You wake up at 3:20 in the morning and hear your daughter calling you: “Daddy, can you help me?” You don’t even think about elbowing your wife. You get up and go check on her.
It turns out she has thrown up in the bed … and on the family cat! The cat is nowhere to be found, but it left a trail for you to follow. So, there’s a little girl to wash up and comfort, sheets and blankets to deal with, carpet spots to clean, and a very angry and frightened kitty to capture.
And you do it all. By yourself. Why? Because you’re a dad, and this is one way you express your love. No doubt, love is the last thing you feel at 4:00 a.m., but that doesn’t matter. Loving feelings are not required to do loving acts. (It’s also a loving act toward your wife to let her sleep.)
Loving needs to be unconditional. That’s what we’re all called to do as husbands and fathers. When a family member has a need, we take action. Even if it’s inconvenient! Sometimes we do loving things for our wife and kids just to let them know how special they are to us—even when those are the last things we feel like doing at the time.
Being dedicated fathers and husbands often means doing things that aren’t fun, things that don’t feel like love. We help with homework. We help care for a sick child. We have that hard talk with our teenager. We drive and drive and drive some more. We change diapers. We schedule date nights with our wives, go out of our way to bring home flowers, and do the little, thoughtful things that help restore romance.
The secret is not waiting until the loving feeling arrives and then acting; it’s knowing what the person wants or needs, knowing what’s right, and doing it. A marriage counselor might tell a struggling couple to do caring and even romantic things for one another, even if their feelings aren’t in it. Love is more about commitment than feelings. But thankfully, the loving feelings will often follow the loving actions.
- Give family members your first 10 minutes when you come home. Check in with each one, give hugs, and ask about something that you know happened that day.
- Are you a new dad? Children will change your marriage dramatically, so be ready to adjust and find new ways to love and serve your wife.
- Ask several of your male friends to check in with you regularly about your marriage and your fathering. Give them permission to really challenge you if you ever say, “Things aren’t good.”
- Set a regular time—every day or every other day, on the phone if necessary—when you and your wife can be alone and catch up on things.
- Tell your children that, no matter what they do, you are still committed to love them and do what’s best for them.