The Unfair Task to Love a Mate Who Won’t Love Back

I grew up in a family that wasn’t very open with statements of love for each other. So I went into dating and marriage with a larger than average love-hunger. This drove me to expect a larger portion of love than any “love interest” could humanly feed me.

As you can imagine, this put tremendous pressure on my husband—making our marriage very messy in no time!  

Does your spouse not act very loving or have they even lost loving feelings for you? That can leave you unsure of how to proceed or hang on in your marriage. Come by to find out how you can! #tips #marriage #conflict #love #unloved #unlovable #anger #crisis #spouse #Bible #verses #hope #hopeless #encouragement #discouragement

Whenever my husband acted in ways that were harsh and unloving, I would withdraw. It was as if I was letting a piece of my love for him melt and die—piece-by-piece—into a cauldron of bitterness and regret. 

Sadly, I was expecting my husband to prove his love to me before I would love him in return. This seemed like a fair exchange to me. But God wanted more from me in my marriage than fair. 

When our kids were little, they would sometimes complain about something not being fair. And I always loved my husband’s way of responding to them … “You want fair? I’ll give you fair!” 

Fair isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be—especially in marriage. 

[bctt tweet=”Fair is giving only what is earned, while love holds no such accounts or stipulations. #unfairrealities  #loveinmarriage” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Today I want to look at some examples of how the unfair task to love played out in two marriages in the Bible. I know this will give us all so much “food for thought” on the hunger we feel for love. 

Example #1: We are to love our mates when they act unlovable.

The book of Hosea is all about this prophet being told by God to go marry a promiscuous woman named Gomer (see Hosea 1:1). This seems like a crazy request by God since the Lord knew Gomer would go on to be unfaithful to Hosea. 

But Hosea’s commitment to love Gomer “no matter what” serves as a portrait of God’s undying love when it is not reciprocated by us. 

So if God chooses to love His bride, meaning every Christ-follower …

Then how can we refuse to love our mates when they don’t return our love? 

God has EVERY reason to reject, abandon, even divorce us! Yet His love perseveres in the face of our apathy, hatred, and unfaithfulness. We can do no less!

And if you think that you’ve never been apathetic, hateful, and/or unfaithful toward God, then consider this, 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  —1 John 1:8

To put this in a marriage context: I choose self-preservation over love whenever I resist loving my husband at his worst (1 Cor. 13:5). I cannot delude myself into thinking this is acceptable or God-honoring. It is actually self-centered and motivated by a lack of faith in God.

Example #2: We are to love our mates when they are not “lovely.”

There’s a biblical account of a love story with two heart-wrenching outcomes in Jacob’s marriages to Leah and her sister Rachel.

Heart-wrenching outcome #1: Jacob was promised Rachel in marriage, yet was tricked by his uncle and given Leah instead. 

Heart-wrenching outcome #2: Once Rachel was given to Jacob in marriage, he loved her more than Leah (see Gen. 29:30). Apparently, this was because she wasn’t as pretty as Rachel (see Gen. 29:17).

Jacob’s choice to withhold his love from Leah really disturbed God.

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  —Genesis 29:31

The point I want to make here is that God expects us to love our spouses no matter how “lovely” they act or are. After all, He loved us when we were not lovely or lovable to Him.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  —Romans 5:8

4 Ways to Choose Love in the Face of Rejection

1. Through “Faith” 

Consider this verse …

Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  —Ephesians 6:23

This means that our love requires faith to persevere, especially when love is hard and not reciprocated.  

My husband and I now realize this powerful connection between faith and love. So when conflicts erupt and my husband knows it is hard to love him, he will often ask me, “Are you loving me in faith, Beth?”

This question always makes me smile because it reminds me of this truth … 

[bctt tweet=”When feelings of love grow weak, my love needs faith in God to revive and rocket it forward. #loveandfaith #loveathigherlevel” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

2. By Remembering it Covers Your Mate’s Sin

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  —1 Peter 4:8

God does something healing with our love when we extend it to our spouses when they sin. He covers their sin in some mysterious way. Certainly, this covers their shame. But I believe it also covers the wounds our mates inflict on our marriages and collective hearts. 

I’ve seen God bring His healing to my marriage over and over again as I’ve covered my mate in love. 

3. Letting Your true Husband Love and Comfort You

Consider this …

For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.  —Isaiah 54:5-6

I can relate to these feelings whenever my husband rejects me or resists extending love to me. It is as if I’m that deserted wife who is distressed in spirit.

But I don’t have to remain distressed when I realize God is my true Husband. He will never leave me, nor abandon me because He loves me with His life. 

This always provides the comfort I need by filling my love-hungry heart with God’s perfect love. 

4. Love Out of Devotion to Christ and His Command

Jesus said …

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  —John 13:34

Notice, Jesus didn’t say this is our loving “option.” This is His command. And even though I may not always want to love my mate, if I love Christ, I will do what He commands. 

Since this is a command, I realize that love is far more than a feeling. 

[bctt tweet=”At its best, love is a choice of the will to follow Christ’s command and example. #loveisachoice #lovelikeChrist” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

If you’re struggling to love your mate, consider praying this prayer each day for the next 30 days. I’m more than confident that God will reawaken your desire to love your mate if you give yourself wholeheartedly to this prayer pursuit!

Try it and see for yourself!

Click the link to read more posts in this series, Unfair Realities in Marriage.


Which of the four ways to “choose love in the face of rejection” is hardest for you to embrace and why? 


Which one do you feel like your marriage needs the most? 


Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me MondayPurposeful Faith, Tell His StoryInstaEncouragements LinkupRecharge WednesdayWorth Beyond Rubies WednesdayTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementGrace and Truth, and Faith on Fire Friday.


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