Why the decision to love no matter what is the biggest game-changer for your marriage.
Imagine that it’s Friday night, your spouse has been disengaged lately, for what seems like way too long. They are in a funk and you’re not sure how long this is going to last. It seems like they aren’t trying with you but clearly, something is wrong, but you don’t think it’s you. They sit on the lounge, on their phone. The TV is on but it’s muted. “You ok babe?”, you ask. “Yeah, just tired.” They seem down. Low. Maybe even depressed?
They aren’t responding to you as they normally would. You’re starting to get a red flag. You don’t feel like they are trying to connect. To engage with you. Something is up. And it could be one of many things. Or many of them.
What do you do if your spouse is in a funk? Or life keeps throwing you hard times? Maybe your spouse is disconnecting. Or you’re so damn tired from the past couple of crazy years and you feel like quitting out on your marriage because it’s getting so hard to carry. What is the BEST way to respond? What is the BEST thing we can do? (apart from getting some counselling)
Choosing to keep loving your spouse is one of the most powerful things you can do.
No matter what the season is or how connected you feel or even how loved you feel, when we keep choosing to love, things eventually begin to improve.
When I’m operating at my best as a husband I am loving towards my wife no matter what is happening. I’m serving her, affectionate and warm, engaging and moving towards her, sacrificial and kind. I’m listening well, I’m not distracted and I’m not rushing off all the time. I’m able to choose to love her regardless of what is going on.
When I’m not at my best as a husband I’m fixated too much on ME. On my needs, my love tank, how my day was, what I want to do, how tired I am and whether or not I’d like to game or watch Ted Lasso that night.
Right now, it’s the lead up to Christmas after Lockdown #2 here in NSW, Australia and we are SO ready for our family holiday in January. But first, we have to get through the next few weeks and it’s a big juggle when work has been relentless for 11 months and the batteries have been low for too long.
So, what’s my personal solution? Try and keep engaging my love. Keep switching on my love towards my wife no matter how I feel.
Easy to say, not easy to keep doing.
Making the decision to engage your love time and time again is such a powerful decision. Possibly the most powerful decision in your marriage. Why?
1. You Always Have the Power to Choose
Ready for a simple quote that will blow your mind?
Choose your love. Love your choice.
– Thomas S Monson
This quote is SO powerful yet so simple. And, to be honest, really hard sometimes!
Choose your love. Choose the one you will love. Once you’ve chosen then the choice is simple. LOVE your choice. LOVE the person you chose. I can’t tell you how often this quote has helped bring me back to what I should be doing. That and my faith of course.
You always have the power to choose what you will do. This is humbling because often we act like our spouse holds that power. But the truth is, I can choose to love my wife even if I don’t feel loved. I can choose to be kind and warm and affectionate even when I don’t want to. Such is the power of choice. You don’t need to live by the pure reaction to how your spouse is treating you. You get to choose to be generous with your love even when they are being a jerk. (Disclaimer: abuse is never ok. Seek help immediately if your spouse is being abusive)
Strangely, this also helps to bring your spouse back to you emotionally too. Unconditional love is such a powerful force. When you continue to engage your love regardless of what they are doing, how they are acting or responding or reacting, you are helping to restore connection, reaffirm safety and security. This allows your spouse to move through whatever they’re going through emotionally or mentally too. More on that in a minute.
What if your feelings are faded or gone? Does that mean your time is up? End of relationship, game over? No. No. Never. It means you need to step into a different form of love until the feelings return. And they will. Love isn’t just an emotion. It’s also a verb. It’s action. It’s doing and saying things that are kind, affectionate, warm and sacrificial. A feelings only marriage will be a rollercoaster. But a marriage secured by commitment (remember your vows?) and loving action is secure and stable.
One of my favourite quotes is “I’ve fallen in love many times… always with you.” Feelings come and go. But choosing to love your spouse when the feelings aren’t strong (or even existent!) will bring them back. Did I mention it’s easier said than done? Yep, there’s that again.
Secondly, choosing to love,
2. Secures Your Relationship in a Trial
What happens when your spouse gets sick or injured playing sport and can’t help around the house for a month? Or if they lose a loved one? Or a job? Or maybe they are struggling with their mental health? Do you simply stop loving them? Of course not. It might be harder or more complex for a while, sure. In times like these, we need to be creative and even MORE engaged with our love towards our spouse.
When you’re going through a hard time choosing to love gives your spouse permission to breathe. Permission to heal. Permission to not be ok. Permission to find the help they need to get back on their feet.
Refusing to give this permission is dangerous for your marriage. Why? Because our expectations of each other need to adjust according to the situation. I can’t expect my wife to do her old level of housework when she’s working an extra 20 hours per week. Or expect normal levels of lovemaking when she’s sick.
Our expectations of each other need to adjust according to the situation. So we need to keep choosing to love when our spouse is traversing something difficult too. That gives them permission to grow, be healed, work it out, seek help, be restored in the meantime.
Moving towards your spouse emotionally and offering them extra support physically secures your relationship during these hard times. The extra work is worth the effort. And your spouse will appreciate your extra support.
Thirdly, choosing to love no matter what is powerful because,
3. It Grows Us and Matures Us
Doing what we said we would do when we don’t want to is hard. It’s also very powerful. It helps us live beyond pure emotion and enter the space of creating what we truly want from life. A close and wonderful marriage for example.
As a guy who is highly feelings oriented, this is super difficult for me at times. I want to focus on myself, on how I’m feeling and what I’m not receiving. But focusing just on ourselves is immature and doesn’t lead to relationship success or fulfilment.
When I choose to engage my love for Beck (say, doing the washing up AND cooking dinner because I can see she’s exhausted) even if I don’t want to and especially if I’m not feeling loved I grow up a little. I step into a new space where I’m not governed by emotion but have decided on who I’m going to be no matter what.
And I’ve decided that I want to be loving and caring regardless of how I feel. Because love isn’t just an emotion remember?
One thing that helps me is engaging my compassion for my wife. When she’s struggling with life or had a super rough day or running on empty, if I engage my care for her, my capacity to love grows! I find it crazy that a simple shift in my focus from me to her reengages my love and helps me support her properly.
Even just shifting your focus off yourself and to your spouse is a step of maturity. The more we make these growing-up choices the stronger we become as a support to our spouse and the stronger our relationship is.
Keep going! Keep choosing love. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when your spouse is struggling. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re not receiving all you need. Engage compassion. Be caring. Be their support. You’ll grow up and your marriage will grow and strengthen as a result. And any faded feelings will begin to return.