Billy Joel wrote, “I love you just the way you are.” The song went on to garner several awards and did well for Joel though his marriage to his wife didn’t last. It’s rare to find a popular cultural love song with lyrics that hint at covenant love.
What does it feel like to realize your husband would still choose you?
Valentine’s Day is a few days from now. Love is in the air, as they say. But what kind of love?
Dr. Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages, says, “Covenant love is conscious love. It is intentional love. It is a commitment to love no matter what. It requires thought and action. It does not wait for the encouragement of warm emotions but chooses to look out for the interest of the other party because you are committed to the other’s well-being.”
I remember the first time I consciously chose “I still do,” even though Dave deeply hurt me.
There were no butterflies or ooshy-gooshy feelings. Instead, God confronted me with the choice I’d made over 25 years earlier. My emotions did not match that choice at this time. Dave’s decision and actions to heal from his lifelong struggle with porn paved the way for me to choose him still.
Dave told me he wanted to remain married to me. He chose me again, too; that knowledge helped me take a step toward him. Even though our relationship felt strained, confusing, and painful, knowing we both still chose each other brought hope that we could work through this mess toward something healthy and whole.
How do you choose “I still do”?
1. Accept your spouse just the way they are.
Give the gift of acceptance to your husband. Like all of us, you want to know you can be you no matter what. So does he. How comfortable do you feel when someone expects you to love something you don’t love or repeatedly participate in your least favorite activity? What does this expectation do to your relationship?
A few years ago, I heard a woman who’d been married more than 50 years describe her life as “never being heard.” My heart broke for this sweet person. Elaborating, she explained how she submitted to her husband’s likes and dislikes to the point she didn’t know her own. She felt accepted when she agreed with him.
No one knows what truly happens in a relationship except the people involved. Therefore, I ache for this long-lasting marriage. What richness did they miss out on? What could they have learned, explored, and developed had they felt free enough to be who they were with each other?
2. Commit to your spouse no matter what.
As Dr. Chapman said, covenant love commits to seeking the other’s best interests. I want to be careful here. Like the marriage referenced above, the wife sought the husband’s best interest but lost herself.
God created you and your husband uniquely, with strengths, gifts, abilities, and personality traits to enrich each other’s lives. Becoming a doormat robs your spouse of you, and being domineering squelches the richness your spouse brings to the relationship. You need him, and he needs you.
When our oldest son decided to go to school halfway around the world, my initial internal response was, “No!” The thought of him being that far away terrified me. Dave, understanding our son’s adventurous nature better than I, asked me to pray about this opportunity and see what God showed me. My son did go to school overseas, and God provided a way for Dave and me to visit him there, which calmed my fears.
Listening to my husband’s insight and wisdom opened the door to new opportunities for our son and me. Neither of us lost ourselves. Instead, we struggled through the conflicting ideas to find an amicable resolution.
3. Realize emotions falter, and it doesn’t have to mean the end.
What happens when a marriage relationship grows cold? You have choices—walk away, live as roommates, seek satisfaction outside your marriage, take corrective action, spend time blaming each other, or find other options.
In a contractual relationship, you remain in the contract as long as the terms are met to your satisfaction. When they aren’t, you dissolve the contract and move on.
In a genuine covenant relationship, death alone terminates it. As the authors of fiercemarriage.org write, “Covenant love says, ‘I do even if you don’t’ and ‘I will even if you won’t.’” Covenant isn’t based on emotions. You choose to do your best to heal and grow the relationship. You understand that “I do” requires daily decisions to live with this person in an understanding way.
Are there times when “I still do” doesn’t happen? Yes. Several factors can make it impossible for the marriage to survive—abuse, repeated infidelity, gaslighting, and more. But I don’t believe “falling out of love” with your husband falls into this category. Please hear my heart. I believe God can do the impossible in your marriage when you both submit to him.
Covenant love invites you to choose each other daily.
Do I always feel emotionally close to Dave? No, and neither does he with me. When that happens, we spend time identifying what’s happening between us. Often, we’ve allowed life to get in the way or have unresolved issues.
Knowing that we are committed to “I still do” no matter what gives us the courage and safety net to work through these issues before they become major.
We feel secure enough with each other to be ourselves, speak honestly with love, and find a resolution. Dr. Gottman’s research revealed that 69% of issues between spouses would never be resolved. And most of the time, we argue about nothing. Seriously nothing. 🤦🏼♀️
“If you can accept that many of your problems aren’t going away, then you can focus on what to do about those issues when they come up. As a first step, quit trying to solve the problem. It’s wasted energy. Instead, focus on achieving perspective, empathy, and, ultimately, dialogue.”
The key is to find a different perspective on these issues and move on. Focus on the issues you can quickly resolve and do it.
When evaluating your relationship, how would you rank it between “I still do” and “I want out”?
What options can you explore to strengthen your relationship if you choose to say “I still do”?
When I didn’t know if I still wanted to choose Dave, the best thing I did was reach out for help. By doing so, I found wisdom, grace, understanding, and encouragement. Now I pay it forward to other women who need someone to help them navigate the murky waters of intimate betrayal and hurt. Need to talk?