My husband and I had been married less than a year. If someone had painted our emotional landscape as we stood face-to-face in the dining room, it would have been red like lava.
I don't recall what triggered our disagreement - over 22 years ago.(*)
But I do remember how I felt when he looked and spoke to me in a tone equivalent to eyes rolled back in irritation and judgment.
(Thankfully, this was a rare event.)
Photo via Creative Commons: David Cooper
Maybe I was oversensitive, but I believe maintaining respect in a relationship is crucial for a marriage's long-term health.
Disrespect in small ways eventually mushrooms into disrespect in large ways and erosion of a relationship.
It is easier to pull out one weed than to let it sow seed and destroy a garden.
Before I could silence myself, I told him, in a voice steadier than I felt: I didn't appreciate what he said and besides, I perform some tasks better than him but I don't speak to him that way.
Surprise registered in his eyes and he quickly apologized. Now I was surprised.
Love isn't too proud to say "I'm sorry."
Our exchange taught me I could disagree, speak up for myself and he wouldn't become manic-defensive. He could handle my feelings when I calmly spoke truth.
When we dated, we had disagreements, but this was the first time we disagreed in this way.
(We're not the only ones who go through a, shall we say, transition, between dating and married life. Right?)
He loved me enough to care how I felt.
He didn't tell me I was too sensitive. And he didn't justify his behavior.
Unconditional love accepts its beloved's feelings and tries to understand.
My husband put skin on God's desire to know all of me - even the angry and petty parts.
My husband's love enabled me to risk honesty with God and discover His unconditional love and acceptance in deepening ways.
I can trust God's intentions toward me are good.
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?- Romans 8:31-32 (MSG)
Likewise, I trust my husband's heart toward me is good because he has shown me again and again by his actions.
Unconditional love wants what is best for its beloved. Unconditional love sacrifices.
Over the years I have seen my husband sacrifice time and energy to listen to me process events. I am an external processor.
He is a tunnel thinker so I wait for him to internally process before he replies.
And I'm learning how loving my husband means loving him in his love language, even if isn't mine. I stretch to do what doesn't come naturally to me so my husband feels loved. And likewise he for me.
(We don't have a perfect marriage. And we fail each other enough so we practice forgiveness and grace.)
Unconditional love never stops studying one's beloved so one can become an expert on one's beloved.
I'm still learning what unconditional love looks like. I tear down misconceptions as they become visible to me.
Outside of God, my husband has shown me the closest thing to unconditional love by his faithful devotion to me through infertility, joblessness, postpartum depression, PTSD, bad hair days and morning dragon breath.
And his unfettered delight whenever I succeed.
Unconditional love weeps with you when you weep, and unconditional love rejoices with you when you rejoice.
Twenty-two years later, we try to tend daily the flower of our marriage in love's garden. We pull weeds. We water.
And we try to daily drink of the Living Water and root in the soil of God's love.
Left to ourselves, our love will wilt.
But when we connect with God, the source of unconditional love, we bloom.
Soul Stops Moment:
Who or what comes to mind when you hear "unconditional love"?
How have you experienced God's unconditional love?
The talented and kind Emily Wierenga wrote a beautiful memoir, Atlas Girl, about love, loss and learning that spans continents. All proceeds from the sale of her book will benefit the Ugandan women and children helped by The Lulu Tree.
Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. They say the book is like “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I say the book is inspiring. You can grab a copy here.
P.S. I am almost done reading Atlas Girl and I love it.
* As a fact-check, I ran this post by my husband and he agreed.
Subscribers, to watch a trailer for The Atlas Girl, link here.
Also linking with gracious Kelli of Unforced Rythms