Three Steps to Fall in Love Again
About the Guest
What happens when the butterflies you felt in courtship fade? Is love gone? Pastor John Bisagno, long-time sweetheart to his wife, Uldine, tackles the problem of "falling out of love," and gives a biblical prescription on how to regain the love you thought you'd lost.
What happens when the butterflies you felt in courtship fade?
Three Steps to Fall in Love Again
Bob: Pastor and author John Bisagno says, “When a relationship gets stale, you got to refresh it.”
John: I confess. I don’t treat my wife quite as well as I used to. I don’t open every door; I don’t call her many times a day. We tend to let up. But you pursue her just like you did—do what you used to. Treat her like you used to. The first time you had that first date, you called her ten times a day; you sent her presents four times a week. Do what you used to do! That communicates love to her.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine. We are going to hear today from Pastor John Bisagno about what the verb “love” looks like in a marriage relationship. Stay tuned.
Welcome to Family Life Today. Thanks for joining us. You’ve been talking a lot in recent days about patriarchs—about the Office of the Patriarch. That is something that men can aspire to beyond just being a man.
Bob: This is a part of the book that you wrote, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. I feel like we’ve got a patriarch with us today; don’t you?
Dennis: We do. We have a genuine Patriarch. In fact, well first of all, let me welcome John Bisagno to Family Life Today. I’ve been looking forward to this for a number of months, John. Welcome to the broadcast.
John: Thank you, Dennis. I’m thrilled to be here.
Dennis: Both you and I, Bob, really admire John. He has been a faithful preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a number of years. He may be the most and the best “credentialized” guest we have ever had on Family Life Today.
Bob: You mean, like the most degrees. Is that what you’re saying?
Dennis: Well, let me just go through it here. He is the pastor, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Houston, which has 22,000 members.
John: They are up to 26,000 since I left.
Dennis: He is the author of more than two dozen books. He has spoken internationally at more than three dozen crusades. He has three doctorates. He and his wife Aldine have three adult children and eight grandchildren.
He has written a book called Love is Something You Do. I just encourage our listeners, Bob, if they have never heard John speak or met him personally, to pull up a chair and a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, just get a pen and a piece of paper out, and listen to the essence of wisdom about love.
Bob: And, in fact, you spoke on this subject at First Baptist Church of
Houston a while back and talked to the congregation about the difference between being in love and loving, which is one of the main themes of your book. I want our listeners to hear a little bit about what you shared with the congregation there in Houston. Listen to this.
John: (recorded message) Loving somebody is far better than just being in love with somebody. Now, I want you to get a hold of this. It is great to be in love; but young men and women, the romantic infatuation of being in love, the romantic appeal—you see that cute new gal and you are so in love—it is what draws you together but it is not what keeps you together.
Factoid: Any man, normal human being, can fall in love with any drop-dead gorgeous gal. You put a normal male in a room with 150 beautiful, soft, tender, delicate, young women, he will fall in love with all of them. You see it every night on The Bachelor, remember? How many times? “Oh, I am just in love with you. I am in love with you. I am in love with you. I’m in love with you.” He said it to all of them.
Here is what happens. We marry on that and inevitably, in every heart, after six months, a year, one or two, it starts to fade, it starts to change; and we panic. It is not quite there like it used to be. So, they hire a cute new girl down at the office. Men go, “Whoa! Hello! I’m in love again.” So, there is the slipping around, the secret note, the rendezvous, the affair, the lipstick traces on the collar, the discovery, the confrontation, the accusation, and the divorce court. He breaks up and falls in love with “No. 2”—leaves his wife and marries her.
Well, “Hello! Have I got news for you!” In about six months or a year or two there is going to be “No. 3,” and “No. 4,” and “No. 5.” You are going to spend your life going from affair to affair—“twitterpation” to crush. You are going to spend your life in this romantic illusionary world, and you are going to miss the best part of marriage. Trust me. I have been married almost 500 years! I’m telling you, being in love is great; but learning to love somebody is a far deeper, richer, experience.
This gal I married was the beauty queen of every contest she was ever in—eevery school she ever went to. Now that she is almost 100, I got to tell you, it is better than it ever was. Listen to me, we were so in love; we couldn’t stand it. Today, kids, listen to me, after 55 ½ years of marriage, loving somebody is 1,000 times better than just being in love with somebody. Loving somebody, caring about them, giving your life to them and being blessed in that relationship is 10,000 times better than any kind of romantic infatuation you will ever know. Please, don’t ever forget that.
