Important lists for your marriage

Important lists for your marriage

It’s okay if he leaves his wet towel on the floor, but it’s not okay if he punches a hole through your door because he can’t control his anger. When it comes to choosing a life partner, how do you know which things to tolerate?

Instead of daydreaming about planning your perfect wedding, take some time to plan your dream marriage. When your big day is fast approaching, it’s easy to get caught up in all the arrangements and wedding drama, and to forget that a marriage is about much more than the ceremony and party afterwards.

Some couples’ honeymoon bubble quickly evaporates as the challenges of everyday life start to arise. It’s common to hear newlyweds saying that marriage is much harder than they thought it would be, and it seems to look like problems arose out of nowhere.

Pastor and author, Rick Warren, says a marriage doesn’t cause problems, but illuminates them. How can you weatherproof your marriage so that it not only withstands the first year of new challenges, but also the seven-year itch and all the other storms that may or may not follow? It all comes down to planning and preparation.

Start by making three lists for your marriage. Sit down with your partner and decide which things are important to you as a couple. Prepare a few leading questions for yourself, as well as for your partner, to determine what your biggest differences are and how you are going to overcome these differences if and when challenges arise.

To simplify the process, divide your questionnaire into three main categories. It’s important that your partner realizes how important these questions and lists are (and doesn’t attribute your efforts to some bridezilla streak). Here’s how to do it:

Red: Hard limits
The red-limit list will comprise of things that are non-negotiable for you. For your marriage to work, you must feel the same way about these things. Not only will it make your marriage exceptionally difficult if you don’t agree, but it could have a ripple effect on your families.

Religion and values are right at the top of this list. It can be a massive problem if you have different believes, and you will need a plan of action on how you are going to approach these aspects.

Consider how these issue will impact your family if you decide to have children. Do both of you want kids? How do you feel about the involvement of family members in your lives and the lives of your children? Decide how much influence your family members will have on your marriage and where you are going to draw boundaries.

Nothing is worse than a wife who needs to compete with her mother-in-law for the attention of her husband. Make decisions about the division of labor in your house. Does your husband-to-be have a problem with you having a full-time job and will it become a problem if you earn more than him?

Yellow: Soft limits
This list is for serious issues, but ones that you can negotiate about. You and your partner still have to agree on these topics, but there’s more room for flexibility. For this list to work, both of you must be prepared to give and take. If you can’t make compromises before the wedding, then it’s definitely not going to get easier after you get married.

Decide which battles you’re prepared to lose to win the war. Ask questions such as: How many children do you want? When do you want to start a family? Who carries the credit card with him or her? Who is responsible for different parts of the household?

Green: Unnecessary limits
This is the list where all the insignificant details are categorized. It’s the issues that you can and should disagree on, because it’s not healthy for couple to agree on absolutely everything. Sometimes it’s good to have a bit of a disagreement so that you can continue to grow as a couple and as individuals.

If you are disagreeing on what you want for dinner and whether My Girl is better entertainment than CSI, you’re not going to end up in a divorce lawyer’s office. How you approach these disagreements, will depend on you as a couple. The important thing is that you are able to communicate openly and honestly with each other. Don’t get angry and make a point of respecting each other’s opinions.

Remember that you are two individuals with different personalities, needs and opinions. If you are able to approach differences in the right way, you could end up being an inspiration for others.

Sources: marriagemissions.com, thellenlevy.com.

 

We are emotionally divorced

We are emotionally divorced

Are you living together because it makes sense, but in reality there is no real emotional connection anymore? Experts call this being “emotionally divorced”.

Like many parents, Joe and Lisa devoted a lot of time to raising the kids. They worked long hours and spent all their remaining energy on tending to their kids’ needs. For 25 years, they served their children and watched the kids leave the nest, one by one, until it was only the two of them left at home.

Now they try to imagine how things were before they had kids. They used to sit on the porch and talk about work, exciting things and adventures for hours. Lisa would instinctively know when Joe had a tough day at work and offer him something to drink, leaving him to cool down for an hour or two before joining him in the study to discuss what was on his mind.

Joe could listen to Lisa talking for hours about the latest movie that she saw, and Lisa would listen attentively when Joe told her about the big sporting event that he watched with his friends.

