According to Maslow’s five levels of human need, humans have a basic need for love and belonging after our physiological needs are met (e.g., food, shelter, air, sleep, etc.), and we are relatively safe (e.g., health, family, social stability). We want to be loved and to know that we are loved. That is one of the advantages of marriage. You have someone that you believe loves you, and you love them.

I’ve questioned the concept of love since I was in high school. I didn’t know what it was. For example, the Bible says that God loves us and that we should love him. However, what does that love look like? What does it mean for me to love God? What do I do? How do I know I love God?

I began to notice something that looked like love but was something far different. I’ll call it the response to need. Let me illustrate. You pray to God, and things are going well in your life. You get the job, promotion, new home, car, etc. Everything is going well. You read your Bible and go to church regularly. You and the Lord are having a great time together. You thank him regularly for the blessings. If someone asks if you love God, you will answer, “I love God with all my heart!”

However, sometimes something strange happens when trouble comes. The blessings don’t seem as frequent, and times are getting hard for no reason. Your heart is revealed. You didn’t really love God during those times of abundance. You were merely well pleased, happy, and in good spirits because God seemed to have smiled on your life. You didn’t build a relationship with him except to perceive him as your personal genie.

The same applies to human relationships. Sometimes, people say they love you and even appear to love you. However, they are only basking in their good feelings because you provide a service to them. A wife says she loves her husband (or vice versa) not because of an emotional connection or commitment. Instead, they feel a certain way about what you provide.

A husband provides safety, income, home maintenance, lawn care, etc. A wife provides cooking, income, cleaning, etc. She says she loves her husband because he makes her feel good, i.e., safe, secure, at ease. He says he loves his wife because he eats well, the house is clean, and they can afford to do more with two incomes. Life is good. But is that true love?

The love I’m speaking of here is the emotional connection in addition to commitment. See my eBook, “What Happens to Love in Marriage,” for an in-depth discussion.

So, how do you know your spouse really loves you? Or, more precisely, how do you know your spouse has genuine feelings for you and not just for what you bring to the table in marriage? Of course, what you provide will be part of it, but I’m referring to the emotional connection.

Discovering or thinking that our spouses don’t love us for who we are can be devastating, especially if you’ve been married for many years. We want to believe that our spouses married us because they want to spend the rest of their lives with us. However, that may not be the case all the time.

Perhaps you don’t think your spouse loves you. What can you do? How can you create love and obtain and maintain an emotional connection with your spouse? That is the question I hope to answer in this article.

What is Love?

I’ve wondered what love is for most of my life. It still seems quite elusive because it can be qualified in many ways. Consider the following ways we love.

  • I love my truck.
  • I love my job.
  • I love God
  • I love my wife
  • I love my children
  • I love to play football
  • I love the beach

You get the idea. Surely, your love for your car differs from your love for your spouse. The key is to learn the love language of your spouse. What does your wife mean when she says she loves you? You may find that they don’t know what love means. We tend to use the word loosely.

Try using a different word when you declare your love for your spouse. Instead of saying, “I love you,” describe it differently. For example, you could say, “I have strong feelings for you.” You may find that your love for your spouse is based on utility, not an emotional connection or commitment.

Now, I admit that this idea is dangerously close to fantasy. You know. In the movies, the guy has strong emotions for his woman, and he fights dragons, travels many miles, risks his life, and more to be with the love of his life. Not because she will cook for him but because he has a strong emotional connection. He loves her.

My point is that love can take many forms and mean different things. I discuss two aspects of love in my eBook, “What Happens to Love in Marriage.” They are as follows.

  1. Emotional Love – Based on our feelings. Includes infatuation, experientially derived good feelings about the person.
  2. Commitment Love – Based on the commitment to the relationship apart from feelings. Commitment can keep the flame burning in a relationship or reignite it when trouble comes.

Love describes our feelings about our spouse and our commitment to them regardless of situations and emotions.

I like what the Apostle Paul said about love.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NKJV) — 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What’s important is to do those things associated with true love. We forgive, do not act proudly, do not be selfish, etc. That is on the commitment side of love. We decide to do those things for the sake of someone else. Not necessarily because we feel like it but because it is best for the relationship, our spouses, and us.

Here is another Scripture passage regarding love that perhaps sums it all up.

1 John 4:7–8 (HCSB) — 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I think that passage reveals vital insights into what love truly is. Here is a synopsis.

