The heart is the heart of every marriage.
Have you ever had a half-hearted customer service experience? How do you feel when you engage with someone who seems totally disinterested in serving you? On the other hand, how do you feel when you encounter someone who is wholeheartedly engaged and enthusiastically determined to meet your needs? Such a positive experience will likely cause you to speak favorably about the establishment to others and keep you coming back.
Websters defines a wholehearted person as someone who is devoted, determined and enthusiastic, marked by an earnest commitment.
So here’s my question:
How can you be wholehearted when it comes to your marriage?
But my spouse…
Maybe you are thinking that your spouse’s halfheartedness is your excuse for living a half-hearted marriage. This may seem logical, but unfortunately, such thinking is ultimately self-defeating and won’t move you any closer to experiencing a wholehearted marriage.
You see, the truly wholehearted understand that wholeheartedness comes out of who they are, not in response to what someone else does or doesn’t do. It’s a choice, not a reaction.
I believe wholeheartedness is contagious. While you only have the power to control yourself, you do have influence over the atmosphere of your marriage, which can ultimately influence your spouse in a positive direction. (But sorry, no magic formulas here!)
As you work toward being wholehearted in your marriage, below are five areas to consider.
1. All In 100%
The wholehearted hold nothing back. When it comes to their marriage and spouse they are all in and fully engaged. Do you have areas of your being or life that you are withholding from your spouse? Do you wait until you feel your needs are met before you are willing to meet your spouse’s needs? Do you love only in proportion to the amount of love you feel you are receiving?
Selflessness, grace and loving your spouse as if they are already meeting all your needs and loving you well are the keys to a wholehearted marriage.
2. Wholly Devoted
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus describes the devotion we are to have toward God like this:
And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment.Mark 12:30 (quoting Deut. 6:4, 5) [AMP]
I like to think that the marriage relationship is designed to mirror the love and devotion God wants to have with us. No, your spouse is not a god and not a substitute for your relationship with Jesus, but I don’t think God gets offended when we love each other wholeheartedly and with tender devotion. He designed it to work that way.
3. Sexually Engaged
It’s easy for us to relegate sexuality to the bedroom. But the truth is you don’t cease to be a sexual being when you leave the bedroom, just like you don’t cease to be a spiritual being when you leave church. Sure there are things that aren’t necessarily appropriate for public consumption (whether we’re talking the church or sex), but whether you “feel it” or not, you are a sexual being 24/7.
So what does it mean to be wholeheartedly sexual? It starts with thinking of yourself and your spouse in sexual terms outside the throws of passion. Proactively seek to engage with your spouse in a sexual manner throughout the day. It also means serving each other sexually and unselfishly, striving to give more in that department than you get. It also means being fully present and obviously engaged during sexual activity.
4. Open and Vulnerable
Based on her research, Dr. Brene Brown includes vulnerability as a key attribute of the wholehearted. (See her TED Talk video and my related posts: What a Shame and Time To Get Naked)
If you want a marriage full of intimacy, you have to learn to live transparently and vulnerably with each other. Shame is the enemy of vulnerability and the biggest inhibitor to intimacy. To embrace vulnerability, you need to first believe that you are worthy of love and connection, just as you are. The amazing truth is that Jesus makes us all worthy.
Being wholehearted means being willing to be imperfect, embracing our weaknesses and owning up your mistakes in a genuine but not self-condemning way. (Remember, there is NO condemnation for us who are in Christ). Open up and invite your spouse in. Gary Smalley, the author of Wholehearted Marriage, says that “Emotions are the voice of the heart.” Let your spouse hear your heart.
5. Determined and Committed
The wholehearted have a fierce tenacity about them. They are not only all-in, but they are in for the long haul. A wholehearted marriage is one in which the couple realizes that there will be difficult seasons, but they believe in the covenant bond between them and that they are ultimately on the same side because they are one. Reinforce this idea with phrases like, “I am for you,” “I am for us.” and “We can do this.”
Remember that wholehearted living is a choice you make for yourself. And while you can’t cause wholeheartedness in others, I am convinced that when one person in a marriage chooses wholeheartedness, the atmosphere in the relationship will be changed for the good.
Where will you choose to be more wholehearted this week? Ask God to show you areas where you’ve been halfhearted in your marriage, and ask for His help in becoming wholehearted.