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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



Sojourner said...

This is brilliant.
If you have not read it, I recommend "The Art of Possibility" by Ben and Rose Zander... I think you'll see why your post reminded me of this book.

Scott said...

Thanks, Sojourner! I'll definitely need to check that out. Thanks for passing it on.

Patty Newbold said...

Scott, I always assume love. Then I try again to explain what happened, because our beliefs about why something happened dictate our emotions. Once I see how love can explain what happened at least as well as the bad intentions I thought were there, I feel love instead of insecurity or offense.

My best example was a woman who noticed someone in her household had bought pay-per-view porn movies. She accused her teen son, but he pointed out he had been on a trip with her when the most recent one was watched. She accused her husband of 20+ years, and he replied, "My doctor prescribed them." She flipped out, adding lying to his porn watching. He stopped talking to her.

Then she tried assuming love. She could not imagine any way to see this as loving, so I asked when it started and what else was going on then. I forget now if it was a vasectomy or prostate surgery, but suddenly the comment about the doctor made sense. And so did the dates, all of which were days she was due home from a trip, making it quite clear who he was getting himself ready for.

He was working hard at loving her, which also made it pretty obvious why he was so angered by her accusations. By assuming love, she felt love--more love, she said, than she had felt in years.

Thanks for the post, Scott, and thanks for the book recommendation, Sojourner. I will check it out, too.

Cherise St. Claire said...

Great words. Powerful blog!

Anonymous said...

Assuming love is always the best choice for the obvious reason that it's what God does with us and what He commands us to do. But another reason is that assuming the opposite of love just isn't healthy for us and is a huge waste of time and effort spent on things you just have no control over. In our war against Satan - it's just not a beneficial strategic move.

Anonymous said...

I've blown off these Assume Love posts and the Assume Love blog itself for a while. I didn't know why, but now I do. I worry. I worry that everything my husband does is out of selfishness and some perversion. For example, he came home from a movie that he didn't know had full frontal female nudity in it. I knew because I looked up the parent review after he left. I immediately went to a dark place of anger because he had recently looked at porn and stopped having sex with me. Both were recently resolved, though, but the hurt was still there. I decided that for once in our marriage, if he came home horny I was going to give him the cold shoulder because I wanted to assume that he was turned on by the naked actress and just using me to finish the job. Well, sure enough, hubby came home and tackled me. But, it was different. It wasn't his usual wham bam thank you ma'am. It was very generous and ah-may-ZING!!! I almost gave it up with a cold shoulder!! As I look back and assume love, I see that he was thanking me for graciously giving him a night out with the boys when he knew it was a sacrifice for me. The next day he sheepishly told me that there was nudity in the movie, and this time I was able to assume love and inwardly rejoiced that he was honest about it because he usually isn't about stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

As I read this comment, I wondered, what in the world is loving about sin, especially visual adultery (Matthew 5:28)?! Even as you explained how the wife assumed love, I thought how bogus is that! The hubby should have had the cahoonies to stand against sin and not take the doctor's script as a free pass. He obviously knew it was wrong because he hid it from his wife!

But, then I applied it to my own life. Soon after I gave birth, hubby started dabbling in a little porn. Thankfully, nothing too appalling, but enough to make the discovery very upsetting especially since I had just given birth and my body was still stretched and temporarily altered. We also had to deal with bed and pelvic rest beforehand and the usual post partum healing afterwards. I offered my services in other ways, though, so it hurt that in doing my best, he started looking for the worst. As I prayed for understanding, I can look back and assume love.

He missed me. He was also worried and felt out of control. He also greatly tempered his usage and quit on his own accord. He doesn't know that I know.

Assuming love doesn't excuse the sin. I cried to.a trusted friend once that I felt like hubby didn't love me. She assured me that he does, but only as much as he knows how. It gave me a new perspective on hubby.....and a new prayer...that he would grow to be able to love God enough that he can then be free to love me as Christ loves the church.

Yes, sometimes his actions have sin or selfishness attached to them, but he still loves me the best he can right now.

Scott said...

Sincere thanks to everyone for your great comments. I've got a followup post in the works in response to some of what has been shared here.

Meanwhile, Paul @ TheGenerousHusband also has a good followup post to this one. One of the things that struck me was "Human nature is to live up to or down to expectations. Given this, love is a great expectation to offer." Check out his full post here: Assume Love

Anonymous said...

· 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.

If your definition of “assume” is:

to take as granted or true: SUPPOSE

(Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary© 1975)

then in my jadedness, I can’t quite get there…

only God can really deserve this assumption!

(He alone is worthy of that kind of trust.)

I can believe that my husband “means” well – that’s the closest I can get.

The reality is that my husband is only human -

he lets me down, he disappoints me, he fails to meet my legitimate needs.

So then, to “assume love” –to take as true –

in the face of that, would be to deny real pain - to call bad, “good”.

Thus I might get stuck at your point 2:

· Become offended, which typically causes you to pull away or get angry.


If I shine a different light on the definition of “assume”:

to take over (the debts of another) as one’s own

(Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary© 1975)

and if I choose to forgive my husband – whether he asks for it or not –

then, I can truly “assume love” -

take into partnership…

to take to or upon oneself

(Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary© 1975)

and I can choose to love my husband.

Only semantics? Perhaps.

But it matters to the heart of this woman.

The first definition is the offer of a fairy tale.

The latter definitions are a hard fought, hard won grasp on a loving reality.

Patty Newbold said...

Sojourner, many thanks for the book recommendation. I love it!

J said...

The biggest issue I've seen in my own marriage with this is we have mistakenly believed something malicious about the other spouse because in our own family of origin such behavior would have qualified as unloving. Here's a quick example: Sickness. Let's say one spouse grew up in a family where being sick meant getting doted upon, while the other spouse's family thought the loving action was to leave the sick person alone until they are well. Now you're married, and what do you think happens? That doted-on person feels rejected when their spouse stays away, and that left-alone person is annoyed when their spouse keeps bugging them.

When I finally got to the point of "assuming love" in my husband's actions, I often found out that he was treating me the way he would want to be treated. I needed to ask more questions about what he was doing, state my needs and desires more clearly, and give the benefit of the doubt.

Great advice!

Tony DiLorenzo | ONE Extraordinary Marriage said...

Assuming love in my opinion comes down to our out look on life as a whole. If we see the world as a bad place where someone or something is always out there trying to get you then this is your reality.

Unfortunately, this view of the world is going to be brought into your marriage. Can you change? Sure thing. Over the years, Alisa, my beautiful wife and I have worked on training our brains to assume love.

Like anything in marriage this takes time and work. If you are willing to make changes that will better yourself and your marriage it is so worth it. The thing is that you have to stick to learning and growing so that you will assume love.

Scott said...

Tony - thanks for your comment. You are right about how our general world view affects our marriage outlook. I have found that assuming love becomes a habit once you start shifting your mindset.

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