John: That is better than I remembered. (laughter)
Dennis: You know, I am watching you nod. You agree with yourself. Don’t’ you, John?
John: I agree with myself.
Bob: You were throwing in a few “Amens!” there, yourself.
Dennis: I was. I wouldn’t go back and trade all the feelings that you had there in those early months and early years of marriage for just the substance of love for a lifetime. It really is—love for a lifetime really does have a sense of greatness to it. Doesn’t it?
John: It does, Dennis. I tell you why I think that is true. Being in love is about me. “Please me. Satisfy me. Make me happy. Make me tingle.” Loving somebody is about them: Blessing them; Exalting them; Honoring them; Loving them; Lifting them; Making them happy.
Being in love pleases me. Loving somebody is about pleasing you. That is what the cross is all about. It is life after death. It is Easter after Calvary. It is the greatest joy in life—is to live for someone else not for yourself. You cannot develop what we are talking about without developing in your faith and your Christian commitment to Jesus Christ. That is what makes it work.
Bob: You say in your book that the most common thing you have heard in marital counseling in your years in the pastorate is, “I just don’t love her anymore, Pastor.” What do you say to somebody who tells you, “I am just not in love with her anymore”?
John: That was the first problem I ever confronted as a young pastor in Oklahoma—trying to counsel with my young congregation, all in their 20s and early 30s. I didn’t find anywhere in the world about, “How to fall in love again,”—no psychiatrist, no counselor, no preacher. Well, I am a preacher. I might think of that when, “All else fails, read the directions.” I got the idea, “Maybe, there is something in the Bible. I found a prescription in Revelation 2 that does work, and I’ve used it, and people do fall in love again. It can happen.
Dennis: I want to go to that prescription in just a moment, but you describe a young couple you were counseling one time. You quickly saw through this guy. You said he was more in love with himself than he was his wife.
John: Oh yes. He was lying to her—saying he had money. I don’t want to be redundant and sound like a preacher, but it always keeps coming back to the cross. Unless there is honesty, integrity, love, selflessness—which this guy didn’t have. It is so classic—of how many people are that it doesn’t work. It won’t work.
Dennis: And Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, a man has to pick up his cross, deny himself and follow Him.” That is really what you are talking about here: two imperfect people, in the most intimate of all relationships, learning the art, over a lifetime, of self-denial in loving another person.
John: I learned that in my own Christian faith before I met my wife. I had a dance band in college. I played with some name bands, one-nighters, and things. It was all about clubs, and babes, and booze, and thrills, and, “Look at me;” but when I met Jesus Christ at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in Oklahoma, it all became about Him. The joy of following Him now is transferred in the joy of, as well, following her, loving her, pleasing her, serving her—just like in the Christian faith. This is where it is at. This is what makes it rich.
Dennis: John, that occurred how many years ago, your conversion to Christ?
John: August 1st, 1952, at one minute after 9:00.
Dennis: As I was looking at your face, you became emotional as you kind of closed your eyes and reflected back on your conversion.
John: Everything that was to have pleased me, to thrill me, failed me; and it left me empty. Everything—it was all artificial—and left me more disappointed than when I went in.
Nothing did what it promised me to do until I met Jesus Christ and started giving my life away for Him. It is all back to the cross. I learned that when I met Christ as my Savior; and then, I experienced that in my relationship with my wife. I got to tell you guys, “It is getting ‘gooder’ and ‘gooder’ every day. I guarantee.”
Bob: I want to take you back to Revelation, Chapter 2, because you said this is the formula in Scripture for falling in love again. So somebody who says, “I am just not in love with my wife anymore,” what do you find in Revelation 2 that helps them out?
John: The letters to the churches in Revelation have different needs. In Revelation 2, the need was to the church at Ephesus. It says—He brags on them. He commends them as a wise groom will do with his bride before he discusses any difficult issue. He says, “Nevertheless, however, Honey we got a problem. I have somewhat against you because you have left your first love.”
Well, when I read that, I said, “What is the Ultimate Groom going to tell his bride about how to fall in love again, who has fallen out of love with him? Thereupon, Bob, I found three things in that passage, the first few verses of Revelation 2—not in this order, but I like to deal with them this way.