  1. True love comes from God and is not derived from human thoughts or emotions.
  2. God is what love is. Therefore, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, was merely describing God’s attributes.
  3. Knowing God is the key to genuinely loving. Knowing God means to have a relationship with him, not merely to know about Him.

Now, let’s continue the passage quoted above.

1 John 4:9–11 (HCSB) — 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

Again, God’s love was demonstrated, not merely declared. His love was shown through the death of Jesus Christ for our sins so we would live through Christ. Another essential component of the love that comes from God is He initiated it, not us. True love comes from God, and God decided to love us. It has nothing to do with what we are or do. He first loved us, so we should love him as well.

The grand takeaway is that to truly love, we must first know God and extend that love to others, especially our spouses. We cannot truly love our spouse if we do not have the true love that comes from God.

What does that mean? Am I suggesting we all attend church and become religious to truly love our spouses? Not at all. Just as knowing God is essential to love, knowing your spouse is vital to love them. Building a relationship with your spouse and getting to know them as individuals and not merely as a source of services is critical to truly loving and being loved by them.

Human Love

There is a distinction between love of the world (I’ll call it human love) and love from God. Human love is not unconditional. Human love tends to persist as long as there is a benefit. Also, human love is not necessarily completely emotional. We can love someone because of what they did for us. Our feelings are tied more to the event associated than the person.

Human love is kind if we receive kindness. It tends to be jealous, i.e., hostile towards those who seem to be blessed more than us or have an advantage over us. Human love reciprocates and is, therefore, unreliable.

A husband who has mere human love for his wife will only care for her when it is convenient or beneficial to him. He cherishes her as long as she gives him what he wants—the same for a wife’s human love for her husband.

Human love is founded on selfish desires and individual effort. If the desires aren’t met, or there is no reason to love anymore, human love will wane because it is not based on commitment, nor does it come from God.

That leads me to my next question. Why love? Why does your spouse love you, and why do you love them? What fuels the love you have for your spouse and vice versa? Is it merely infatuation or something more grounded? Is your love based on what they provide?

I think considering why you love your spouse is helpful to understand what that love really is. You can take corrective steps from there to nurture true love and an emotional connection.

Why Love?

You might find that your love for your spouse is not based on an emotional connection but on your response to their provisions in the relationship and household (and vice versa). Do you love your wife because she prepares meals for you, wash your clothes, and cleans the house, so you don’t need to be concerned about those things? Do you love your husband because he protects you, fixes things around the house, and maintains it?

You should first ask yourself if you know your spouse as a person. Are you connected to the person or the service provider? True love necessitates an emotional connection, i.e., a relationship. So, why do you love your spouse?

A clue to what love is for you and your spouse might be found by thinking about why you love them and then making corrections to benefit the relationship.

The Premise for Marriage?

Many people think love is a good reason to marry someone. They believe that if they have strong feelings for that person, i.e., infatuation, they should marry them. However, my father taught me that love is not enough for marriage. I think that is because infatuation is affected by circumstances. In other words, emotions are not stable by themselves. An emotional connection requires effort to keep it and grow it.

Did you marry your spouse because of how she made you feel while dating? Do you still feel the same way about them now? If not, why?

A happy and fulfilling marriage requires work to remain balanced and flourish. We typically get caught up in the business end of marriage. That is, our marriages tend to become functional with little intimacy. Husband and wife become roommates instead of soulmates.

On the one hand, love is not enough to get married because of the fickleness of our emotions. On the other hand, it depends on what love means to you and what you are willing to do to sustain it. Yes. Love alone with no nurturing will not produce a happy marriage. That love will fade, possibly bringing the marriage down with it. However, maintained love can flourish, providing a suitable environment for a prosperous marriage relationship.

Why love? Love is a powerful force, if I can call it that. The Bible says God is love, and love comes from Him. God says to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love is a big thing; it can be the force behind many campaigns, movements, relationships, etc. We need love. Again, by itself, it will not sustain a marriage.

Today’s big problem is attempting to do so much without God until calamity strikes. Churches were packed shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. People were afraid and sought a higher power to find comfort and some sense of security. They lived their lives without God for the most part before trouble came knocking.

The key to experiencing true love from our spouses and giving it is to include God in the relationship. I’m not saying become religious fanatics. I think praying about your marriage, life, and future is paramount. Allow God to guide you in your goals and dreams, especially for your marriage relationship. How can you love if you don’t have love?

