I love. I choose to honor my vow to “love and cherish—no matter what.”

It’s exciting and erotic when I feel great passion for my wife. It’s easy to love her when she’s easy to love. It’s awesome when she makes me happy and meets my needs.

But sometimes . . .

  • Love requires sacrifice.

  • Love means putting her needs before my own.

  • Love is a choice to do what’s right even when I’ve been wronged.

  • Love is an intentional decision to honor our marriage and my vows.

Love is sacrifice

When I say, “love can be manufactured,” I mean love can be built and developed through personal choice. When I refer to the “mechanics of love,” what I have in mind is that love is created and best maintained in a covenant marriage in which you and I choose to practice love no matter what.

By the way, if you’re screaming, “That’s hypocritical!” then maybe no one’s told you before that choice should be the engine of life and emotion the caboose. When we allow emotion to drive us, we typically get into trouble. However, when we make good choices, more often than not good and healthy emotions follow.

We do the right thing again and again because it’s the holy and right thing to do. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven, not because it’s easy. We love because God has loved us, not because it’s fun or convenient.

And I can promise you this: Your choice is the engine that will keep your marriage on track and take you over the mountains of adversity.

Choosing to love is not hypocritical; it’s wise and godly and the only secure path to a long and lasting marriage.

How you feel matters, but what you choose to do regardless of how you feel matters far more.

Choose well. Live well. Be well.

Love is not hypocritial

For this is the message you heard from the beginning:

We should love one another.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid

down his life for us.

And we ought to lay down our lives for our

brothers and sisters.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech

but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:11, 16, 18 (NIV)


Like what you’ve read here today? Check out all five of my books on Amazon. Some of the eBook versions can be purchased for only $2.99.

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12 Responses to THE MECHANICS OF LOVE (This is not as boring as it sounds.)

  1. I watch lots of folks in my generation live by the seat of their emotional pants, and have a trail of destruction behind to remember it by…and they still think it’s the “correct” way to live!

    • Hmmmm…I like that phrase (might have to steal it) — and yes, you’re right, too many “live by the seat of their emotional pants.” Thanks dude!

  2. Thank you for ur honest words…these are things I strive for in my own marriage…it’s VERY hard & even more so when I see my brother in law just give up..saying he does not want to stay married to his wife…he has & is engaged in bad things outside of marriage & wants to be “free” to pursue them…. I’m stunned..I am angry(but this isn’t about me) & my hurt for my sister in law… I want SO BAD to show him these articles/blogs…I want to show him my copy of your book mr & Mrs…but I don’t know if that is something I should do…, I shouldn’t put my two cents into something that is none of my business… I just can’t believe that they are divorcing because my brother in law thinks he needs to be “free”.. I just can’t believe this is a side I never EVER saw of him in the 20+ years I have been married into the family… I don’t know who this person is that says he is my brother in law…& yes, I do pray for him & his soon to be ex-wife that they find peace with Gods help…even though neither go to church….I DO understand this shouldn’t be about me..although reading back over this it sounds like it is…I’ve just never been this close to a breakup up of loved ones before… REALLY… I have no clue how to deal…I LOVE my sister in law & want to keep HER in my life & my kids lives..& shamefully have not very nice words to say about my brother in law & his selfishness but I have sat & listened with out comment when my sister in law wanted to talk…I’m just kinda glad reading minds isn’t a reality because I was not nice in my thinking about HIM..
    Why is commitment such a HARD word to follow thru on?? Why is it so hard to open your heart to ONE person before God & follow they on that promise forever?
    Why? why ? Why ???

  3. This goes very well with a previous post I gave you about my Dad caring for my Mom with dementia. I, too, try very hard to follow but must admit I could never do it on my own ability, without the Holy Spirit it is impossible. I hope and pray my own sons have got the message.

  4. What happens if you are in a relationship where one person is a believer and the other is not. The one that believes they married for better or worse feels “obligated” or even guilt for not sticking around hoping they could pull through yet another disappointment. Do they remain in a “roller coaster” relationship hoping things will change if the other party will not try to get the help they need? This is my dilemma. I love this blog and would like to share it but I’m afraid it will make the “believer” feel guilt. The unhappiness remains and nothing changes.