First one is: “Repent.” To repent—that is a pretty hard word, a falling out of love. I figured out the only thing you can repent of is a sin. So Jesus Christ is head on dealing with falling out of love is a sin. How can that be?
I think it can only be because it has to be a symptom of the fact you have fallen out of love with the Lord. The man who loves the Lord is passionate about his family, the kids’ little league game, his job, his country. The man who doesn’t love Christ has no passion for hardly anything, except himself.
So you repent. A husband or a wife has got to go back and find the place—be honest before God, “Where did I lose my passion for Jesus Christ? What sin drew me away? What caused me to quit reading my Bible? Why don’t I love Christ?” When you identify that, and repent and deal with that, and get back on the Gospel train with Jesus Christ, then you are setting yourself up for the first step of being able to fall back in love again.
Bob: So the person who says, “I am falling out of love with my spouse,”—that should be a sign. This is a symptom that something is broken in your relationship with God. If you are going to address the husband/wife relationship, you got to address the relationship with Christ first, right?
John: That is precisely what Jesus Christ said. Now some psychologists or experts may disagree, but I will just go with what Jesus said.
Bob: After you repent, then what?
John: Okay, the next step is to “Remember.” He said, “Remember the state from which you are fallen.” Well, from where were they fallen?—from when they were in love. So you use the memory. You can think your way to new acting.
You play those video tapes over, and you choose to do this over and over again. “I will concentrate. I will remember the first time I saw her across the crowded room, the first time I spoke to her, the first time I touched her, the first time I kissed her. I remember the engagement, the honeymoon, the first night, the second night, the third night, the nights after, the days after, the weeks after.” Remember; remember; remember. If you remember, you build into your soul a pattern that starts to act out the memory.
Bob: It is interesting you bring that up. Dennis, I am thinking of the Weekend to Remember®, marriage getaways that we do. One of the projects we have couples do is to write a love letter. Part of that love letter involves spending time reflecting, remembering, bringing it to mind.
Dennis: I hadn’t thought about that, Bob; but in a way, we are guiding people to go back and rehearse those things that initially attracted a husband and a wife to one another. Rather than relive the disappointments, the unmet expectations, those places where your spouse is not fulfilling all of your needs and all of your desires, instead, what you are saying the Scriptures are commanding us to do is to go back, and relive, and rehearse those great moments we have shared together.
John: Can I tell you an “Aha” moment I just had? What he is saying is, “to think your way to new action.” The third part of the prescription and, “Do again what you used to,” says actuate to new thinking. Actuate to new thinking; thinking to new action.
The third part: “Do what you used to. Treat her like you used to.” I confess, “I don’t treat my wife quite as well as I used to.” I don’t open every door; I don’t call as many times a day. We tend to let up. I think Little League, and sports, and other things build into us a “Win the trophy; put it in the case,” mentality and “Move on to the next challenge.”
Dennis: “The quest is over;” therefore, “Quit competing.”
John: That’s right, but you pursue her just like you did and act like you did the first time you had that first date. You called her ten times a day; you sent her presents four times a week. Do what you used to do. Treat her like a queen. You are acting your way to new thinking—in the remembering and the doing—and thinking your way to new acting—and the remembering. It works together.
Dennis: Alright, John, you are a veteran of 57 years of marriage.
Dennis: What three things communicate love to Aldine?
John: Definitely service. Her spiritual gift is service; mine is being served. So we make a great couple. (laughter) I am not naturally a server, and so I have to work at that—I have to do that; but I can tell you, that communicates love to her. Maybe, a couple of nights a week, or once a week without even being asked, I just go do the dishes I know she put in. I will carry in the groceries. I don’t carry out the trash every day; but every once in a while I do, and she likes it.
I like the idea about the love languages. Hers—one of her main ones is service. So serving communicates love. Another important thing is, “Being out of control and not trying to control her and tell her what to do.” I’m a kind of leader and so leaders tend to be controllers and they kind of tell people what to do. We have learned, sometimes are more difficult than other times, “Hey, I don’t need to be told what to do. I know how to do it. I will do this by myself.”
