“I still love him but I’m not in love with him anymore.” Usually when someone makes this statement there is an additional one that will eventually come out. “I am in love with someone else now and involved in a sexual relationship with them.” What is the difference in loving someone and being in love with someone? The Bible often speaks of our loving another person. “Husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wives loves himself.” (Verse 28) Paul told Titus to have the older women teach the younger women to love their husbands and their children in Titus 2:1-3. But the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about being “In love.”
The word used in these verses for love is the word “Agape” which is an intentional action of doing the loving thing. It isn’t about feelings or emotions but about doing the things that demonstrate love and care for another person whether we feel like it or not. Doing the loving things for and toward another person tends to keep the feelings and emotions healthy and strong toward the other person.
There are five different kinds of love described in the Bible but most aren’t specifically used about husbands and wives. Yet every marriage needs all the different kinds of love to be full. The Bible often uses the word for “Friendship love.” It is the word from which we get the word “Philadelphia.” In I Peter 1:22 it says, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.” Here Peter used both the words for Christian behavioral love and the word for friendship love. We need both in our relationship with fellow Christians but we also need both in the home for wives and husbands.
Another kind of love is family love, referred to in the King James Version of the Bible as “Natural affection.” When Peter wrote to husbands and wives in I Peter 3:1-9 he told wives how to behave toward their husbands even if they weren’t Christians and husbands how to treat their wives with understanding and respect. Then he told them both to “be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” The command to be “Brotherly” is translated in some translations to “Love as brothers.” It is the idea of loving as a family member. Growing up in a large family it was common for my brothers and me to get angry at each other and be ready to fight, but if anyone else outside the family were to say anything negative about a brother or sister then we were all united to stand for the family. It is this kind of loyalty, family love that God wants husbands and wives to have. Our mate is to become our family at the point of marriage, not an outsider any more.
Two other words are used to translate the word “love” even though not applied to the relationship of husbands and wives in the New Testament. One of the words refers to “Romantic love.” The other word has to do with “Sexual love.” In Proverbs 5:15-21 Solomon described both forms of love. “Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.” In the Song of Solomon there is a beautiful description of the love between Solomon and his bride. both the romance and the sexual relationships are described.
In Hebrews 13:4 it says, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” In I Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul told husbands and wives to give themselves freely to one another and not to withhold themselves or it would lead to temptations and a lack of self control.
Husbands and wives must fully love each other to fulfill the teachings of God’s word. But what about being “In love?” Willard Harley who has written numerous books on marriage says that we fall in love with someone because they invest in our love bank by doing things that please us and make us feel important enough that we become in love. He says that one can return to being in love with another by each partner working to do the loving things toward each other and avoiding the things that destroy the love.
The exciting feelings of being “In love” so that our palms sweat and our hearts beat faster are impossible to maintain constantly over the years. But the love should mature, become richer, fuller and more satisfying all through the years. We become partners with each other so that the “One flesh” relationship isn’t just about being one in sex but being one as partners, friends and fundamental parts of one another’s life. Being “In love” is more about infatuation and if one is constantly looking for that feeling they will fail to grow in their love relationship for life and will always be searching for someone new to make the heart beat faster. The feelings can become a form of addiction to the excitement that keeps us from the satisfying love of a life time.
“I love you” is mental, emotional, and spiritual. It involves commitment and devotion that holds on in all situations even when the other person can’t return that love anymore because of some mental deficiency.