When you don't feel like loving your spouse

If you don't die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert.

Anne Lamott


If you measure your marriage in more than weeks, you know there are days when you don't feel in love with your spouse.

Instead of mushy-gooshy emotions, you feel annoyance, misunderstanding, or indifference. Sometimes the cause is bad dim sum or a lumpy pillow and the negative passes. But other times, the thoughts are more foreboding and troublesome, like living in a desert with not nearly enough water.

When those times arrive, what do you do?

I have had more than my fair share of conversations with friends who are living in the desert, discouraged by the arid, endless horizon. They can't imagine improvement and are looking for practical advice. I struggle not to be presumptuous or Pollyanna-ish.

The best I can offer is encouragement to act loving anyway; to recognize your feelings as fickle things and behave as you promised to behave.  I've always found Tim Keller to be most articulate on this point.  He writes (added emphasis is mine):

β€œIn any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do?  You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.”

The implication here is feelings follow actions; behavior is the leading indicator of emotions. What's missing is the idea of quick fixes or easy solutions.

Not exactly easy advice, right?

Then again, no one ever said marriage was easy.