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.