    • Hi Bonnie, great questions. All marriages are work. A marriage with an unbeliever is even more so. That being said, I would still encourage the believing partner to honor his/her vows as best as possible regardless of the other. Our first love is Jesus, and He takes marriage and our vows seriously. Honestly, in his situation, the believer should seek out pastoral/godly counsel even if his/her partner refuses to go. Obviously, it’s tough to address the specifics of this situation in a brief blog response, however, here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say:

      1 Corinthians 7:12-16The Voice (VOICE)

      12-13 To everyone else, here’s my counsel (this is not a direct command from the Lord; it is my opinion): if a brother has a wife who does not believe Jesus’ teachings and the truth of His resurrection, he is to stay with her as long as she is willing to live with him. The same is true for any sister; you should not leave your husband even if he has no allegiance to Jesus. 14 Here’s the reason: An unbelieving husband is consecrated by that union—touched by the grace of God through his believing wife—and the same is true when the husband is a man of faith and he’s wed to an unbelieving wife. His wife is consecrated through their union. If this weren’t so, your children wouldn’t be pure; but as it is when faith enters in, God sets apart these children to be used uniquely for His purposes. 15 If the unbelieving spouse decides the marriage is over, then let him or her go; the believing partner is freed from the marital vows because God has called you to peace. 16 Remember that anything is possible, so the life you lead and the love you show under this strain may be what finally liberates your partner.

      Hope this helps. Praying…

      • Thank you Kurt for your response. I agree that the believer should seek pastoral/godly counsel despite their spouse’s belief. However, there are other factors such as alcohol and possible PTSD that come into play that makes me wonder how much a person can/ should tolerate.

        • Sounds like a very tough situation. Coming from a home/family with drug/alcohol abuse, I know how difficult this is for a marriage and a family. However, the only “circumstance” Jesus gave as a “out” in marriage is adultery. Again, that being said, a pastor or Christian counselor can (and will) be able to help someone determine how to best walk through this extremely difficult problem. It’s hard to provide adequate and complete counsel/perspective in a reply to a blog post. You might consider taking a look at my marriage book: Mr. & Mrs. ~ How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage. I address covenant marriage and divorce in this book. Still praying…

THE PROBLEM WITH BIG BUTS (A Tribute to Noel Campbell)

THE PROBLEM WITH BIG BUTS (A Tribute to Noel Campbell)

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imageSome of you have big buts (the one “t” variety, not the other). By that I mean you live in a state of constant emotional and relational tension because you live in the land of but . . .

• I know I’m supposed to forgive my spouse, but . . .
• I know my BFF didn’t mean to be a jerk, but . . .
• I know my dad didn’t intend to hurt me, but . . .
• I know my spouse isn’t perfect, but . . .
• I know my son is trying to change, but . . .
• I know my boss didn’t mean to wound me, but . . .

Sadly, you’ve created a “yeah, but” world that is killing you. It’s robbing you of joy. It’s creating unnecessary tension in your relationships. And worst of all, it’s setting you up to love conditionally.

The second you add a “but,” you add a condition or an excuse. You are saying to others, “I know the right thing to do, but my choice to do the right thing is subject to your choice to do the right thing.” You are rationalizing your half-hearted love and acceptance of others based on their actions. How’s that working for you?

imageHint: God expects (demands, actually) that you love others as He loves you (John 15:12). His love for you is unconditional—never based on your performance. Your love for others is not dependent on the circumstances, their competence, or your emotions. There’s no, “I love you, but . . .”

You see, God knows that radical and unconditional love changes people. Love without strings attached motivates them to want to honor that selfless love. When people know, deeply know, they are valued for who they are—no matter what they do, they are inspired to respond to that love in kind. However, even if your love doesn’t change them, you love. Period. End of story.

So drop the but and simply love others as you are loved by the Father.

imageLet’s flip this around. Sometimes we say “yeah, but” to God.

• I know I’m forgiven, but . . .
• I know You have a plan for my life, but . . .
• I know You love me, but . . .

