Christian Marriage, Dale Partridge, Marriage

Can a Spouse Love God, and at the Same Time Choose to Not Love Their Wife?

Dale Partridge claims that in a marriage where both parties love God, love is overflowing. For couples who do not know God, their marriages are hopeless.

The Bible declares that without a love for God you cannot love others (1 John 4: 7-8). That is, you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot produce that which you have no source. A husband’s love for his wife is simply Christ overflowing to her. Like a waterfall of cascading pools he is filled and she is filled by the only One who can fill. But for those couples attempting marriage without God they are like a riverbed on the suffering side of a leaky damn [sic]. Their marriage is dry, weak, malnourished, and vulnerable. Their hope rests in scrounging for the loose drops of water slipped through by God’s grace in our world. But let us stop sitting with empty cups in front of the river. Dive in, experience the depths, and allow His love to take over.

While I’m sure Dale has good intentions, he is flat out wrong. Just because a husband loves God does not mean he will pass on that love to his wife. And, if a couple does not believe in God, that does not mean they will have a loveless marriage. Dale’s statement is narrow and limited to his point of view – that a Christian marriage is full of love because of God’s love for us.

When I read this I reached out to a friend I know in an emotionally abusive marriage and asked if her husband claims to love God. She said that her husband states to love God emphatically and love her. But her marriage is sinking. His actions don’t reflect his claim that he loves God. And she feels no love from him. So when Dale says if a husband loves God that love will overflow onto his wife, what does my friend do with that?

I know what I would do with that; it would lead me to despair. Both partners state that they love God, but one is incapable of showing love that is supposed to naturally come with the Christian life. I would wonder why God isn’t helping my marriage. Why isn’t God showing my husband how to love? The cop-out easy answer of, “Then he really doesn’t love God,” is not helpful.

Meanwhile, I’ve known several couples who are not Christians that have the most loving relationships. There’s nothing dry or weak about their love and commitment toward each other. Am I supposed to believe that these couples truly don’t love each other because they don’t have God in their lives?

The reason why Dale’s cornerstone answer to a happy- and love-filled marriage doesn’t work; he fails to account for human experience. His statement is crazy-making to an abused wife, and brings false hope. People are capable of showing love, whether they believe in God or not. And, there are people who say they love God, but make the choice to not love those closest in their lives.

16 thoughts on “Can a Spouse Love God, and at the Same Time Choose to Not Love Their Wife?”

  1. I would suggest that Dale’s logic is faulty because he is misrepresenting what 1 John 4:7-8 actually says. He states that, “The Bible declares that without a love for God you cannot love others…” And from there, he leaps to the conclusion that only christians can have a loving marriage.

    But he is putting the cart before the horse, because what the verses actually state is that, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Therefore, it would be more logical to suggest that these verses are saying that in any marriage where there is love, God is “known” on some level – even if God remains un-named. Also that in any marriage where love is absent, God is not known – however much the unloving party/ies claim to do so.

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  2. So basically, Dale is saying that roughly 98% of married couples in Japan are incapable of loving each other, and that their marriages are doomed to futility and misery.

    Based on my own experience here: The above is nonsense. Complete and utter.

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  3. I think guys like this overspiritualize everything without taking into account that people are people. People love, christian or no. You could say that god created us with capacity to love and that’s where it comes from, if you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that people of all or no religion are capable of love. And all of us are sometimes unloving. And romantic love is it’s own thing altogether, and we may not romantically love someone even if we love god.

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  4. And let’s not forget 1 John 4:19-21. An abuser’s claim to love God and his wife is falsified by the abuse. The one who does not love his wife, the one who abuses his wife, whom he sees cannot love God whom he does not see.

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  5. Can a Spouse Love God, and at the Same Time Choose to Not Love Their Wife?

    Ask all the Spiritual Abuse blogs, especially those scrutinizing Biblical Manhood(TM).

    It’s possible to become so tunnel-visioned on GOD! GOD! GOD! that you become indifferent (or worse) to mere mortals like your spouse. I’ve heard a few horror stories about this (including on unfolding right now); it’s a variant of “It’s All Gonna Burn”.

    And I experienced the Rule 63 genderflip version in the Nineties, when I was flushing $$$ down the crapper on dating services. The profiles in Christian dating services (don’t waste your $$$) were all so Over-Saved Uber-Spiritual and focused entirely on GOD! GOD! GOD! that they ceased to be human. No interests other than Bible Study, Witnessing, Prayer, and JESUS, and a “what I’m looking for” of such an Uber-Uber-Christian even Christ Himself would have fallen short. Loving GOD! so much there was no room for anyone or anything else. I don’t know why they were even looking for a guy, they already had The LORD.

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  6. HUG, I would say some element of those profiles you’re talking about were performative, and I think a decent subset of the stuff like this Dale person says is the same. ‘Witness how great a christian I am’. It doesn’t really mean anything when it comes down to actual interpersonal interactions. (although I screen all such profiles out personally)

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  7. I agree that Dale Partridge’s remarks are flawed. It doesn’t really take loving God to be able to love others. People who are atheist are capable of loving their spouses, their children, their family and friends. As well as people from different religious backgrounds who worship other gods or secular people who are aware of God but don’t embrace or worship Him. Then there are Christians embrace God and claim to love Him, can be cold, unloving, abusive, domineering, who doesn’t know how to give or express love to others. Instead they live under law and not grace where they use scriptures in the bible or distort or take them out of context to justify their harsh treatment and control as it’s all about keeping score rather than having heart. I also agree that God does give all people the capability to love even if they don’t put God first in their lives, they still have the gifts He gives them which includes to love sacrificially. God Bless.