Joe and Lisa were friends and companions. They made each other feel heard and seen. When one partner felt the need to connect on an emotional level, the other one would sense it and make themselves available.

This is how their relationship was in the beginning, but slowly – without being able to pinpoint when or why – they became disconnected. They started ignoring each other’s needs, or became too tired to invest time and attention in each other.

An observer would be able to notice catty or mean-spirited remarks by one partner (and the subsequent hurt look in the other’s eyes), but this emotional pain never got addressed because there simply wasn’t time to talk about things. After some time, the small rifts got deeper and started causing major damage to their relationship.

Are you Joe and Lisa?

After the kids left, Joe and Lisa’s relationship became increasingly disjointed. Sometimes they would eat together, other times not. Some nights they would sleep together, but more often each one  would sleep alone. Each of them carries the weight of his or her own burdens, fears and concerns alone, and they don’t share in each other’s joys either.

Both Joe and Lisa know that they have lost their emotional connection and that they are being inauthentic when they put up a united front before friends, family members and their adult children. Keeping up the facade is part of the emotional divorce.

Can you prevent it?

  • If one of you notices that you are becoming emotionally distant as a couple, it needs to be addressed without blame.
  • Commit to living in the present. Focus on what’s happening between the two of you now.
  • Try to pay attention to the emotional needs of your partner. Try to give him or her the emotional support that they are looking for.
  • If your partner isn’t a talker or sharer, you need to start asking leading questions.
  • If you are worried about raising an issue because it might lead to a fight, empower yourself by reading books and information about conflict handling. See a professional therapist if necessary.
  • Remember that your partner is also feeling hurt, scared and helpless.
  • Remind yourself that you used to be very close and emotionally connected. It might take some work, but you can get back to where you were and become an even closer couple than before.
Do people get divorced too easily?

Do people get divorced too easily?

Past generations grew up with a different idea of marriage. They believed that it meant forever and it’s something that you fight for. For a variety of reasons, it seems that people view marriage differently these days. Divorce has become more acceptable and easier, but are people separating for the right reasons?

Can a marriage really survive an affair? Some people believe that if the offender is truly sorry and remorseful, and proactively works at making the wrong right, then it shouldn’t lead to divorce. But what if it happens again? Do you have to repeatedly forgive your partner for cheating, even if it’s something that chips away at your psyche, well-being and your trust in your partner?

Mary’s* marriage was in turmoil when her husband moved in with a married woman, after being with Mary for 25 years.

“I filed for a divorce, but I’m a born-again Christian and because of this, I had a personal struggle going through with it. The Lord spoke to me several times during this period and I found it very hard to move forward with the divorce.”

Eventually, she did get a divorce. “I walked away from the marriage with nothing, but I’m grateful that I was able to feel the presence of the Lord during this time of struggle.”

Experts believe that a heterosexual marriage can’t survive homosexuality, but in Nadine’s case, it did. Nadine and her husband were very much in love and they had a great relationship, until he told her that he had experimented with another man.

“Initially, I didn’t want to ask questions about the situation because I was afraid of the truth. Within a year of being married, he started to contact gay men on Facebook. We went through turmoil and we were on the brink of a divorce, but today our marriage is stronger than ever before thanks to God, who has a master plan with our lives,” says Nadine.

Do the rules change or not?

Most people and some experts agree that there will always be exceptions to the rule. Divorce attorney Lindi Wademan says it’s important to distinguish between solvable marital problems and extreme situations, such as when someone is filing for a divorce because their child’s safety is at risk due to physical or emotional abuse. If one partner has a psychological disorder, suffers from an addiction or changes his/her sexual orientation, then it could be an unsolvable marriage problem.

Some relationship experts believe that divorce is the right way to end a relationship in the following situations:

  • If there is serious physical, sexual or emotional abuse against a partner or (even worse) a child.
  • When there is repeated cheating and the transgressor doesn’t change his/her behavior.
  • When a partner’s sexual orientation changes.
  • When both parties can honestly say that they have done everything in their power to try to make the marriage work.
  • If one of the parties has a serious addiction that drives the family apart.

When to not get divorced

Lindi says that in other situations and scenarios, the chance of reconciling a marriage is always a possibility.