Essentially, you say to God, “I believe in You, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it to heaven, but I’m not sure You know what You’re doing concerning me.”

You know in your knower that you don’t deserve and haven’t earned God’s love and favor. You believe in His goodness, but you also know, better than anybody else, your badness. So the tension in your soul grows with every failure. “I know I’m loved, but . . . “

Maybe it’s time to drop the but with God, too.

Of course, God wants you to grow. Certainly, He disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). And His goal for you is spiritual and relational maturity (Ephesians 4:1, 11-13, 21-24 ).

However, to live in the joy of His grace and the freedom of His love means you accept and revel in His unstoppable, unconditional, and unrelenting affection for you! There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than He already does. Nothing.

imageTrust me, God knows you’ll never be perfect until you’re on the other side of eternity. His expectations of your perfection are not as high as your expectations.

So the only time it’s acceptable to use but is when it’s followed by God!

• I know I’m not perfect yet, but God . . .
• I know my past is littered with failure, but God . . .
• I know I’m prone to wander, but God . . .
• I know I don’t deserve the blessings of Jesus in my life, but God . . .

When you remove the big buts from your relationship with God and from your relationships with others, everything changes because you change.

One last thing: Does my sin make my but look big? Oh yeah.

But God is bigger than any but.

imageSo choose well. Live well. Be well.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love

with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses,

made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
Ephesians‬ 2:4-5‬ ESV‬‬


IMG_9776Note: This blog is dedicated to Noel Campbell, a man who taught me the most about unconditional love and grace. A spiritual father to many, Noel was a huge part of my life for over 40 years. He went to be with Jesus on September 5 at the age of 87. My heart aches . . . yet all of heaven rejoices to welcome this truly great man of God. You are loved Noel.





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THE FINAL THREE WAYS TO FIGHT RIGHT! (Healthy Ways to Resolve Conflict ~ Part 3 of 3)

THE FINAL THREE WAYS TO FIGHT RIGHT! (Healthy Ways to Resolve Conflict ~ Part 3 of 3)

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1 Conflict Sane PINNobody likes conflict. Nobody sane anyhow. But like I mentioned in part one (read it here), conflict can be good for our relationships. It all depends on how we fight. Both good and evil can come from the use of dynamite, and that’s also true of conflict.

Last week (read it here), I encouraged you to do the following:

  1. Recognize the cause.

  2. Listen to understand.

  3. Own your part.

  4. Express hurt without hostility.

Conflict Biker Bear If you think any of this is easy, you’re not paying attention (or you live in a bubble). Conflict resolution takes work. Hard work.

It also takes these final three things:

  1. Humble yourself.

As if the previous steps weren’t already humbling enough, this step requires a greater sacrifice than a hard discussion or owning up to a mistake. Humbling yourself means what I like to call “practicing otherliness.”

Because of the love we have for our spouses, family members, or friends, we must place their needs above ours and treat them as more important than we are (Romans 12:10). We lay down our personal rights (even our right to be right)—like Christ did for the Church—in order to restore a right relationship (Philippians 2:5-8).

Being humble doesn’t mean that one person becomes a doormat for the other; rather, this is an intentional act of honor within healthy boundaries and with reasonable expectations for the sake of love.

Humbling yourself is the antidote to pride. Humble hearts beat in tune with God’s heartbeat.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, stop being proud, arrogant and stubborn, and God will lift you and your relationships up” (James 4:10, New Revised Bubna Version).

2 Conflict Otherliness PIN

  1. Embrace contrition.

The three most powerful words in the English language are “I love you.” But do you know the five most useful? “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

When spoken at the right time for the right reasons and with the right tone, these simple words bring order back to chaos. They shine light into the darkness. They make whole what was cracking. They bridge a seemingly ever-increasing gap between two people. They heal.

And when a husband and a wife or two friends can both say these words in all sincerity to each other following a fight, something truly God-inspired has occurred.

3 Conflict Dog Pin

  1. Reaffirm your love.

Conflict is certain, so wise men and women should plan for it to sometimes wreak havoc on their marriages and all their relationships. No one wants to endure it, but as you’ve read, if handled correctly with the relationship placed above self, conflict can draw people much closer together.

