My husband and I have attended countless marriage conferences and retreats. We have participated in, led, and even preached a slew of marriage studies and sermons over the years. I am also well-versed in the 5 Love Languages and I do appreciate them for their practical application of showing love to one another. I tell you all of this not to boast but to explain that while those were all good things, they weren’t enough. But when the bottom dropped out of my 30-year marriage and everything was measured with distrust, my heart longed for a deeper understanding of how I might know my husband loves me. I was reaching for a handle that could help me distinguish between the expression of love and what love actually is.
I initially titled this post, “How Can I Know My Husband Loves Me?”, because that was the question I wanted the answer to. But to be fair, I considered that my husband might also question how he can know I love him. So, in humility and honesty, I must turn the mirror around and hold the candle up to my own reflection as well.
(I envision you, the reader, in one of two camps. You may be simply looking to make your good marriage better and that’s awesome, but some of you are barely catching air above the water line because love has been shattered and is legitimately in question. If you’ve been betrayed by your spouse, please care for your heart well as you read, and know it’s okay to set it aside until you’re strong enough. You need to love yourself well and rest in knowing that Jesus is all of the things on the list below. Maybe the question for you is how can I know Jesus loves me? When love has been betrayed, emotions are tender and the sacredness of love is scrutinized – especially the forgiving part. I know because I’ve been there. I hope you’ll check out my recommended resource below. When you’re ready for it, it’s a small yet informative book about forgiveness that lands soft on the heart.)
As we dive into WHAT love is, we must first acknowledge WHO love is. God is love and He created us to be loved by Him and for us to love Him back. Then, to sweeten the deal and in his goodness and grace, He gave us a different type of love that is to be intimately shared in marriage. He created the love between husband and wife so that when lived out scripturally, it would demonstrate the love He has for His Bride, The Church.
Love is intended to be non-possessive. God exemplified this by giving us free will.
Love is intended to foster growth. God exemplified this by giving us different personalities.
Love is intended for mutuality, not autonomy. God exemplified this in the Holy Trinity.
Love is intended to be unconditional. God exemplified this by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.
What love feels and looks like will play out differently in every relationship. But an understanding of what true and sacred love IS can be found in the scripture.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
Paul’s description of love in the passage above provides a litmus test, if you will, to help us know what love is and how it can be shown to others.
I can know my spouse loves me (and he/she can know I love them) if we are:
Understanding – Do we bear with each other’s shortcomings? “Love is patient.”
Empathetic – Do we acknowledge each other’s fears and feel their hurts? “Love is kind.”
Confident – Do we allow each other to be secure in their identity? “Love does not envy.”
Humble – Do we acknowledge each other’s value and worth? “Love does not boast.”
Grateful – Do we notice the good qualities our spouse brings to the table? “Love is not proud.”
Respectful – Do we honor our spouse’s unique qualities and personality? “Love does not dishonor.”
Generous – Do we show interest in each other’s passions, thoughts, feelings, dreams, and daily events? “Love is not self-seeking.”
Gentle – Do we provide a soft place to land for our spouse? “Love is not angered.”
Forgiving – Do we extend grace to each other’s imperfections? “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
Trustworthy – Do our words and actions consistently sync up? “Love rejects evil and rejoices in truth.”
Supportive – Will we hold each other’s arms up in the battle? (Exodus 17:12 NIV) “Love protects.”
Vulnerable – Do we freely and honestly share with each other our minds, bodies, and souls? “Love trusts.”
Watchful – Can we envision potential for our marriage? “Love hopes.”
Determined – Are we persistently and consistently present and available to each other? “Love perseveres.”
Faithful – Are we completely committed to our marriage for the long haul? “Love never fails.”
Granted this biblical litmus test is a tall order for us fallible humans, but filtered through a lens of grace, it can be an invaluable tool that shines light on our shadows. Perfect love casts out fear; that is the ultimate goal, albeit a humanly unreachable one.
Under the umbrella of grace, married love is intended to be a partnership where both spouses feel cared for and secure in each other’s committed embrace, where faithfulness is wholeheartedly valued, individuality is respected, where dreams are supported and, even in the face of storms, hearts feel safe together.
We were created to be loved and to love. Let’s love others well and give ourselves permission to be loved well. When it’s all said and done, everything will perish – everything except for love.
*If pain runs deep for you in this area, please love yourself well and seek trusted and wise counsel as you process. We aren’t meant to walk this path alone.
Forgiving What You’ll Never Forget, Dr. David Stoop
This post, by Andrea Stunz, has been updated from its original version which appeared on TheCourage.com.