How to Build a Better Spouse, Part 2: Attention


Karen and I were once being interviewed on a marriage-focused radio show. The host asked Karen about the first few years of our marriage—when we really struggled. He said, “Karen, were you ever tempted to have an affair because of how bad Jimmy was?”

I settled in. I was paying attention because I really wanted to hear Karen’s answer.

She said, “No. I wouldn’t let my heart go there.” That statement says a lot, because long before adultery happens, your heart lets go. You get hurt or disappointed or offended, and the light in your heart goes out. Women intuitively know when your heart is there and when it’s not. It’s all about attention.

When you let your heart fall away, you stop giving your spouse attention.

Attention is at the core of romance. True romance says, “You’re on my heart. I’m thinking about you. I am focused on you.”

That’s also how we know God loves us. The Bible describes us as the bride of Christ. He is always pushing us toward holiness—to become more Christlike. Because marriage is a reflection of God’s relationship with us, His bride, we can learn from the love God shows us. Attention is one way Jesus works to build a better spouse.

Hebrews 13:4-5 discusses this in a very interesting passage about marriage: Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He, Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The second half of that passage above is about being content. Contentment doesn’t mean that we don’t want more. It just means that we are going to trust God to provide for us. In that context, Jesus says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

He repeats Himself. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. Why does He emphasize this so much? It’s because those two words indicate two separate realities. “Leaving” is a physical act. “Forsaking” is an emotional act. Regardless of what we do, God will never turn His attention away from us.

He’s constantly focused on us! I’ve messed up a lot in my life, but I’ve never prayed and gotten a recording that says, “Sorry, but I’m busy right now. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” God builds a better bride by making sure He is always available, regardless of our failures. He’s not leaving. Nothing we do can chase Him off.

Does your spouse feel the same way? Have you given him or her that kind of reassurance and attention? When that Hebrews passage talks about covetousness, it’s in the context of “shopping around.” Maybe your spouse has done something offensive, so you’re looking around at others. You’re shopping for a new model. You’re pointing your attention somewhere else.

But people in good marriages never “go shopping.” When they find themselves in the trenches together, facing adversity, they say, “I’m all in. I’m never turning my heart away. I’ll never forsake you.” They give all of their attention to their spouse and refuse to walk away.

If your spouse has offended you, turn your heart back toward them and forgive. If you want your marriage to improve, give them your full attention. During times when your marriage is struggling, don’t avoid your spouse. Don’t go silent. Disconnecting is the worst thing you can do because it isolates both of you. It makes everything more difficult.

Healing comes through connecting and connecting requires attention. Make eye contact. Prioritize physical affection. Speak kindly. Say, “I love you.” Give positive feedback. All of these things are critical for improving your marriage relationship. Paying attention can rekindle your passion.

We understand God’s love for us because He lavishes His attention on us, His bride. That’s one way Jesus works to build a better spouse.

What kind of warm, loving attention can you give your husband or wife today?

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