“According to my opinion, other issues such as minor irritations over bad habits, financial pressure, a difference in opinions or interference from friends or family are all challenges that can be overcome. If both parties are willing to work on the problem and the relationship, and in some cases, consider marriage counselling, then reconciliation is possible,” says Lindi.

Divorce is never the right thing to do if you have any doubts. Personality differences, different tastes, a problem with your sex life or different libidos are definitely not grounds for a divorce. If cheating took place and it was a once-off affair that both parties feel will never happen again, then divorce isn’t the path that your relationship should follow either. Even if you feel your partner doesn’t make you happy anymore, you still have a lot of inner and relationship work to do before divorce becomes a viable option.

What is the reality today?

In a perfect world, the above-mentioned situations and the logic applied to relationship goals make sense, but things often take on a different shape in reality. Lindi says there are usually a few reasons why people get divorced and not “one big thing”.

Some of the main reasons for divorce that she sees in her law firm include the following:

  • Poor communication.
  • No shared interests.
  • Financial reasons.
  • Sexual incompatibility.
  • Inability to accept each other and wanting to change the other person.
  • People feeling a lack of support from their partner.
  • Couples not making enough effort to spend time together.
  • Unwillingness to work on the relationship.
  • Unwillingness to see a relationship therapist or marital counsellor.
  • Restructuring of families where stepparents or stepchildren don’t get along.
  • Emotional, verbal or physical abuse.
  • Religious differences or having different values.


What does the Bible say about it?

Düring Cornelius, a teacher at the University of Potchefstroom, says divorce is contrary to the Word of God and His wonderful master plan for each spouse. As humans, we have contaminated God’s work through sinful rebellion.

A counselor may, however, reach a point where all paths of reconciliation have been exhausted and one or both parties are still intent on destroying each other. In this case, the partners would be advised to disassociate themselves with the marriage.

“However, this has to be the last resort and the result of a person or both parties continually being destroyed by another person’s behavior. It’s also the result of one or both parties’ inability to let healing and recovery through Christ work in their lives.”

Düring also believes that contemporary consumer culture and products wipe out our ability to deal with marital problems or face adversity in relationships. If something becomes a problem, it needs to be removed from the marriage as quickly as possible. Our culture of wanting instant gratification means that we want to solve a relationship problem as quickly as possible, and this often means that a divorce can look like the ideal, quick solution.

“Divorce is never a solution. At best, divorce is an emergency exit. Nobody wins in a divorce case and if there are children involved, they are the biggest losers.”

Is it really too easy to get divorced?

Divorce attorney Aletta Loubser says that in earlier years, the legal requirements for getting a divorce made the process less appealing and likely. In some countries, a person could only file for a divorce through a High Court legal process.

“Nowadays, the legal procedures are more accessible and the parties in a marriage are not faced with a legal obligation to work on their marriage. The divorce proceedings revolve around arrangements relating to children, support, and the distribution of assets and expenses. If the parties agree on these aspects, then a couple can get divorced quite quickly and easily,” says Aletta.

Consider the following if you want to get divorced

  • Do you still have feelings for your partner? If your partner treated you badly, there is probably a lack of emotional intimacy. If you still care about and love your partner, then consider counselling instead of divorce. Be careful to not confuse feelings of guilt, or the fear of loneliness, with care and love, though.
  • Does what is left of your marriage still constitute a marriage? A marriage consists of two people who form a triangle with God and work towards the greater good of the relationship, it isn’t about two people fighting to get their own needs met.
  • Do you really want a divorce or do you only want to threaten your partner with a divorce? If you’re angry and frustrated, then you may threaten your partner with a divorce to make sure your partner knows how serious you are. If you’re looking for solutions, however, divorce threats aren’t an option.
  • Is your decision emotional or rational? You can’t make a decision like this when you are experiencing overwhelming emotions.
  • Consider your reasons for a divorce carefully. Do you hope that the threat of a divorce will make your partner treat you better or value you more? If you want to change the dynamics between you and your partner, then counselling is the solution and not divorce.
  • Carefully consider the consequences. Divorce can shatter your dreams, and it can affect you and your children financially and emotionally. Don’t feel guilty about these things in a toxic relationship that’s hurting you, but consider all the consequences.

