This week, we are talking about unconditional love. On Monday, Teri talked about what unconditional love really is. Today, we will discuss whether or not you are loving unconditionally in your marriage. To determine whether or not you are loving unconditionally, there are several questions you can ask yourself. It's important to be able to step back and truly try to evaluate how you love, in order to figure this out. Answer these questions as honestly as you can:
Do I determine how I treat other people based on their behavior towards me? If you are reacting to others by basing your treatment of them on how they behave towards you, then you are loving conditionally. This does not mean that we shouldn't set boundaries to protect ourselves when warranted, it just means that unconditional love is not dependent on others behaviors.
Does my partner's performance determine the degree of how much love I give him/her? Again, when we are reacting to another person, we aren't free to love them fully and unconditionally. Remember that it starts with you and your behaviors to your spouse.
Do I think that love should be shown only as a reward for good behavior? Unconditional love isn't about a "reward". It's about meeting your spouse where they are at, and loving them fully, regardless of what they do for you (or don't do).
Do I feel that my partner has to change before I can love him or her more? (See above)
Do I think that I can improve my partner's behavior by withholding love? This is one that we see quite frequently in marriage counseling. The concept of stonewalling means that when you are disappointed or otherwise upset by your partner, you withhold conversation, communication, affection or attention... like a "stone wall". This is a passive-aggressive attempt at trying to get your partner to understand you are hurting by withholding, as well as a passive-aggressive attempt to control your partner's behavior. This rarely (if ever) works, and can be very damaging to the relationship. It's also the opposite of unconditional love.
Am I reacting to other people most of the time? As stated earlier, when we react to others, we aren't free to love them unconditionally. Their behaviors are controlling how we feel, and we are allowing it.
Did you recognize any areas this week where you can practice unconditional love? If so, how do you think that could possibly change your marriage? Remember, don't wait for your partner to change.... Change can start with you!
Source: Love Life for Every Married Couple by Ed Wheat & Gloria Okes Perkins
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.