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  8. If the “Bible” says that, then Jesus is a liar: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matt 5:46)

    And, lest he argue that it’s different kinds of love, all the “love” words in both passages are “agape”.

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  9. SERVING KIDS IN JAPAN

    OT, but I just wanted to let you know I’m really thinking of you this holiday season. This season can be hard for a lot of people (I know it’s been a bit rough for me). Wishing you the best and hope you took some time for yourself.

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  10. 1 John 4: 7-8
    “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

    First of all, the passage is not saying what he is paraphrasing it to say. It is saying that those who truly love, know God, for God is love. Those who do not love, don’t know God.

    He is trying to turn it around to say that only those who claim to know God can love.

    It may seem like a subtle difference but it is a huge difference.

    Look at 1 John 4:20:
    “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

    We see here that a person can claim to love God while secretly hating other people.

    So, it is not the claim of knowing God that is the important thing. Anyone can claim this. It is the loving that is the crux of the matter. The one who loves knows God. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

    So let’s turn it back around the way it is meant to be read. Love is what shows who knows God and who doesn’t. The claim of knowing God does not show who loves and who doesn’t.

    A person who treats their spouse and children with contempt, even if they are a pastor or elder, does not know God.

    A person who treats other with respect and kindness, regardless of who they are, knows God. Just like in Jesus’ time, it is not necessarily those who claim to be the religious leaders who actually know & understand God.

    Funny how people can read and memorize the scriptures without really getting the point, isn’t it?

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  11. Thank you so much for thinking of me, Lea, and for your kind words. It has been hard, celebrating my first Christmas after losing Mom. The 25th was a not a holiday (it hardly ever is in Japan), so work kept me somewhat busy. But without classes, I found myself thinking about Mom often, which made me feel sad and lonely. Thankfully, I was able to Skype with family that night.

    As for “time for myself”, that’s finally coming tomorrow. I’ll be off work until Friday at the earliest, and classes won’t start again until next Tuesday. Hopefully, I’ll get a good chance to rest and enjoy life for a little.

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  12. SKIJ, I think it was part of a lie I was taught from an early age. My father was part of a Christian ministry. The teaching about the difference between Christian businesses, ministries, self-employed contractors, etc., was that Christian X was always going to be better than non-Christian Y in any area. It’s pretty silly, but there are things like “Christian Yellow Pages” that profit from that concept. The ministry got burned many times by hiring incompetent Christians for key ministry positions on the basis of their profession alone and not based on their qualifications.

    From that lie also came the conclusion that when it came to marriage, Christian husband X would always be superior to non-Christian husband Y, but then justification was needed, and I think that’s where the idea that non-Christians cannot “love” came into being.

    C.S. Lewis, for example, taught against this in Mere Christianity. He said, you cannot compare Christian X to non-Christian Y. You must always compare Christian X to non-Christian X. So, the mean Christian lady who sits in the church cannot be compared to the saintly non-Christian, but must be compared to what she would be if she were not a Christian.

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  13. Dale Partridge just seems naive in so many ways and doesn’t ever seem to think through his big statements. If he did he might really become enlightened about all of humanity past and present and not just his little corner of belief. Evangelicals fascinate me, but I’d never choose to be one.

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  14. Caroline – Simple statements do sound naive, don’t they? Though, I think he truly believes what he says.

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  15. Serving Kids said
    “It has been hard, celebrating my first Christmas after losing Mom. ”

    I am sorry for your loss.

    I don’t mean to sound like a debbie downer, but it may help you to prepare: the second and third years tend to be the worse, grief-wise. That was true for me after my mother died, but I’ve seen it brought up by a lot of other people online in grief support groups.

    I’m not sure why. I guess the first year of the loss, the first Christmas, the first birthday, etc, you’re still processing the loss, trying to understand – intellectually you’ve accepted the person is gone, but your heart has not really gotten the message yet.

    I think the first year after the loss, you’re just in a daze. You’re so busy getting used to the loved one being gone that your mind / heart cannot process much else.
    But the second year – oh my goodness, the SECOND year, the second Thanksgiving, second birthday, second Christmas, etc, you are very much hit with the fact emotionally that your loved one is gone and is not coming back.

    And if you previously had them in your life around those holidays – it’s ten times harder to get through the holidays the second, third year.

    I intuitively figured out how to do it, and it involves coming up with your own holiday traditions, rather than doing the stuff you always used to do with your now departed loved one.

    Then I read articles abut the grieving process, and they do tell people to invent new holiday traditions for yourself, don’t rely on the old ones you used to do when your loved one was alive.

    So anyway, just be prepared that the second/third years may be the most tough ones to endure re: grief.

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  16. SKIJ, I’m so glad you were able to talk to family and hope your time off is happy. I just started back to work today.

    Happy New Year everyone.

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