Can every marriage be saved?

If you are considering a divorce, then mull over your decision a lot. Listen to the thoughts and opinions of others, but realize that nobody can make this decision for you.

If you get a divorce, then commit to not having a victim mentality about it. Forgive transgressions and realize that a fulfilling life is within your reach after the divorce. If you are unsure, do whatever you can to save your marriage.

God is bigger than our problems and there is always a chance that a “guilty” or “sick” partner can be healed. In cases where a divorce is theoretically justified, the divorce should take place within the context of protecting a family from the person’s disease.

Reasons such as wanting to take time to find yourself or growing apart from a person don’t justify a divorce, says relationship therapist Elmarie van Wyk. “Both parties must be willing to work on the marriage.”

Change takes time and you can’t expect immediate results from one therapy session. At any point in time, you can decide to get divorced, but once you are divorced, it’s very hard to turn the relationship around.

Additional sources: www.divorcesupport.about.com.

Compromises vs sacrifices

Compromises vs sacrifices

Many young couples learn early on that compromises are going to be a big part of their marriages. A compromise means that you need to make concessions and often accept something that is less than desirable for the benefit of the relationship.

Marriage demands both small and big compromises. If you are used to late-night snacking and your partner prefers an early dinner, then it will only take a bit of flexibility on your side to eat earlier. This type of flexibility should obviously extend to your partner offering to adjust his game of golf so that he can take care of the kids when you want to go shopping on a Saturday – not because you expect it, but because he loves you and he wants to do it.

Compromise is about meeting each other halfway, and it’s an agreement that is achieved through adaptability. If you are crazy about stand-up comedy, but hubby wants to watch old war documentaries and there is no way to record one of them, then you need to join forces and mull over your options. The problem is that human beings are selfish, and it’s almost natural to want more than you are giving.

So how do you reach a compromise with your partner? On Articlesbase.com, Gillian Reynoldts says you need to decide which wars are worth fighting. It’s about deciding when to stand up and when to step down, because a compromise can easily become a sacrifice.

A compromise is essentially trying to negotiate a situation where everybody wins, while a sacrifice means giving up something you value or deem worthy. Both compromises and sacrifices are noble and necessary, but many marriages encounter problems when there is an imbalance between these two concepts, explains Rodney Southern in his article entitled “Is your marriage filled with compromise or sacrifice?” (Associatedcontent.com).

A compromise is reached when each person leaves the discussion feeling a sense of happiness or success, says Corey Allen, a licensed family and marriage therapist and professional life and relationship coach. But Corey doesn’t believe in compromise, because instead of compromising most people simply give in.

“Most people, especially nice guys, pleasers and fixers, give in when they are opposed, because giving in helps them to manage their own distress and discomfort with conflict. They give in because they hope to make their partners happy, but if they consistently feel like their needs aren’t met in return, then the relationship gets damaged,” says Corey.

This can create certain expectations in a relationship. If one partner agreed to visit the in-laws when he or she didn’t want to, he or she may expect sex or something else in return for their sacrifice. If your husband wants to play golf on Saturdays, then you may expect him to help around the house more during the week.

This creates friction because a marriage doesn’t work according to a scoring system. How nice would it be if you raked in ten points for meeting his friends? Then you would know that you had ten points in credit and you could claim it back when you want your partner to take care of some household chore or family obligation.

Unconditional love makes this kind of point scoring a complete no-go. If you are only doing something for your partner because you expect to get something in return, then your relationship wouldn’t survive or thrive.

“Instead of thriving, the lack of a ‘return’ will create frustration and disappointment. These tiny disappointments will accumulate over time and create a big wall of contempt,” says Corey.

Many people can relate to starting with making a compromise, but the situation turning into a sacrifice on their behalf over time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually happen the other way around (with a sacrifice slowly turning into the more beneficial situation of a compromise).

Lindsey* says: “My husband is the type of person who is always open to new adventures and opportunities. He has been yearning to move overseas for a while. I’m a pharmacist and the pharmacy where I work, regularly gets brochures with the headline: ‘Do you want to work in America?’

“In the past, the postcards have ended up in the trash, but when Daniel* recently got his hands on them, he suggested that we investigate this opportunity. I was totally against the idea, and this is where a two-year-long struggle about the issue began.”

