A quick note up front. I (Josh) love talking about how to create and sustain healthy marriages. If you are a pastor or lay leader at your church, I have some open speaking dates this Spring and Summer. If you’re looking for a communicator to lead a marriage talk, a one-day event, or a weekend retreat, contact me here and we can discuss the details. Okay, on to today’s post written by … me.
My wife and I have two boys, a 4 and a 2 year old, and for some weird reason they are hyper-passionate, hyper-energetic, hyper-emotional, and just generally hyper. I have no idea who they got those traits from, as I am … pretty much all those things.
Our kids are as good of friends as a 4 and 2 year old can be, which is to say they alternate between playing, laughing, hugging, and screaming in rage, and that’s just the last 30 seconds. This morning I got a text from Christina telling me that our 2 year old hit our 4 year old, causing the 4 year old to turn to Christina and say “well I guess Ben isn’t part of the family anymore!” Christina, of course, explained to our 4 year old that isn’t how family works, that we are committed to each other no matter what. One of the things I tell our boys regularly is that there is nothing they can do that will make me stop loving them. Nothing nothing nothing. I want that sense of unconditional love, of security and permanence, poured deep into their hearts, laying a foundation of security and safety they can build a life on. Apparently it’s time for me to explain that’s how our entire family treats each other.
But it got me thinking, how often do we communicate this same unconditional love to our spouses? Maybe you’re in a marriage where it’s a given that divorce isn’t on the table – that you are committed to each other for life. Maybe you or your spouse came from broken families, and divorce feels like an unwanted specter, haunting your marriage. Maybe, in moments of anger, you or your spouse have said things that communicated a lack of permanency and commitment to your marriage. Or maybe the whole concept of divorce is simply something you’ve never talked about. No matter where you fall in these examples – and no matter how long you’ve been married – your spouse still needs to hear these words: “I’m with you, no matter what.”*
* An important aside: I’m not talking about abusive relationships here. If you are being abused by your spouse you should separate immediately and seek help. You can read more about that here.
We live in a world that treats love like an exhaustible resource to be hoarded, guarded, and doled out in carefully measured increments. We have been taught by friends, former lovers, teachers, bosses, and often tragically our parents that love is conditional – that we will be loved as long as we are lovable. That we will be accepted as long as we are acceptable. Planted deep in our hearts at an early age is the fear that we will do something that will make others stop loving us. That if someone saw the real us they would run away, revulsed.
Freedom from this belief starts with us understanding the good news of Jesus, that through him we have been made good enough, lovable, redeemed, precious, and that we can stand before God without any shame or fear. God wants to calm the terrified kid inside of us who is convinced she will be abandoned. Marriage then is at its best when two people are learning to receive this unconditional love from God, and share it with each other. God has created us to need other people, and marriage is at its best when we see a glimpse of the unconditional love of God reflected in our spouse’s eyes.
Which is all to say this: when is the last time you’ve told your husband or wife that you are with them, no matter what? Have you told them today that you want to grow old together? Have you reminded them you think they are beautiful, handsome, talented, gifted, lovable and that you’re so glad you get to do life with them? If you told them the good news of your unconditional love for them?
Maybe you assume your spouse knows this. Maybe you grew up in a household that never said these words, and you saying them feels scary. Maybe you and your spouse have been fighting lately, and saying this feels like letting go of your right to “win” the argument. Or maybe, if you’re honest, your marriage has been letting divorce dance on the edges of your day to day life, but you want to resolve right now to kick it out.
So tell your spouse you love them today. Communicate it through a gift, an act of service, physical touch, an encouraging word, or by just spending time. Write them a note. Send them a text. But don’t let today go by without you letting your spouse no this: “I’m in this with you, no matter what. I’ll always have your back. We’re in this together.”
Because we can never hear about our spouse’s unconditional love enough.