December 27, 2017

Take Your Marriage to the Third Love in 2018

Gary Thomas — 

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis shows how wide-ranging the word “love” is. It is used to define many different notions and mind-sets.

What if you can take your marriage up a level this year?

The first form of love (according to Lewis) is Need-Love, which is today what we call infatuation. “I need you, therefore I love you. I want you to meet my needs. I crave you. I can’t make it without you.” It looks so romantic in the movies, but when you look at the base psychology behind it, it’s actually a bit unnerving. Need-Love creates a high level of desperation and resentment. You can’t build a marriage on it.

The second form of love could be called “Sacred Marriage” love; Lewis uses the phrase “Gift-Love,” but it basically means wanting to serve, even to the point of suffering or sacrifice. It’s a noble love, always putting the other’s best (as God defines “best”) first. It remains, I believe, the foundation of a God-honoring marriage.

The third love, “Appreciative-Love,” is the same concept I write about in Cherish. It’s about celebrating, appreciating, and adoring.

Here’s how Lewis ties all of them together: “Need-Love says of a woman, ‘I cannot live without her’; Gift-Love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection—if possible, wealth; Appreciative Love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist…”

We can’t choose “Need-Love”—and looking at what it actually is, who would want to? Infatuation just seems to happen. It’s something we should probably want to get out of sooner rather than later so that we can move on to choose Gift-Love. Gift-Love is easier to attain than cherishing love in that it’s all based on actions. We can choose to serve. We can choose to sacrifice. We can choose to put someone else’s welfare above our own. We just have to act.

The third kind of love, what Lewis calls “Appreciative Love” and what we will call “cherishing love” isn’t as easy to apply as Gift-Love because rejoicing and adoring isn’t solely an act of the will. You have to develop a heart and mind that fosters it, which then gives birth to it. It goes beyond action to the heart.

What I discovered in Cherish is that such a love is attainable, if you’re willing to adopt a long-term program. It begins with following through on a commitment (made in my marriage vows to love and to cherish until death do us part, covered in chapter 1), adopting a cherishing mindset (the “only man or woman in the world” analogy, chapter 2), and then learning to showcase my spouse (chapters 3-4), changing the way I speak to and about her (chapter 8), reveling in her uniqueness (chapter 9), fighting off contempt (chapter 5) and applying grace to go the distance (chapter 10), applying some tried and true practices (chapter 11), and then going back to the truth of the Gospel so that I could keep doing all the above (chapter 13). The entire program can eventually create that once illusive but oh so rewarding “third love.”

If you feel your marriage is mired in a stand-still, where selfishness reigns and you don’t even know if you want to go on, you need to lay the foundation for your marriage with the message of Sacred Marriage. If you feel committed to the marriage but it’s a struggle to stay connected, then you’re looking at the area covered in A Lifelong Love. But if you’re eager to experience marriage at its best, to taste a Song of Songs kind of relationship to reach that “third love” stage, Cherish is the book for you.

Lisa gave me a tremendous gift this past year. She made artwork out of one of the main Bible verses behind Cherish: “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9). But I asked her to make it smaller, and to put it beside or above one of my favorite photos of her. I can already tell that it will become one of my most prized possessions because it celebrates “my only one.” Under my fascination with God, nothing quite moves my heart like thinking about Lisa.

Here’s another secret I’m learning: cherishing grows. When you enter it, you eventually discover it’s not a park, it’s a large country with many meadows and streams and forests and caves and rivers to explore. Infatuation collapses in on itself; cherishing expands. There is more to explore in cherishing love, in fact, than this life gives us opportunity to, which has led me to believe that cherishing love provides us with one of the earliest glimpses of heaven we can ever experience this side of eternity.

Note: Focus on the Family is re-airing my two-day interview on Cherish Thursday and Friday, December 28-29, as part of their “Best of 2017 re-broadcasts.”

On December 28 and 29 you can listen to the interviews here:

After the airdate, you can listen to them here:


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4 responses to Take Your Marriage to the Third Love in 2018

  1. Thank you for this blog. And thank you for the heads up about your Focus on the Family interview. In your blog and a few times in your interview Song of Songs 6:9 “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” were mentioned. So it piqued my interest and I looked up how dove is used in Song of Songs. It speaks of doves eyes, apparently doves can only focus on one thing at a time. So truly when we have doves eyes as in verse 5:12 or my wife has doves eyes as in verse 1:15 we are the only man and woman in the world for each other. Which puts us right back to your Adam and Eve reference when they were in the garden. Thank you so very much.

  2. What is the fourth love? This is great stuff, thank you!

  3. I’m glad i received this in my inbox today. It brings me hope. Thank you.