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Friday, October 26, 2012

In my last post, Do You Assume Love, I challenged you to have full confidence in your wife’s or husband’s love for you. When faced with your spouse’s disappointing or hurtful behavior, rather than responding with insecurity or offense, simply assume love.

I received some thoughtful comments on the post that prompted me to write this follow-up.

An Important Distinction

When your husband or wife does something that to you that feels “unloving,” it does not necessarily mean that you are “unloved” by him or her. That’s a critical distinction.

In fact, in any marriage that has at least a nominal amount of good will between spouses, the chances are that they do in fact love each other. Love is a reasonable assumption.

But assuming love does not mean that you assume everything your spouse does is motivated by love. Some of the things they do will be motivated by selfishness, pride, ignorance, anger, jealousy or a whole host of other negative things. However, there is a difference between being subjected to unloving behavior and being unloved. Unfortunately it is easy, even tempting, to confuse the two.

Don’t Fake It

At the end of my last post I meant to point you to the Assume Love blog, written by Patty Newbold. There is lots of great stuff there about this topic, obviously, given the name of her blog. One post in particular, Don’t Pretend Love, points out another important distinction. She explains that assuming love is not the same as simply pretending love. The difference, she explains, lies in what you really believe.

Assuming love means believing that your spouse’s heart is good; flawed, weak and immature maybe, but ultimately good. Pretending love means faking it, even though you don’t really believe it.

Pretending love doesn’t really help. The fruit of it isn’t going to be much better than just being offended or insecure.

Believe Love

Assuming love, even when your spouse does something that hurts you, does not mean you don’t have valid feeling in response. Hurtful behavior hurts. The question is, then, what you choose to do with those feelings.

Assuming love means acknowledging but not yielding to your emotions. That’s not easy, especially if the hurt is deep. Still, if can truly believe that your husband or wife loves you, if you can really know it in the depths of your soul, it can help you not let emotions get the better of you. These emotions often will feed us lies. “If he can do ___, then he doesn’t love me.” “She must not love me or she would have ___ “If he loved me he would never ___”  “If she loved me she would ___” 

Don’t buy the lies. Don’t give them voice. Don’t give over your thought life to them. Instead feed yourself on truth. Realize that unloving behavior does not equate to him or her not loving you. Assume love. Believe love.

If you can get a hold of your emotions and choose to believe love, then you can proceed with fruitful conversation from a very different place.  “I know you love me, so you would want to know that what you did really caused me pain.”  “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, but when you do _____, it’s really hard for me.” Don’t accuse. Don’t blame.Calmly beckon forth the love you know is inside your spouse.

Your goal is not to be right, but to preserve (and restore if necessary) the relationship - to have intimacy. Ask yourself this question, “What can I do to help keep us close through this?”

Assuming love is not living in some phony fantasy land or stuffing down very real pain. No, assuming love is about believing in and calling forth the love you know that lies inside your husband or wife. 

Photo Credit: Julie Raven

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I say it here a lot, because I believe it is really important: how you think about your marriage is almost more important than what you do about it.

Now don’t misconstrue that statement as an excuse for neglecting your marriage. Of course I believe you should invest in your marriage and that you should put effort into making your marriage great.

But if you can learn to picture your marriage through the right lens, with the proper perspective, it can’t help but show up in your actions. I sum it up this way: right thinking leads to right doing.

One of the most important marriage lenses is the lens of love.

The Lens of Love

In my walk with God I continually find that I have a limited understanding of the depth, intensity, and constancy of His love for me. This limitation in my thinking causes me to constantly slip back into trying to earn God’s love and to win his approval. I’m working hard to get something I already have! At other times my limited knowledge of the love of God causes me to be offended in the face of difficulty. When things don’t go how I want them to, I begin to doubt His goodness and doubt His good intentions toward me.

We can tend to do the exact same thing in our marriages. Because of our doubts and insecurities about the love of our husband or wife, we either struggle to earn their love or we get offended by their perceived lack of love. Both of these cause tremendous negative fruit your marriage.

How different would your marriage be if you were totally assured of your spouse’s love? What if you could assume that love was at the center of everything he or she did, despite how it appeared? How would that kind of security change the way you interact with your husband or wife?

When Love Disappoints

Of course neither you nor your spouse will come close to matching the matchless and perfect love that Christ lavishes on us. Sure that is our goal, but we are human after all. What do you do when love falls short, when your spouse’s love isn’t as unconditional or selfless as you wish it were?

At the point where love disappoints, you have three choices:
  1. Become insecure, and work ever harder to earn their love, hoping that it will also earn their better behavior.
  2. Become offended, which typically causes you to pull away or get angry.
  3. Assume love. When you chose to believe that your husband or wife loves you, despite how it appears on the outside, you can move past the offense more easily and maintain your intimate connection.

Assuming love isn’t easy in the face of disappointment, but it is by far the best alternative.

Do you have an example from your marriage where assuming love made a difference?

See my follow-up post: Unloving or Unloved


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