Teacher and musician Larry Gentis found that showing his love with deeds rather than flowers strengthened his marriage
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’d like to share a process with you that was a turning point in our marriage. While I’m thankful that someone has thought to put aside a special day to honour love relationships, I believe that stable love happens in the everyday trenches of living together.
It is here that my wife either learns to trust me or learns that she can’t, so she has to do it herself. It’s the little things that say “I love you and treasure you above all else.” When I say I’m going to cut the grass today, or take out the rubbish, or get the car serviced, do I do it? s Valentine’s Day approaches, I’d like to share a process with you that was a turning point in our marriage. While I’m thankful that someone has thought to put aside a special day to honour love relationships, I believe that stable love happens in the everyday trenches of living together.
When I say I’ll collect her at 5 o’clock, am I there? There are ways of saying that you’re the most important and revered person in my life, and it doesn’t involve words. It involves actions in those trenches of everyday life!
Trust and hence respect is cultivated by watching what she’s struggling with and if you can, easing her burden. It’s also being aware of what her goals and aspirations are and inasmuch as it depends on you, to help her to achieve those goals.
For 11 years I worked as Head of Department in a school in South Somerset.
It was probably the busiest and most productive time in my professional life, but difficult to set aside time for my wife. As each time end of term arrived, I’d be so tired physically and mentally, that I’d go into what I’d call “shutdown mode”: doing as little as possible beside the essential lesson and examination preparations necessary for the following term.
As my wife had a “normal” job not tied to the dates of school terms, she would continue her normal work cycle. In the evening when she’d return, she’d ask me what I’d done that day. I started to become convicted that I wasn’t spending my time as profitably as I could. To go into “shutdown mode” didn’t bring out the best in me as a husband and father, and it didn’t cultivate the best in my relationship with Judy.
One of the worst things we can do is go into “shutdown mode.” The lack of goals and targets can so easily become a habit, and if she sees me doing this every term break, she learns that I’m useless to her for one quarter of the year. It won’t be long before resentment sets in, because my attitude is self-indulgent. My availability is difficult during term time and she’s understanding of this, but if I’m also unavailable during term breaks, what kind of a life is that for her?
God was showing me something that would affect my work and leisure time, as well as strengthening my relationship with my wife. Proverbs 6:6-8 says: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.”
I took a decision to no longer go into “shutdown mode” and replaced it with something productive but not provoking exhaustion. I resolved to do something every day for Judy that she would see clearly when she got home at night. It could be mowing the grass and cutting the hedges, or cleaning the house, washing the windows, or making improvements on the house. I found that she loved it when I made improvements on the house such as painting a room or fixing broken things.
The daily job I chose didn’t have to go past an hour or two but it had to be something she’d notice quickly. At times I’d “help the visuals along”, for example after shampooing a carpet I’d deliberately leave the coffee tables on the sofas until she got home under the pretext of “making sure they were properly dry” before putting them back down on the floor.
Of course Judy knew what I was up to, but the message in my actions remained, despite the subterfuge: “I love you, and this is what it looks like.” This was the period in our marriage when I think we grew together the most. I know this may be a dangerous generalisation, but I suspect most women respond much more to what we do than to what we say or how affectionate we are towards them.
So while I love days like Valentine’s Day when we are encouraged to honour the love of our life, I also believe that a day like that is enhanced greatly by what we cultivate by habit. My wife truly chose a great title to our first book: ‘If You Love Me, Show Me!’
God bless and have a great day honouring HIS blessing to your life, your spouse!