I’m well-versed in the 5 Love Languages and I do appreciate them for their practical application of showing love to one another. But as my heart longed for a deeper understanding of how I can know my husband loves me, I wanted something that went beyond what showing love looked like to knowing what love actually is.
Now… to be fair, I can clearly see where my husband might question how he can know I love him. For the sake of honest reflection, we must turn the tables and hold the candle up to our mirror as well. And honestly, we should draw that circle around ourselves first.
(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 breathing 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 things aside until you’re strong enough. You need to love yourself well and rest in the love of Jesus knowing He 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 still am there. See my recommended resource below. When you’re ready for it, it’s a small yet informative book about forgiveness that sits light on the heart.)
As we dive into what love is, we have to acknowledge WHO love is. God is love and He created us to be loved by Him. Then, in his goodness and grace, He gave us the love that is to be shared in marriage. He knew we would need someone to share our lives with in an intimate and physical way.
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, is the true question and can best be found in the scripture and it provides a solid image for us to light the path.
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.
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 offer 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)
Vulnerable–Do we freely and honestly share with each other our minds, bodies, and souls?
Expectant– Do we see potential in our marriage?
Determined– Are we persistently and consistently present and available to each other?
Faithful– Are we completely committed to our marriage for the long haul?
“Love never fails.”
Granted this litmus test is a tall order for any fallible human, but it can be a valuable mirror to hold our fears up to – filtered through grace, of course. Perfect love casts out fear; and that is the ultimate, yet humanly unreachable destination.
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, where dreams are respected and, even in the face of storms to come, hearts feel safe because they are together.
We were created to be loved and to love. Let’s love well. Because 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
Andrea Stunz has been a Christ-follower from the age of seven. She is the loyal wife to one, loving mom to three amazing adult children, grateful mother-in-law and ridiculously proud grandmother. A well-traveled Texan, having lived in Brazil, Asia, and the UK, Andrea finds joy in her family, grace in her friends, beauty in a story, purpose in the sunrise, wonder in her travels, and hope in Colossians 1:17. Andrea longs to encourage others by sharing stories because “a story worth living is a story worth sharing”. Find more from her at AndreaStunz.com.