If you want your marriage to not only succeed, but to thrive, then this simple phrase will save you from heartache and propel you closer to each other: actions trump feelings.
How many times have your heard other couples (and perhaps yourself…?) say something like:
- “I don’t feel in love anymore.”
- “My feelings have changed.”
- “I don’t feel happy any more.”
Couples who quit acting loving and caring will eventually stop feeling the emotions that accompany those actions. Think about it…why do actors who play love scenes often fall for each other in real life? Because they are spending time together, they gaze into each other’s eyes, they “act” loving…and the feelings follow.
In the early ’70s researchers at Stanford University conducted an experiment where some students were randomly chosen to act as prison guards and others as prisoners. They were just students, but within six days the experiment had to be stopped because the “guards” had become excessively authoritarian and the “prisoners” extremely passive. Their feelings followed their actions.
We have watched too many couples drift apart because one or both persons stopped acting loving until they finally “felt” loving. And most often the feelings didn’t come back.
Frankly, that’s immature thinking and a worldly perspective of love. Consider the love Christ showed on the cross: he told his Father he didn’t want to do it (“Take this cup from me….”), But out of love his actions trumped his feelings—and it’s a good thing for us that they did!
In your marriage, your feelings will follow your actions. Start with doing the right thing(s) and over time your emotions will kick in as well. Here are three simple things to remember when it comes to your actions trumping your feelings:
Decide vs. Deny
You have the choice: you can deny doing what is right because you don’t feel like it, or you can decide ahead of time to let your actions trump your feelings. John Maxwell wrote, “The decisions you will regret in life are the ones you never made.” Make the decision now to do what is right regardless of how you feel. For men and women this can include:
- Saying encouraging and affirming words
- Choosing forgiveness
- Making love
- Taking vacations
- Helping at home
- Romantic gestures: a touch, hand-holding, kiss, sitting close
You get the idea. Decide in advance that you will act rightly regardless of your feelings.
Step up vs. Sidestep
The next decision to act is to follow-through…immediately. Hesitating, second-guessing, pausing—will usually lead to side-stepping the opportunity to act rightly. When we side-step we are actually avoiding an emotional engagement with our spouse and creating emotional estrangement from our spouse.
So when you are prompted, either by your spouse or by personal conviction, step up to the opportunity to actively show love based on your prior decision to do so.
Persevere vs. Pause
There will come a point when you will wonder, “Is this worth it? I’m not getting the response I expected from him/her.” And you’ll want to pause and suspend acting rightly.
Remember, your doing what’s right isn’t motivated by getting a response from your mate. That would be manipulation. You are doing it because it is the loving thing to do.
Let your actions trump your feelings, and watch the change that happens in your heart as you build your marriage!