Question: I married my husband because, as a single mom, I believed he would make a great father to my child. Now I realize that I never really loved him. Is it still possible for me to fall in love with him, or do I have to live with these feelings for the rest of my life?

Answer: 

The short answer to your question is yes: you can learn to love your husband with the only kind of love that really lasts – the agape love that we read about in the 13th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This is the love that is patient and kind and does not envy; the love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. It’s the love that never fails.

Love as an act of the will

Why do we say this? For two reasons. First, in cultures where marriages are arranged, we know that couples often learn to love one another deeply despite the fact that their relationships were not originally based on romantic feelings. In the second place, the agape love of the New Testament, unlike philia (friendship) or eros (sexual passion), is not primarily a matter of the emotions. It’s an act of the will. This is not to say that feelings have no place in agape. They most certainly do. But in this case the feelings generally follow in the wake of intentional, deliberate actions. They grow out of commitment, perseverance and hard work.

In your situation there’s even more cause for hope. Though you’re not sure how to make it happen, you want to fall in love with your husband – otherwise, you wouldn’t have asked your question in the first place. To put it another way, you’re dissatisfied with the status quo and willing to make a change. In a very real sense, then, you’ve already taken an important step in the right direction. 

Go back to the beginning

You can build on this foundation by asking yourself what it was that attracted you to your husband at the beginning of your relationship. At some level, the two of you felt an emotional connection, even if it was only because of the kindness he displayed toward your child. There was something about this man that led you to suppose that life with him would be better than life without him. That spark may have diminished with the passage of time, but it can still be found and fanned into flame if you’re willing to put forth the effort. You just have to take the time to dig down beneath the ashes.

A resource that may help you accomplish this is Emerson Eggerich’s book Love and Respect (which is available through Focus on the Family Canada’s online bookstore). Its message is based on Ephesians 5:33: "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." This is the key to the growth of agape love in marriage. Even if you don’t have any romantic feelings for your husband, you can still treat him with the respect he deserves. If you do this, you may be surprised by the results. 

Explore the cause

It’s always possible, of course, that there are other factors complicating your situation – unfinished business from the past, unresolved bitterness, unforgiveness, woundedness, resentment or guilt. Without knowing more about your story we can’t even hazard a guess as to how issues of this kind might be holding you back from loving your husband sincerely and unreservedly. 

A trained Christian family therapist can help you sort all this out. That’s why we’d like to recommend that the two of you seek marriage counselling with a qualified professional. In particular, we’d suggest that you explore the option of brief intensive counselling, where extended sessions are used to deal with questions of this nature in a safe and non-threatening setting. You can find out more – and get a list of counselling referrals in your area – by calling Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling department. They are available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific Time at 1.800.661.9800.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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