When we think about marital love, we think about commitment and wanting that union to go the distance. We want to think and believe that our love when we’re married will never fade or go away. With a divorce rate at 50% or more in our current culture, we know that the union between spouses can be taxed or even break apart. So what should we believe about marital love? Should it be conditional, or should it be unconditional?
Most people will stand behind one answer or the other pretty quickly. They might say that, of course marital love should be unconditional, because we have promised each other to love, honor, and cherish until death parts us. We shouldn’t go back on that promise. Others might say that, of course, marital love should be conditional, because there are reasons why we just can’t stay married to someone…things like infidelity, abuse, and other harsh realities in a sinful world. Which one do you say is right?
Here’s my take on the subject. I think that love is unconditional, but relationships are conditional. Can you love someone, and still feel that you have no choice but to divorce them? I think the answer is yes. In the face of a prideful spouse who has no intention of changing painful behaviors or humbly working on their own issues, I think sometimes people have no real recourse to take many times other than continue to put more and more distance between him/herself and the prideful spouse. Even if that means a geographical boundary (separation) and if it still doesn’t change, even divorce.
Let me be clear about this….I do not ever want any of my clients to divorce. I wouldn’t wish the pain on my worst enemy, and I think that no marriage is a mistake. I think that all marriages are an opportunity to learn and grow and heal our deepest wounds, and if both spouses are on board with that, we can have great successes in healing even the most ailing of marriages. If, however, one or both spouses are unwilling or unable to grow, learn and change to become safer in relationship and care for their spouses and themselves well, I can understand the individual choices that are made by people to divorce. No one, including their therapist, can tell anyone if that decision is right for them but themselves, and each person has to live with the consequences of their decision to either stay or go.
What I do know is that love, in order for it to be true love and not merely attachment, must be a choice. I have to be able to choose to love or not to love, because if it is not a choice, it is slavery and servitude. I think that is why God gives us the choice of loving Him and believing in Him, or not…because He knows that in order for us to truly love Him, we must be free to choose to not love Him. It is the same with human relationships, we must be able to choose.
I do not judge people either way, whether they choose to stay married or not, because it is not my journey and I don’t have to live with the consequences of that decision either way. This is why I tell my clients that I will tell them what I see, but I will not give them advice. (See a related blog post “Why I Don’t Give Advice”). There must always be a freedom to choose, and grace for all. I will help couples fight for their marriages as long as they are willing, but I will also help each of them through the aftermath if one or both of them chooses not to stay married. I never want to see a marriage dissolve, but I do understand that it does happen.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my work, I appreciate it!
Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. E-Counseling is available for residents of Indiana. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2016 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW