Years ago I read marriage books that talked about a "love tank." The idea was that we all need a full 'love tank' so that the engine of our marriage had the fuel to press on.
Authors would then go on to challenge husbands and wives to fill each others' love tanks. The principle had good intentions, but I often found spouses resenting each other because they felt their love tanks still hovered on empty. Couples would read more books and then declare to their spouse how they "needed" to be loved, that their spouse didn't know their love language, and that they were "empty" because of their spouse's neglect.
This past weekend, my wife and I had the privilege to hear Paul David Tripp at a marriage conference. The most challenging and brilliant idea he threw out was this:
This goes against the whole notion of making your spouse responsible for your love tank. Yes, we need to have our love tank filled. But no finite person can succeed. Likewise, to put such an expectation on a spouse, is forcing your marriage into a straitjacket. You'll manipulate each other for love. You'll withhold love until you receive love. And guess what...you will kill your marriage. Notice the subject...you...you will kill your marriage.
God calls us to love our spouses. They cannot produce that love, but God can. If we know and experience His love, through a vibrant and growing faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ.
My ability to love comes from God, not my wife.
The command to love my wife stands regardless of how my wife treats me.
My responsibility before God stands regardless of how my wife treats me.
So I run to the cross of Christ, the place where love is most on display. I receive that love for me, the undeserving, and head out now to love the undeserving.