Successfully navigating the turbulent waters of conflict will also make you that much better at resolving conflict the next time a storm comes to rock your love boat.

So be vocal with your love. Be generous with your praise. Be public with your honor. Problems will occur in your relationships, but with God’s help and your cooperation, conflict can transform your relationship instead of destroying it.

Here’s my money-back guarantee (sorry, if that sounds like a used car salesman): Change the way you view conflict and the way you handle it and the result is a much stronger relationship.

Yes, one person + one person = two perspectives and inevitable conflict, but that reality doesn’t have to damage a relationship. You can fight and grow.

Choose well. Live well. Fight well. Be well.

4 Conflict Sunset PIN

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A portion of this blog is an excerpt from my book: MR. & MRS. ~ HOW TO THRIVE IN A PERFECTLY IMPERFECT MARRIAGE

ORDER IT HERE. The eBook (digital) version is on sale today for only $2.99.

83% of the reviewers of this book gave it a 5-Star rating and 17% gave it 4 stars!

It’s great for couples you need a “tune-up” or couples in trouble. It is also a helpful premarital book.

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8 Responses to THE FINAL THREE WAYS TO FIGHT RIGHT! (Healthy Ways to Resolve Conflict ~ Part 3 of 3)

  1. Just wondering if you are related to the late Pastor Don Bubna from Salem I was a member of his congregation when I lived there.Thanks.

  2. God bless you for your blogs. I spend much of my time in the military engaged in marital and premarital counseling. I don’t always have a lot of time with coupels or even individduals in crisis. You offer great “take away tools” with practical application points. Combined with prayer against the real enemy, Satan, these tools are great to offer my Soldiers. Thank you… Jehoveh Jireh!

  3. What you are saying today makes me think of my Dad. The last 12 years of my mom’s life she had a type of dementia. Early on she begin to imagine my dad was trying to kill her, she lost contact with friends because she was sure she heard them say they didn’t like her anymore. As she begin to lose track of who was who she wasn’t always sure who my dad was or my sister or myself either. She became afraid to leave the house and feared when Dad left to shop. All along Dad watch over her, monitoring her medications and other health issues until her death 2 years ago at age 93. Part way along somebody asked him why he put up with it and didn’t put her in a home, he just shrugged his shoulders and said ” because I said I would” and talked about his marriage vows.

4 WAYS (of 7) TO FIGHT RIGHT (Healthy ways to resolve conflict ~ Part 2 of 3)

4 WAYS (of 7) TO FIGHT RIGHT (Healthy ways to resolve conflict ~ Part 2 of 3)

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Conflict PIN Star WarsHow’s the fighting going? Are you learning to fight right?

Last week I wrote that one person + one person = two perspectives, and two perspectives = inevitable conflict. (Click here to see that post.)

However, conflict can be good for you and your relationships. It all hinges on how you deal with conflict.

You must honestly evaluate why there’s conflict, and what truly is at the heart of the issue. Of course, conflict can erupt for all kinds of reasons, but there are three particular reasons just beneath the surface of many of our arguments.

  • Competing desires

  • Unresolved issues

  • Unmet expectations

Conflict Fight Right PIN

The good news is there are healthy and practical ways to deal with and mitigate conflict. Here are four of seven things that can help (I’ll give you the other three next week):

  1. Recognize the cause.

Ultimately, the cause is our fallen nature and our constant concern for our own selfish desires. So we need to do the hard work of discovering the root cause of our conflict.

More often than not, the true cause isn’t what the argument is actually about. As my marriage counselor used to say, “Often the issue isn’t the issue.” Meaning, the presenting issue is seldom the root issue.

If you seek ways to resolve an argument but fail to discover the actual cause of the argument, you haven’t resolved the actual conflict. It will just erupt again at a later date, and likely with more fury.

If you only remove a weed at the surface, it tends to come back. It may be difficult to dig into the heart issues, but the health of your relationships may demand such hard work.

