Love Who Your Spouse Is? Or What Your Spouse Does?

With the privilege to serve in College and Young Adult Ministry for almost ten years comes the frequent question, “how do you know when you’ve found the one?” If it’s not that question specifically, it is a conversation about whether or not a guy or a girl can imagine themselves marrying a specific someone. I have even found myself staring down the barrel of that gun during a guy’s bachelor party – asking himself out loud more than he was asking me directly, if his fiancé is the one for him. Uh…(!?!)

Over the years God has taught me that questioning our love, especially pre-martial love, is not a death knell. In fact, it can be quite helpful if done in a healthy way. Whenever a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse questions their love for their significant other, it is imperative they ask the right question.

The most common challenge to our love is circumstances. This often is the genesis of superficial doubt rather than sincere doubt which begins in our heart and comes from God. Circumstances can be objective, outside of the relationship. Circumstances can also be personal and come from within the relationship. Either way, if we allow our love for our significant other to be shaken by circumstances we are setting ourselves up for a long, rocky road. Some classic examples might include: “We can’t get married, we don’t have enough money.” Or “we can’t get married because I don’t want to quit my job.” Well, a rich great aunt could die tomorrow or you could get fired this week! Now, rather than making a decision about loved based on who the person is, you’ve made a decision about love based on circumstances that have now forever changed.

Throughout a majority of the New Testament and in a great portion of Jesus’s teachings, He constantly emphasizes the value of who we are, not what we do or what we have. John 15 immediately comes to mind. Our identity in Christ – our work from our rest – makes us far more valuable to the Kingdom than what we can say or do. As relationships are a gift from God to reflect God’s love, so too should the same understanding be applied to marriage.

Am I able to love all of who this person is with all of who I am? That is the question couples need to ask themselves. Circumstances change. Our life experiences will change (the things we can’t control) and our personal emotions will change (the things we can control). To start, end or question a relationship based on what the other does or does not say or do is not healthy. Please don’t hear me wrong – it is extremely important to be on the same page in as many arenas of life as possible. Couples should never ignore the sin in a spouse’s life. However, the moment we begin to build a foundation of love based on what someone can do for us or begin to limit our love for someone based on what they won’t, we begin to experience selfish love.

So rather than trying to hand-craft the perfect spouse (or to-be spouse) based on what they will or won’t do, let’s all make a commitment to our significant other to prioritize our relationship with Jesus. Then with our identity securely set in Christ alone, we can grow deeper in love with each other and more able to navigate the waters of circumstance.