Talk is Cheap

I think we tend to throw the word love around carelessly, causing its meaning to be significantly diluted. A wife tells her husband that she loves him and vice versa. However, he doesn’t see the love she speaks of. I’m not suggesting that she is disingenuous when she declares her love. It could simply be that what she calls love is entirely different from her husband.

It is easy to tell someone you love them. However, the proof is in the pudding, not the recipe. In other words, love is demonstrated and expressed by actions, i.e., what you do. It is hard for a person to believe their spouse loves them when they don’t spend time together. It’s difficult for a wife to feel as though she is loved by her husband when all his efforts are only to have sex with her.

Love is demonstrated by action. Even God showed us that. The Apostle Paul said that God demonstrated his love for us through the death of Jesus Christ while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). So, you see. Love can be seen. Your love for your spouse and vice versa is evident in your daily interactions.

Now remember. The way your spouse expresses their love may not be the way you expect to receive it. A wife tells her husband she loves him very much, but deep inside, that love is founded on the security and stability he provides. Take that away, and her love for him might diminish.

In contrast, her love for him as a person may look very different than love based on provision. She will still be by his side when he is unable to provide for the family as he once did, e.g., when he is laid off from work. She will continue to be by his side even if he gets sick and is incapacitated for a while or permanently. That kind of love is like unconditional love, i.e., the love that comes from God.

I recall how I felt when I was laid off from my job many years ago when I was being treated for cancer a few years ago (at the time of this writing in 2023) and being laid off from another job while undergoing cancer treatments. My wife did not demean me for being unable to provide or do things. She supported me by taking care of me the best she could.

When I tore my quadriceps tendon in 2005, my wife took a week off from work to ensure I was cared for. I thought I would be fine wobbling around the house while she was at work, but she didn’t go for that plan. Love was demonstrated, and I saw it. She tells me she loves me all the time, but the acts are what I hear. Anyone can say they love you, but their actions tell the truth.

Do Love

Love is not something that just happens. We love someone because of our experiences with them. Those experiences could affect good or bad feelings for your spouse, which affects the marriage. That describes the concept of love banks, which are described in Willard Harley’s book, “His Needs Her Needs.” If your spouse treats you well and demonstrates love to you in a manner you are tuned to, you will tend to have good feelings towards them. Those good feelings will translate into the things you do for them. The converse is also true.

Marriage is about the relationship between the husband and wife. True love can flourish if the relationship is nurtured. They get to know each other and adjust themselves for each other, e.g., meeting each other’s needs. All of that requires work initiated by the decision to love, i.e., commitment.

Think about it for a moment. In the traditional wedding ceremony, we promise to love each other. We could not do that if love were based merely on feelings. We can only promise something if we decide to do so. We promise to love our spouses and must do things conducive to that objective.

We love by being kind, forgiving, etc., as we learned earlier from the Apostle Paul. Doing those things apart from how you feel can induce the feelings that you want. Perhaps you don’t feel the emotional connection and love you wish for your wife. Still, do the things you would do if you felt the love and had an emotional connection. Nurture the relationship and love you desire by giving it first, just as God did for you.

Hopefully, your wife wants a flourishing relationship and will respond positively to your acts of love. The same goes for the wife for her husband. Do those things that are an expression of love to induce love.

I first experienced that concept many years ago when my wife and I were dating in college. I felt pretty bad about the relationship. I don’t remember what it was, though it could have been I was upset about something she did. I don’t know. Anyway, I had previously decided to buy her a present. I thought about scrapping that idea because I was upset with her. However, I got the gift anyway and gave it to her later. The funny thing was my ill feelings went away after I did that.

Even if you don’t feel that way, doing something consistent with a particular emotion can induce those same emotions. I practiced that throughout my marriage from then on. A supporting incident was a men’s workshop by the late Dr. Miles Monroe.

Miles Monroe was talking about doing things out of knowledge in the marriage. Sometimes, we do something because it is best for the relationship, not because we feel like doing it. Doing what is best for the relationship, apart from any negative feelings, may build the relationship to the extent that those feelings do come. So, once again, doing the acts of love when you don’t feel like it can spawn feelings of love afterward.

Therefore, don’t expect your spouse to always cater to your desires. We humans tend to respond to others based on how they treat us. If your wife treats you well, you tend to treat her well. If your husband disrespects you, you will tend to treat him negatively. The trick is to override those feelings and do what is best—and communicate! Our response to our spouses may often be based on misunderstanding rather than their actual intentions.

Do the things that love would do even if you don’t feel it or feel like doing it. Do what is best for your relationship. Do love.

The Perception of Love

A vital aspect of giving and receiving love is how you and your spouse perceive love. In his book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” Gary Chapman introduced a concept called love languages. There are five love languages that you should be aware of.

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Physical touch
  3. Acts of service
  4. Gift giving
  5. Quality time

It’s one thing to love your spouse actively, and it’s another thing for that love to be perceived or received by them. For example, if your spouse’s love language is gift-giving and yours is quality time, they may not perceive your true love for them because they expect gifts.

Therefore, it is helpful to understand the love languages and which ones your spouse uses. For example, if you know your spouse’s love language is gift-giving, you would use that to show your love by giving them gifts periodically and perhaps regularly. The presents do not have to be significant because, in this case, it is the fact that you were thinking of them, not necessarily the gift. Maybe you don’t show love by giving gifts, but you can translate your love language into theirs.

The Emotional Connection

What does love have to do with an emotional connection with your spouse? Much! It would be strange to say you have an emotional connection with your spouse and don’t love them. I would expect a problem marriage to be deficient in an emotional connection because that is one of the first things that diminishes when the couple has problems with each other.

A husband craves an emotional connection with his wife through sex, which he does not have. He tries to do things, even to complain, to bring about that connection, but the marriage does not improve. He begins to pull away from his wife emotionally, causing her to respond. Her response only exacerbates the issue as he feels more distant from his wife, making the emotional connection he craves more improbable.

He responds to his wife’s seemingly disinterest in an intimate relationship with him. He becomes annoyed and resentful when he thinks she doesn’t care about having an emotional connection, i.e., she doesn’t love him. His wife notices his negative response to her but has no idea what it’s about. She, in turn, responds to him distancing himself from her. She thinks there is a problem with her or that he doesn’t care about the marriage. The cycle only worsens from there.

What if the husband did the following instead of taking the problem on himself?

  1. Tell his wife how he feels.
  2. He continues to love her in deeds.
  3. Work together to resolve the problem (remember to keep God involved).

The flow is communicate->love->resolution together. Don’t take it upon yourself to resolve an issue you have with your spouse. You’re married, for goodness’s sake. Get them involved in what’s going on with you. Tell them how you feel. Respectfully, of course. Continue to love them even when they are not doing what you want. After all, what if God stopped loving you when you screw up?

The act of working to resolve the issue will itself help nurture an emotional connection. You both do what is necessary for the sake of the marriage, even when you aren’t motivated by your feelings.

Be motivated by your commitment to your marriage, not your feelings. How you feel about each other, or anything, depends on external circumstances. What you do is an entirely different story.

You are probably on a quest for an emotional connection with your spouse. Emotional love may wane if you do not have the emotional connection you crave from your spouse. A better approach to achieving that connection is to work together and do what is good for the relationship despite your feelings for your spouse. Do what love requires to have a better opportunity to experience emotional love and acquire the emotional connection you desire.


Most of us want an emotional connection with our spouses. We call that connection love, though love involves much more than our emotions. However, the way we feel about our spouses and relationships has a significant influence on our marriages. Therefore, we should work to nurture those feelings since they will not sustain themselves.

Working means doing things to nurture the relationship even when we don’t feel like it. Imagine if you were deeply in love with your spouse, like when you were dating. What would you do? Have you stopped buying presents, saying nice things, doing nice things, etc.?

Knowing true love comes from God and having a relationship with Him is vital to remain committed to the relationship and nurture emotional love and connection.

Husbands and wives should work together to nurture love between them and, therefore, an emotional connection. An emotional connection will not happen automatically, nor will it sustain itself. Yes. There will be disagreements, and you will probably become angry with each other sometimes. However, the associated bad feelings should not hinder your quest for an emotional connection. You must keep the flame of love burning.

I can’t express enough that love in marriage will not sustain itself. Its fire must be kept ablaze by the effort of the husband and wife. The love will wane if not nurtured, taking the emotional connection with it. The relationship can quickly deteriorate once the emotional connection is severed. So, work together to achieve and foster an emotional connection with your spouse.

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