Conflict Issue PIN

  1. Listen to understand.

Whenever my wife says something about my bad attitude, if it ticks me off, I make a stupid reply. (Shocking, I know.) During the ensuing game of verbal ping-pong, she often says, “I don’t feel like you’re really listening to me.” Typically, at that point I pause and realize that’s the first thing I’d heard her say during our argument.

It never ceases to amaze me how effective honest, intentional, active listening can be. When you listen with the goal of sincerely understanding people—without thinking up your rebuttal while they’re still talking—you demonstrate honor for them and your desire to have a healthy relationship.

Such active listening can help you recognize the real cause of the conflict and identify where you need to take responsibility.

Conflict Listen PIN

  1. Own your part.

I should say here that almost every step in this process takes courage. These suggestions buck against our selfish natures. We must often war with ourselves in order to bring peace to our relationships.

I think many Christians are keen on quoting Jesus’s “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye?” when they’re the ones being judged. Too few of us, however, focus on the pointed, active verb he uses in the latter half of that command: “First, get rid of the log in your own eye.”

Rather than blame, own. Instead of accusing, admit.

I’ve said this a gazillion times, and I’ll never tire of saying it: being relational is more important than being right. When we make being right a greater concern than being relational, we’re wrong.

Conflict Gentle Answer PINWhen you own your part of the argument, you take the ammo out of the other person’s gun. Remember, Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” In taking responsibility for yourself, you’re breaking the cycle of conflict and leading yourself and the other person along a better path.

Owning your part requires honesty with yourself and with the other person without shifting even an iota of blame onto them (even if you really, really want to and they really, really deserve it).

It also means confessing your failure without minimizing what you did. Come clean with your mistake without any justification or rationalization. If you’ve rarely spoken such words to your spouse or friend before, you may be amazed at how such raw transparency breeds the same in the other person, starting a better cycle of confession and forgiveness—much like a relationship with God. Confession can cure guilt too.

BTW, conflict is never 100 percent the other person’s fault. There’s always something you can own.

  1. Express hurt without hostility.

Unhealthy and unholy conflict hurts both people in the relationship. However, when dealt with in humility, each person should feel secure enough in their relationship to be honest about their feelings.

The best way to prevent hostility from escaping out of the sides of your mouth is to shore up your speech with “I” messages rather than “You” messages. This is one area where being selfish, in a way, is recommended.

Conflict Respond Lighthouse PINFor instance, instead of saying “You made me mad when you yelled at me,” turn the phrase around to “I feel angry because of what happened yesterday.” By placing the emphasis on your feelings, you’re ensuring that the other person doesn’t feel threatened and become defensive. “You” statements are intimidating. “I” declarations help diffuse hostilities.

If anger or some other heightened emotion prevents you from being able to talk responsibly with a person, take a time out and pray to God about your hurt. He’s big enough and trustworthy enough to take your anguish and turn it into something better rather than bitter.

Next week I’ll wrap up this “conflict” series by giving you three more practical and helpful ways to deal with conflict. In the meantime, remind yourself to ask the why question and start working on these four ways to grow rather than just go through your next fight.

Choose well. Live well. Be well.


Mr Mrs Front Panel

A portion of this blog is an excerpt from my book: MR. & MRS. ~ HOW TO THRIVE IN A PERFECTLY IMPERFECT MARRIAGE

ORDER IT HERE. The eBook (digital) version is on sale today for only $2.99.

83% of the reviewers of this book gave it a 5-Star rating and 17% gave it 4 stars!

It’s great for couples you need a “tune-up” or couples in trouble. It is also a helpful premarital book.


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6 Responses to 4 WAYS (of 7) TO FIGHT RIGHT (Healthy ways to resolve conflict ~ Part 2 of 3)

  1. As always…TIMELY!!
    Communication is soooo important in all relationships & I am struggling BIG TIME right now with expressing without anger. I will continue to reread your posts often so hopefully one day I will act & communicate more responsibly

  2. It is interesting how often I have heard these same things and how often I need to be reminded. Maybe that is why God uses the word “remember” so often in scripture. It is also why we need close Christian friends, not just to be with us in times of struggle or need, but also to hold us accountable when we are choosing to be stupid.

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