Q: I know that I love my spouse, but some days I really don’t like him/her very much. Are we in trouble or is this normal?
A: It’s perfectly normal. No two people can live together for any length of time without once in a while rubbing each other the wrong way. So how do you handle these kinds of times? Well, obviously you can’t count on feeling loving. Instead, you have to decide to love. You will need unconditional love.
Unconditional love is necessary for a strong marriage. Have you accepted your spouse’s failures or weaknesses? Do you support your spouse, or see his or her weaknesses as a project to fix? Are you afraid to be honest because your spouse might not accept you? There is a monstrous difference between unconditional love and conditional love. Conditional love blames the person, expects things in return, and asks for more. Unconditional love loves the person, expects nothing in return, and sacrifices.
Your spouse isn’t perfect. 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, you are loving conditionally and creating a huge fault line in your relationship—a fault line that will at any moment open up and destroy your marriage.
Your response, initiative, and connection to your spouse are crucial to the health of your marriage and family. Your expression of your unconditional love and acceptance is the force that will drive 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.
This becomes especially important for those of you who are in situations right now where the need to demonstrate unconditional love is a daily concern or struggle. Your spouse may be hard hearted (or hard headed!). Or perhaps your dreams and desires have been put on hold while you work to help your spouse’s dreams come true. Your spouse may have wounded or betrayed you. Or you may be married to a person who is spiritually passive.
Whether you are in the midst of a crisis, living with an ongoing circumstance, or just responding to the normal routine of married life, giving your spouse the security of your unwavering love requires grace; patience, affirmation of the good things, encouragement, respect, and time together. Remember that even when you don’t feel like showing love, do it anyway. You need it; your spouse needs it; your marriage needs it.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!