Martin Luther once said, “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”
Wow! What if every relationship had this as its norm! This quote highlights a key characteristic that is found in most healthy relationships. This characteristic is so important, that not having it is usually the starting point for resentment, frustration, and can even lead to divorce.
The characteristic that must be the focus of each person in the relationship is focusing on answering this one question: “What can I give the person I love?” Rather than, “What am I getting from the person I love?”
When people are focused on what they are getting in the relationship rather than what they can give, things become transactional. “I will do this IF you do this”, “You didn’t do this, so I’m not doing this.” When relationships develop a culture of being transactional, and people only do things when the other person makes them happy, it can quickly turn into manipulation, rather than a relationship of unconditional love.
1 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us that love “doesn’t seek her own, is not easily provoked, and thinks no evil” towards the other person. By focusing solely on what I can give the person I love, rather than focusing on what I am getting from that person, I put myself in position to no longer need their actions, or words to initiate my love towards them.
This is much easier said than done. But it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It requires focus and intentionality.
Here are 3 keys to help you stay in the giving mindset in your relationship:
Key #1 – “Remind yourself of how much they mean to you.”
In life we can tend to forget how much people really mean to us. We can tend to allow our familiarity with the person to cloud our ability to remember just how much of a vital role they play in our lives. Taking a moment to remember how much someone means to you allows you to pause, take a step back, and remember the love you have. And why you decided to start a relationship with them in the first place! It shouldn’t take long to remember just how special they are to you. This is where you find the love, passion, and fuel to be creative in finding ways to love.
Key #2 – “What can happen when I love them unconditionally?”
The reason why most people fail to love unconditionally is because of a fear of rejection. The thought of “What will happen if I love them, and they don’t love me in return?” “What if I give them what they need, and they never give me what I need?” See, those are fear-based positions thinking of only the negative of the person, and of only a negative outcome.
Now take a minute to reverse that. Scripture also says “Love NEVER fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:8). What would happen to the culture of your relationship if you set the tone and showered your spouse with love? How would that make them feel? Don’t you think that when someone knows that they are being loved unconditionally, and without a hidden agenda that they will respond? When you give someone a love that says, “I am for you, and I will always be here for you.” They will naturally want to reciprocate that love.
If they are struggling with reciprocation, then you may need to be mindful of this last key.
Key #3 – “What needs do they have that I need to be mindful and supportive of?”
Everyone has a story. Some of our stories are wonderful, while many of us have experienced tremendous adversity and challenges. Knowing the story of the one you love will help you understand their capacity to receive and reciprocate love. If a person has a past that includes abandonment, rejection, or abuse, it may be more of a challenge to get them to a place of health to trust the intent of your love for them because they are processing your love through the lens of their past experience.
This is something we all do. If we have been hurt in the past, we tend to put safeguards up to ensure we never experience that pain again. Taking the time to understand the past of your spouse will let you know that you will also need to be patient in this process to allow them to be healed from past wounds. Your consistent, unconditional love will be the very thing they need to heal from the adversity from their past!