We all know what love is, and most of us know how it feels. It feels wonderful, especially when it’s effortless. Over time and often in long-term relationships, the loving feelings we have for our partner or relatives get buried beneath unmet expectations, frustrations, and daily annoyances. And when our partner has a serious illness, and we become their caregiver, it can impact our feelings of love. How often is it that we choose frustration over love? Or aggravation over love? Or rejection over love? Still, it is possible to love your partner even when you’re their caregiver through a serious illness. Keep reading for my best tips for loving your spouse unconditionally.
What It Means to Love Unconditionally
Let’s take a look at the word unconditional. It means “without conditions.” So unconditional love is feeling love without any conditions. Sounds simple, right? How many of us actually practice unconditional love? How many of us love the people in our lives even when they do something we don’t like, make a rude comment, or ignore us altogether? Can we feel love in that moment? Should we?
Unconditional love means choosing to feel the emotion of love for someone no matter what they do or how they act. For example, let’s say Naomi has been caring for her sick husband, who has cancer, for over a year now. Recently, he has started to withdraw and hardly even talks to her anymore. Sometimes, he is even rude and rarely says thank you. Can she feel love for him at that moment? Does she even want to?
Most likely, Naomi feels frustrated, annoyed, and even angry. Love is certainly not at the top of the list. She does love him, but his behavior is frustrating and feels hurtful. Then she feels guilty because she also knows her husband is struggling with cancer, and it must be difficult for him. So she will have this internal dialogue with herself and vacillate between wanting him to behave differently and being angry that he doesn’t, then experiencing guilt over all these negative feelings she has toward him.
While this is a made-up example, it is a fairly common experience among women caregiving for their sick husbands. But learning to love your partner even when it’s hard is possible and beneficial for you and them.
Love Is An Emotion
Love is an emotion. Like all emotions, it doesn’t just “happen” to us. It’s caused by our thoughts. This means you always have the power to feel love for someone by how you think about them. Let me emphasize this point: you always have the choice to feel unconditional love for someone; loving your spouse unconditionally is always an option.
Remember, unconditional love means loving without conditions. It means choosing to feel this emotion regardless of what the other person does or doesn’t do. No matter what they say or don’t say.
Why Loving Your Spouse is Important for You
Love is an emotion that feels good to us. When we feel hate or frustration, anger or annoyance, those emotions don’t feel good in our bodies. So why do we choose them so often?
When we choose to feel love, we are the ones that benefit from that emotion. We think that feeling anger or frustration somehow makes them suffer, but instead, we are the ones who suffer from feeling those negative feelings. We also think that if we are angry, we can get them to change their behavior. How often does that work?
When we come at someone out of anger or frustration, it usually results in further division and no real understanding. But you have an opportunity to truly connect when you love your partner even when it’s hard–without conditions and without changing them.
The Practicality of Loving Your Spouse Unconditionally
Deciding to feel unconditional love for someone doesn’t mean you have to condone their behavior. It doesn’t mean you give up or give in on things that are important to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t ask them to change or do something different.
On the more extreme side, if they are abusive or manipulative, you can still love them and decide to leave them. Choosing unconditional love should never come at the expense of yourself. This is really important to understand. If you decide to love your sick husband no matter what, it should never mean you sacrifice your own well-being.
In the example of Naomi, she can still decide to talk to her husband and tell him how she feels when he withdraws. However, if she can approach this conversation with unconditional love for him and herself first, she won’t try to control him or get him to change. Instead, she will seek to understand and truly connect with him by telling him what is true for her and being open to hearing what is true for him.
Her husband may or may not understand. And he may or may not behave differently. But everything will change for Naomi because, out of love, she will be true to herself and find love for her husband no matter his behavior. She may even be able to connect with him in new ways and experience their relationship growing deeper.
Questions to Help You Love Your Partner Even When…
In some situations, it can be hard to figure out how to feel love for someone, especially when it’s your sick husband who is driving you up the wall or being unhelpful or ungrateful. In these situations, I want you to remember that choosing to feel love for them is for your benefit, not theirs.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- Why am I finding them hard to love?
- How do I want them to be different in order to love them more easily?
- How can I love them right now, even if they don’t change?
- What is lovable about them?
- How can I identify with their struggle and feel love for them as a human who is struggling?
- How can I show love for myself?
Loving Your Spouse Unconditionally Through a Serious Illness Has No Downside
You can choose to feel love because it will feel good to you. And by doing so, you create an opportunity for genuine connection. As an unexpected benefit, when you can love someone even when they are not their best self, you will find it easier to love yourself, even when you are not your best self.
Additionally, unconditional love is not just for our partners. You can choose to feel it for anyone in your life, especially the ones you find difficult, like an in-law, sibling, or even the doctor or neighbor. When you do, it creates an environment for connection to grow. There is no downside to love!
Are You a Spousal Caregiver for Your Sick Partner?
Are you struggling with all the emotions or consumed with worry and anxiety about the future? Perhaps loving your spouse right now feels too hard, or you just don’t know how to best support them. If any of these situations ring true for you, then I can help! I coach YOU as the caregiver. Only when you are calm and in control can you help those who need you. That’s why it’s so important to get the support you need and learn tools to cope and build up your resiliency.
Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation call with me today. It’s your next step in strengthening your emotional and mental resilience. Let’s explore together how I can assist you on this journey!