Today, contributing writer Anna Eastland is sharing what she learned in a late-night chat with her husband about loving your spouse unconditionally.
No matter how well you know your spouse, every now and then you learn something new, like a new skylight opened and illumined a corner of their soul you hadn’t seen before. You have one of those unexpected midnight conversations where you are allowed to enter an unexplored recess of their heart. How do you respond to this intimate revelation? With love.
I had a conversation like this with my husband recently, and it made me realize again how important it is for me to love him exactly as he is, fully and unconditionally.
With what delicacy and attention we listen to those first confessions of the person we are dating… so eager to draw closer to them, to know how they feel about everything, to share in it. Yet how easy is it to fall into an insensitive familiarity with our spouse as the years go by—not realizing when they need our full attention and support, missing chances to encourage them when they are feeling worn out or insecure.
As I pondered all this, I realized how few opportunities many working husbands and fathers have for this kind of self-revelation and acceptance. So many hours of each day are spent in professional situations where towing the company line and promoting an acceptable company image is paramount, and there is little room for authentic self-revelation or individuality. It can be stifling to feel trapped in a suit 24/7.
This is why I think it’s important for us to pay attention when our husbands need to talk about something important, and by that I don’t just mean the mortgage or new career opportunities, but whatever is important to them. So whether it’s football or philosophy, or their insecurities and loneliness, try to be attentive and responsive, remembering that this bedtime chat with you may be one of their few chances in the day to just be themselves, and be loved for it. To take off the suit and tie, or the hard hat and gloves, and just really be themselves, the way we often get to be over coffee with our fellow moms or close female friends.
We all want this kind of unconditional love. Who wants to be loved like a project? Something to be fixed up and improved upon: “If only you were more….” Who wants to be loved as a product, to be kept merely as long as we afford sufficient pleasure? “I am no longer satisfied with my iWife 1; it’s time to upgrade.” No! All of us want to be loved as a person—fully—and in the mystery of all that we are, and all that we are becoming.
Love your spouse in this way, as a person, remembering that each person is a universe unto themselves. Pay attention when they have something to share. Build them up when they are insecure. Show them you love them exactly as they are, with all their particular imperfections and dreams, and give them in this way a safe place to truly be themselves.
By continuing to embrace the person you fell in love with, you will keep your marriage strong and your love young. I know; my husband and I just had our 10 year wedding anniversary, and we’re still often up late chatting! Who said sleepovers were for sleeping anyway!
Anna Eastland is the mother of six children (with one in heaven). She blogs at Just East of Crazyland about mothering, homeschooling and infant loss. She also wrote the title essay and several poems for the anthology Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood.