Written by Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg
Have you ever found yourself irritated with your spouse – not liking him or her very much – even though you know you love your spouse? Most of us have had those days! It’s perfectly normal. No two people can live together for any length of time without once in awhile rubbing each other the wrong way.
What’s important is how you handle these kinds of times. If you let those feelings of hurt or disappointment take over – your marriage will suffer. You will create a rift in your relationship. So, you have to make a choice. You have to decide to love. You may not feel loving, but if you decide to love, the feelings will follow.
Unconditional and conditional love
You have to learn to demonstrate unconditional love to your spouse. Unconditional love is necessary for a strong marriage. Are you practicing unconditional love in your marriage? Here are some questions to consider:
- Have you accepted your spouse’s failures or weaknesses?
- Do you support your spouse, or do you see his or her weaknesses as projects to fix?
- Are you afraid to be honest because your spouse might not accept you?
There is a huge difference between unconditional love and conditional love. Conditional love blames a person, expects things in return and asks for more. Unconditional love accepts the person, expects nothing in return and sacrifices.
Conditional love says:
- “I will love you only if . . .”
- “I don’t know if I can handle the tough times. If things get too bad, I’m leaving.”
- “I might not be able to forgive you if you tell me . . .”
Unconditional love says:
- “I will love you even if . . .”
- “I will stay with you no matter what. I will always love you, even in the tough times.”
- “I know I’ll still love you if you tell me . . .”
Putting love to the test
Your spouse isn’t perfect and you are the one person who sees all his or her faults and fears. What do you do with what you know about your spouse?
- Do you tease your spouse with hurtful words?
- Worse, do you tease your spouse with hurtful words in front of others?
- Do you put your spouse down?
- Do you withhold your love until your spouse corrects certain faults?
If you answered yes to a majority of these questions, you are loving conditionally and creating a huge fault line that can, at any moment, open up and become a large chasm between you. Conditional love creates a marriage in which each spouse is more concerned with getting his or her own way, instead of showing their spouse grace and love.
Your response and connection to your spouse are crucial to the health of your marriage and family. Your expression of unconditional love and acceptance is the force that will hold you together in the midst of the testing times in your marriage. Your standing with each other in the painful times as well as the good times is one of the primary elements of a great marriage.
Mature, healthy love
If you don’t learn to show your spouse unconditional love, your marriage will suffer. If you and your spouse love each other conditionally, you’ll end up living like two immature children – each trying to get your own way and resenting the other person when you don’t. You may still be married, but you’ll miss out on the joy of a great marriage. Also, husbands and wives who don’t get unconditional love in their marriage may look for it somewhere else. And while they’re looking for that unconditional love, they’re pulling away from their spouse.
That’s why it’s so important for you and your spouse to learn to love each other unconditionally, but it’s not easy. Giving your spouse the security of your unwavering love requires grace, patience, and affirmation of the good things, encouragement, respect and time. Even when you don’t feel like showing love, do it anyway. You need it, your spouse needs it and your marriage needs it.
How to love unconditionally
Here are some tips on how to keep your dream marriage alive.
- Talk through the issues. Communicate freely with each other and keep no inappropriate secrets.
- Love each other deeply without strings. Forgive your spouse when you are wronged and seek forgiveness when you offend.
- Begin each day by asking, “What can I do for you?” Eagerly seek to discover and meet each other’s needs.
- Stick with it. Pray without ceasing. Instead of caving in to difficult circumstances, face and conquer them.
- Focus on Christ and love your spouse. Consciously guard yourselves against threats and temptations that could pull your marriage apart.
- Pray together daily. Stay close. Work at maintaining emotional, physical and spiritual closeness.
- Keep the chemistry with your spouse alive. Be committed to keeping your relationship fresh.
Keeping your marriage strong, vibrant and fresh isn’t always easy. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll discover how truly amazing your marriage can be.
Portions of this article were adapted from The Great Marriage Q&A Book, © 2006 Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg. All rights reserved.
Other Resources You May Find Helpful:
- Love & Respect
- Do You and Your Spouse Fight Fair?
- Married to My Best Friend: It Takes More Than Luck to Make It Last!
- Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It