You want to be loved. You need to be loved. You thrive when you’re loved and you wither when you’re not. It’s how God created you, and part of how you are created in His image. And it’s probably a primary reason you got married. So it’s not a surprise that it hurts when your spouse doesn’t love you. What do you do then?
Feeling unloved and being unloved are not the same. Most of the time when I hear something like this from a spouse what they’re really saying is, “My spouse isn’t making me feel loved.” Love languages matter, and in a healthy marriage both couples work toward helping the other feel loved. Just recognize that your feelings and your spouse’s heart may not have the same perspective.
Or you may be saying, “How could you do that if you really loved me?” The that may be using porn, abusing drugs or alcohol, having an affair, spending money unwisely, or any other destructive behavior. But their that almost certainly has little to do with you. Their behavior affects you and will impact what you do next, but it says something about them, not about you. And it says little about their love for you.
So what’s going on when it seems your spouse doesn’t love you? These three questions will help you know what to do next.
What Does “Love Me” Mean to You?
What would it look like for your spouse to love you? What is it that says to you that your spouse doesn’t love you?
“Love me” might be Say Yes to sex. Or initiate sex. Or pay attention to me during sex. Or take time to care about my pleasure during sex instead of only their own. Or not pressure me for sex when they know I’m tired. Or take time to connect with my heart before jumping my body. Or realize how important sex is to me. Or want me sexually.
Can you see how the specifics of what “love me” means make a difference?
It might also mean Listening to my opinion instead of always having to be right. Or paying attention when I talk instead of looking at their phone. Or giving me a deeper answer than a grunt. Or asking about what’s going on in my heart and my world. Or sharing what’s going on with them instead of being so secretive. Or not being defensive when I need to talk.
It could mean Supporting me in my dreams. Or exerting energy in helping with our children or around the house. Or not spending money we haven’t agreed on. Or spending more time with me than with their friends. Or giving me an occasional card or gift of some kind. Or being a spiritual leader in our home.
There are countless variations. The point is to be honest about whether you’re concerned with a specific behavior or about a deeper heart issue. Even in the best marriages not all your needs get met. Behavior can be destructive, but that’s different from not loving you.
And remember that the opposite of love is not anger or bad behavior; the opposite of love is either apathy or toxicity.
Where Is My Spouse’s Heart?
It will help to get out of your own head long enough to consider your spouse’s heart. Are they basically a person of good will, with a good heart? That’s very different from someone with an evil or toxic heart who takes delight in harming you or controlling you. If your spouse has a basically good heart their behavior can still cause you pain, but your response will need to be quite different than if their heart is evil.
You will need God’s perspective here, and probably the perspective of a wise Christian friend or counselor.
You may find in seeking to understand your spouse’s heart that you will see the wounds your spouse has received, and may find yourself feeling compassion for them. That’s a healthy perspective to embrace. That does not excuse their bad behavior, but it helps you see them as God does.
There’s also a big difference between apathy and hopelessness. Sometimes so much pain has happened between you that right now your spouse doesn’t see how things can get better. They may be sticking around out of true commitment to you; that’s one of the acts of love.
Apathy means their heart is basically closed. Not just hurt or hopeless or defensive, but closed. That’s a particularly painful marriage to find yourself in, and you’ll need some support from God and others in walking forward.
Who does God Need Me to Be to My Spouse?
This is the most important question of all. The previous questions prepare your heart for this one.
If your spouse is truly toxic, with an evil heart, there are times you have to walk away. That’s always a painful decision, and don’t try to wrestle with that decision alone. Get some help.
Sometimes you have been trying to control your spouse, and God needs you to take your grubby hands off so He can do His work. Your attempts at manipulation haven’t been working very well, have they?
If your default has been expecting your spouse to meet your needs, you may have been trying to wring something out of them that they don’t have to give. Where are you going to get the deepest needs in your heart filled up? Learn to feed yourself.
Sometimes your spouse has a good heart but is acting in destructive ways. This is where setting healthy boundaries becomes vital. This is not trying to control your spouse! If you don’t know how to set healthy boundaries, get some help.
And you may need to grow yourself. What’s it been like to be married to you? Your spouse’s bad behavior doesn’t excuse your own. And your own limitations are not the cause of your spouse’s bad behavior! But it’s important to focus on who you are in this relationship.
When you get to heaven, God won’t ask you how loved you felt. He will ask you how diligently you sought to be the spouse He called you to be.
So Now YOU do the Next Right Thing
Your Turn: What is it that makes you feel unloved by your spouse? What is your sense of your spouse’s heart? Who do you believe God is asking you to be to your spouse? Heart questions. And I’d also love to hear from you in the comments below.
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