Lindsey and Daniel’s son was only one year old. They had recently cancelled the lease on their apartment and were looking for a larger family home. Lindsey wanted to start building a home and raising a family, while Daniel was intent on conquering the world.

“We were on completely different wavelengths about the move, but I conceded and accompanied him to his first meeting with the emigration consultants. To keep the peace, I even went along to the second meeting. When Daniel asked me where in America I would like to live, I said: ‘Anywhere, because I’m not going to go.’”

The next stage was writing an exam so that she would be able to work overseas. She refused to write the exam and stopped taking her contraception with the hope of conceiving again. Daniel started questioning why she wasn’t completing her exams and during this time, she fell pregnant with their second child. Then she decided to write the exam so that she would theoretically be able to work in America.

“We were constantly fighting about the move. Daniel said it would be better for our family, but I felt that we would be far away from our friends and family. Daniel’s response to this argument would be that we would make new friends.

“He said the move would be better for our children because they would have more opportunities in America. Each valid point had a totally valid counter-argument, so we were not getting anywhere,” says Lindsey.

Lindsey passed her pharmaceutical exam. Moving to America, would now mean that Lindsey would be the breadwinner and Daniel would be a stay-at-home dad.

“It was really tough on our marriage. We fought constantly, I was miserable and I didn’t even want to pray about it,” says Lindsey.

In the end, Daniel decided to stay. Lindsey’s resignation letter was typed by Daniel, but the letter was never handed in.

“I started to realize that Daniel really wanted this move. It was as if something inside him was driving the move and he couldn’t fight it . . . and I decided to give in. I accepted that this would be a sacrifice that I could make, and I didn’t want to regret not going if our lives didn’t pan out as planned.”

Lindsey told him this, but Daniel said he didn’t want to go if it would make her this unhappy, because the move wouldn’t work if they both couldn’t see it as a positive change in their lives.

“A paradigm shift took place when my name was drawn for an American Green Card. While I never asked for a sign that this is something we should do, I realized that this could be a sign from God that maybe He had a bigger plan for our family in America . . .”

The Green Card changed the whole situation, as it meant that Daniel would be able to work overseas. The paperwork is still being completed and they don’t have Green Cards yet, but the outcome looks positive.

“We are in a different phase of our lives now, and I trust that God will let things unfold as they should. I also know that if Daniel and I are not united about a decision, then it won’t work.”

Daniel is worried that Lindsey is only agreeing to the possibility of the move because she is sick and tired of fighting about the issue, but Lindsey argues that it isn’t the case.

“Now it’s also my decision. The past two years have been hell and moving would have been a complete sacrifice on my behalf, but now I see it as a compromise. I also trust that we will make a success of any situation – wherever he goes, I will go with him. I also learned that even if we move away from God, He doesn’t move away from us. I believe with everything in me that things will work out.”

How should you handle compromises?

Start by asking yourself whether an issue will be important in a day, a week or a month’s time? If the answer is no, then you can give in (this is a pretty broad way to categorize compromises, and obviously it can change according to the situation). When it comes to important decisions that can change the dynamics of your relationship, a compromise may seem impossible, but there is always a solution.

Give yourself and your partner space to think thoroughly about your point of view and your reasons. Determine why you think and feel that you are right in this specific situation, and give each other the opportunity to present your cases. If both of you do this, there is a good possibility that you will be able to understand your partner’s perspective. This won’t necessarily lead to a solution, but it can make compromising easier.

Compromise can only happen when two people who feel equally strong about something can clearly communicate their needs. Strong, mature people can still put their partners’ needs above their own, but they can do this from a place of calm independence, as opposed to fear, conflict or a need for approval.

Ask yourself: “Am I acting from a place of love and integrity, or simply to keep the peace?” If it’s to keep the peace, then you’re not reaching a compromise. You’re sacrificing.

Additional sources: www.ezinearticles.com, www.simple­marriage.net.

*Pseudonyms were used.

30 days of foreplay

30 days of foreplay

Are you up for a 30 days of foreplay challenge? Here is your calendar:

DAY 1

Give your partner a compliment relating to his or her appearance. Say this in the nicest way possible and be very specific. Do it over the phone, via a text message, a message in his or her diary or on a sticky note.

DAY 2

Stare into your partner’s eyes during dinner. When he or she asks what’s going on, say: “Oh, I’m just planning what I’m going to do to you tonight.” (Make sure this sounds sexy and not at all like a threat!)

DAY 3

Leave subtle clues in strategic places, such as a bra hanging over a chair, a condom on his table in the study or a tie around your bedpost.

DAY 4

Give your partner a massage. Avoid the erogenous zones (except one or two light touches that happened seemingly by accident).

DAY 5

Undress sensually and slowly before going to bed. If you undress at a vastly different speed than you usually do, you will have his or her attention.

DAY 6

Surprise your partner with an unexpected kiss at a time he or she would least expect it. Make sure the kiss lasts much longer than usual.

DAY 7

Show much more skin than you usually do. Wear that halter-neck dress with the plunging neckline that makes you a little bit self-conscious.

DAY 8

Try something new and out of the ordinary. Book a table at a restaurant that you’ve never been to or try a new recipe together.

DAY 9

Write your partner an erotic note. Don’t shy away from graphic content. Leave it on his or her pillow.

DAY 10

Wake your partner up by gently stroking his or her entire body.

DAY 11

Take off your pajamas before your partner wakes up and snuggle up close. The secret is to restrain yourselves so that you can enjoy each other’s bodies later.

DAY 12

According to experts, the love hormone oxytocin gets released after 20 seconds of kissing, but most couples only kiss for six seconds. Make sure your kisses last longer today (it will make the sex this evening so much better!).

DAY 13

Phone your partner at least twice during the day to chat.

DAY 14

Before you go to work, recall a special and sexy memory that you two share. For example: “Remember that time when we were in the Seychelles and we stayed in bed all day? The weather was exactly the same as today’s weather.”

DAY 15

As soon as you get home from work, turn off your phone and say: “Tonight I’m all yours.”

DAY 16

Send your partner a gift. It can be something small such as a box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine or a piece of lingerie.

DAY 17

Send your partner a sexy selfie. Be suggestive, but also subtle.

DAY 18

Tackle the chore or task that your partner keeps nagging you about. Whether it’s fixing the light in the bathroom or baking a cheesecake, do it.

DAY 19

Invite your partner to take a shower or bath with you today. Do you have to squeeze to fit in? Then at least it will make you laugh, and that’s also excellent foreplay!

DAY 20

Dress up for your partner, even if you don’t have any plans and are staying in. If your partner asks why you are all dressed up, say that you simply want to look good for him or her.

DAY 21

Sometimes the best foreplay is lending a helping hand. Does she hate cooking? Take care of dinner. Does he always forget to take out the trash? Do it for him.

DAY 22

What do you normally wear to bed? Stained pajamas? Wear something sexy and silky (or sleep naked!).

DAY 23

Leave a sexy note on the bathroom mirror before you leave for work.

DAY 24

Play! Get a pillow and start a pillow fight or a wrestling match. Pick your partner up and carry her to the bedroom. Excellent foreplay!

DAY 25

Everyone wants to feel like they are succeeding in something, so give your partner an “A+” today. Take a red pen or lipstick and a sheet of white paper and write: “A+ on your sharp sense of humour” or “A+ on being a great mom”.

DAY 26

Show the world that you are a tight-knit team. If you’re in the shops together, put your hand around your partner’s waist. Give him or her a big kiss in the grocery store.

DAY 27

Do you have a special song? Request the song and dedicate it to your partner on the radio station that he or she listens to.

DAY 28

Basic manners. When was the last time that you opened the car door for your partner? Or said thank you for something he or she did for you? If you start doing these little things again, you might be surprised at what a big difference it can make to your relationship and love life.

DAY 29

“Accidentally” slide up against your partner throughout the day. Rub your breasts against his back or slightly bump into him with your bum. Smile in a naughty and playful way.

DAY 30

Go to work or out to the shops without underwear today. Whisper to your partner that you’re not wearing any underwear and challenge him or her to do the same.

By now, you will know exactly which of these foreplay ideas work for you and your partner. Keep it up and enjoy a hotter marriage!