Dennis: I am looking over your shoulder right now. She is outside the studio. She is grinning, Bob, nodding her head. So you are two for two, John. She is giving it the hand pump right now. (laughter) “He has finally got it!” she said.
John: I think that second thing just boils down to having enough respect for her. She is a wonderful all-together woman. I did two or three times today; I have done that. We have been traveling with our little dog for the first time, and, “Honey, go take him out to the potty; and don’t forget to get this.”
Dennis: She has got the dog on her lap right now.
John: Yes, that’s right. She is saying in her heart, “I know to do that. Hello!” It is hard for me to restrain that. So just letting her do and serving—that would be two of them.
Dennis: What’s number three?
John: Good question. Honey, what’s number three? (laughter)
She loves my noticing little things and doing little things. She will go shopping, and everything is very understated in Aldine’s world. I am, “Aye-Yi-Yi!”—over-the-top; dramatic. She is understated. She will bring home a little knick-knack, a little picture she found, something she likes and just hang it over there. A month or two later, I will notice it there. “Wow, that’s great! Where did you get that?” I think the third thing would probably be attention to the little things—observation, and expression, and appreciation for those little things that she does and is—that are important to her.
Dennis: I think how you have taken Revelation, Chapter 2, and applied it to marriage is really brilliant, John, because Christ is, of course, speaking of his relationship with the “Bride”—the Church. He is calling the Bride back into a love relationship with Him. He said, “I have this against you that you have left your first love.”
He basically said those same three points you just made. Number one: “Repent. Repent of your selfishness.” Repent of just doing things and not doing it whole-heartedly, in love with Me. Number two: “Remember from where you have fallen.” Remember what attracted us in the first place over and over and over again. And number three: “Repeat.”
John: Repeat. Do what you used to do.
Dennis: Do what you used to do and win them back. Win their hearts back. Go after them. I think it is easy to get slothful, lazy in a marriage relationship. And as you said, just put the trophy in the trophy case and say, “The trophy is won. Now, let’s get on with life.”
Bob: Well, it is easy to think that love is something you feel rather than something you do.
John: That is right.
Bob: That is the realigning that you are doing for couples in this book that you have written, Dr. Bisagno, called Love Is Something You Do. We have got it in our Family Life Today Resource Center. Folks are invited to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of the book Love is Something You Do by Dr. John Bisagno. Again, our website is FamilyLIfeToday.com, or call for more information about the book at 1-800-FLTODAY (1-800-358-6329). That is: 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY.
Now, we want to take just a minute here and acknowledge those of you who have been listening for a long time to Family Life Today but have just in recent days let us know about that. It is always great to hear from a new listener. Whenever we are out speaking somewhere, or we run into listeners and they say, “We have been listening for a long time,” it is always fun to meet folks. I know there are many listeners, many of you who are regular but you have just never gotten in touch with us and let us know that you are tuned in and that God is using the program in your life and that you appreciate what Family Life Today is all about.
We are hoping during the month of August to hear from some of you. In fact, we are hoping that at least 2,000 of you who are “stealth listeners” will step up and say, “Not only have we been listening for a while, but we want to help support the ministry of Family Life Today.” If you are able to do that here in the month of August, identify yourself as a first-time listener, and if your donation to the ministry is $100 or more, we would like to say, “Thank you,” for stepping up by sending you a certificate so that you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway as our guests. It is our way of saying, “Thanks,” for your support and “Thanks,” for letting us know you listen.
Again, you have got to be a first-time donor to Family Life Today and your donation needs to be at least $100 for you to receive the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway gift certificate. If you do make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com and you type the word “HUNDRED” into the key code box, we will get that certificate off to you; or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone, just mention that you are a Family Life Today listener, that this is your first donation and that you would like the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway certificate. We will make sure that that gets sent to you.
Also, this month, we are making available to anybody who makes a donation a four-CD series of messages from a recent Weekend to Remember marriage getaway where both Dennis and I were speaking. You will get six messages on four CDs. Again, that is our way of saying, ‘Thanks,” for your support of the ministry. All you have to do to request the CD sampler is to type the word “SAMPLER” into the online key code box, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone and ask for the Weekend to Remember CDs. We will get those sent to you. Once again, we do appreciate your support for the ministry of Family Life Today.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to continue to get some very practical insights from Dr. John Bisagno on marriage and on what real love looks like in a marriage relationship. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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