How to love someone unconditionally

How to love someone unconditionally

It’s quite common and easy to have conditions when loving someone. If your partner can make you feel sexy, cared for and supported, it’s easier to play up those sides of your personality so that they can benefit from it in return. But these conditions mean that you need to get something before you can give – and a Christian marriage needs to be based on unconditional love.

The writers of focusonthefamily.com say unconditional love is essential to a strong marriage, but it’s easier said than done. Conditional love wants to put the blame on someone, it expects something in return and it always wants more than what is being readily given.

Your partner has flaws (everyone does!) and if your love is conditional, you start seeing these flaws through a magnifying glass. You try to cultivate the behavior you want by making them feel inadequate when they act in a way that you don’t appreciate, or you “punish” them if they don’t self-correct their flaws.

What does this type of conditional love bring to a marriage? It makes both parties stubborn and hellbent on getting their way. It causes two adult partners to behave more like children, and it can make you yearn for something more than what you are experiencing in your marriage – for unconditional love and acceptance. It also builds resentment that it difficult to let go of.

Loving your partner unconditionally will give him a huge sense of security. He will know that your love isn’t dependent on how he behaves every moment of every day, and that your love for him is filled with grace, patience, respect and encouragement. Every person needs this.

When the concept of unconditional love gets complex

Nick and Lisa have been married for seven years. Lisa comes from a family where people love each other unconditionally and she believes that true love conquers all. The day she and Nick got married, she decided to love him unconditionally. But Lisa is far from happy.

Nick is emotionally and verbally abusive. He insults and attacks Lisa regularly, acts out, and even throws childish tantrums in front of their friends and family.

Even when Lisa is hurt and wants to retaliate, she suppresses her feelings and keeps quiet. She believes it’s her duty to love Nick unconditionally, to ignore his poor behavior and to forgive him every time he crosses the line. Is this the type of marriage that you should be striving for?

What’s not unconditional love?

On Goodmenproject.com, Thomas Fiffer says unconditional love isn’t something that you believe in – it is a choice that you should carefully consider in the context of marriage. If your partner is abusing your children or is cruel to you, it’s important to understand that it’s not your duty to accept this behavior in the name of unconditional love.

Unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional forgiveness either. It doesn’t mean that your partner can cheat on you repeatedly or say things that hurt your feelings, and that you just have to accept it.

“Unconditional love isn’t a type of love, it’s a way of loving. As you get older, you will realize that you are able to love your children unconditionally but simultaneously disapprove of what they are doing. Your child’s terrible behavior doesn’t mean that you are going to stop loving him, but that you have to behave in a different way to address a problem or situation when it arises.”

“Saying that you love your partner unconditionally, doesn’t mean that you love him with some type of mystical purity that spills over into all of your everyday interactions. It means that with every interaction you have with your partner, you are acting from a place of love,” explains Thomas. It’s a place of no judgement, where you don’t use your partner’s vulnerability against him.

There are obvious boundaries to unconditional love. A boundary is a healthy understanding of your own value. Unconditional love is a two-way street; it’s a mutual supportive dynamic that involves both parties.

So how do you show unconditional love?

  • Love your partner without any strings attached. This means that you forgive your partner for any transgressions (within reason), and that you are willing to apologize and ask for forgiveness if you were out of line.
  • Before you get married, you need to decide that divorce isn’t an option and that you will tackle all problems together.
  • Balance in a marriage is very important. Divide tasks and responsibilities equally, but don’t keep score of who is doing what. It s important to be able to make concessions for your partner.
  • Ask your partner what you can do for him every day. This will show your partner that you truly want to meet his needs.
  • Make God a part of your marriage. Protect yourself and your partner from unwanted elements in your marriage, and pray together so that you can be emotionally, physically and spiritually close to each other.
  • Enjoy every moment together – the good times and the bad times. The challenging times are the ones that bring a couple closer to each other, and it helps you to appreciate how special the good times are.
  • Don’t give up hope or get discouraged when things get difficult. You are both human beings with your own personalities, flaws and intentions. You don’t have to be blind to your partner’s flaws, but accept that this is the person who you love completely and unconditionally.

Additional sources: www.focusonthefamily.ca, The Great Marriage Q&A Book by Dr Gary and Barbara Roserg, www.thegoodmenproject.com, www.lifehack.org.

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