Marriage relationships are tricky. They are made up of two distinct individuals with unique upbringing, thoughts, expectations, baggage, hurts, dreams, desires, and more.
How do you mesh the two? How can you come together and live a long life together? Is it even possible? What non-negotiables can you expect in any loving relationship?
While I was dating, I thought I was loved. I checked my new relationship against the things I had learned in my college relationship courses to be sure we were on the right track.
After I was married, things started coming up that made me wonder if I was in fact loved.
The actions and words of my husband didn’t seem to fit what I expected I would have in a loving relationship. I worked and worked on myself. I worked hard to change and make sure my expectations were not unreasonable. I adjusted my communication and started implementing specific strategies that I learned at marriage retreats and from counselors.
However, when I approached my spouse and voiced that my needs were being neglected, my spouse was never willing to change or to acknowledge that he should. Then I started to question, what can I expect from a loving husband?
What is non-negotiable for a loving relationship?
Maybe you are feeling the same way. Maybe you have been working on yourself and trying to improve your relationship. Maybe you just don’t see the changes you are hoping for in your spouse or significant other, and you are left wondering if what you-you feel is even reasonable.
Here are 5 non-negotiable things you can (and should) expect from a loving partner.
1. Mutual Respect.
Loving partners may not always agree, but there is mutual respect given and opinions are appreciated. Disagreements occur without putdowns and with value attributed to both individual’s thoughts and ideas.
Partners often choose each other for their differences. We are drawn to people that are strong where we are weak.
Loving partners acknowledge they are weak and accept the partner’s loving guidance and teaching in these areas. They also allow their partners to excel and shine in their areas of strength. They understand and respect that those strengths can challenge and encourage them to become a better person.
Relationships are founded on intimacy. Both partners can expect mutual and active cultivation of intimacy.
Intimacy is not only created through sexual encounters. However, this is a primary and enjoyable source of intimacy. Sexual intimacy should be expected on a regular and mutually enjoyable basis.
This is the one type of intimacy that is exclusive in a committed relationship. Faithfulness in sexual intimacy is reasonable to expect. This holds true in various aspects of a sexual nature. You can expect your spouse to abstain from sexual thoughts, actions, and visuals of other people when they are exclusive to you.
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Intimacy can be expected in other areas as well. There are several areas of intimacy, including spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and experiential. You can rightfully expect the nourishment of all of these in a healthy relationship.
3. To Be Cherished.
You can and should presume to be cherished in a committed loving relationship and then treated as such.
Cherish is such an old-fashioned word. We don’t use it too much outside of traditional marriage vows. So, just what does it mean and what actions would be evidence it is being lived out?
1a: to hold dear: feel or show affection forMerriam Webster
cherished her friends
b: to keep or cultivate with care and affection: NURTURE
cherishes his marriage
The first thing that stands out to me in this definition is that it is an active verb: “feel, show, keep, cultivate.” These are all things you must do intentionally.
protect and care for (someone) lovingly.Google Dictionary
“he cared for me beyond measure and cherished me in his heart”
adore, hold dear, love, care very much for, feel great affection for, dote on, be devoted to, revere, esteem, admire, appreciate;
think the world of, set great store by, hold in high esteem;
care for, look after, tend, protect, preserve, shelter, keep safe, support, nurture, cosset, indulge;
These synonyms provide a perfect list of actions to look for in your relationship. Are you being adored? Are you appreciated? Admired? Does your partner care for, protect, support, and keep you safe, both physically and emotionally? Are they actively doing these things?
If they desire to do these things, are remorseful when you tell them they are not, and attempt to do these things on a regular basis, then you are being cherished.
4. Empathy and Compassion.
Empathy and compassion are sometimes hard to glean in today’s self-centered and entitled culture, but they are of the utmost importance in a marriage relationship.
Empathy is when you listen to another’s thoughts and feelings with the intent to understand what they are experiencing. The easiest way to think of empathy is putting yourself in their “shoes” or situation.
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Then you can follow up with compassion, genuine care for what they are going through, and what they might need from you.
Empathy is necessary when a loved one is experiencing physical or emotional pain and is equally important when they are experiencing joy or excitement for something.
Empathy is a way to nurture emotional intimacy and it builds trust with another when you are free to share what you think and feel and know the other will try to understand what you are sharing.
In every close relationship, there will be conflict. This is a fact and a given. You can expect conflict, but you can also expect an appropriate response to conflict from a partner.
Accountability is where you own up to your mistakes and your part of the conflict. You are willing to build trust both before and after a mistake.
If it becomes evident that there is an emotional or psychological problem that is negatively affecting the relationship, then an accountable partner will make efforts of their own to fix these problems; to learn and grow and change.
A loving partner recognizes when they have done something to break your trust. If they want the relationship to be repaired, they will need to increase accountability and re-build trust in an intentional way.
They show heart-level remorse for what they have done and seek to make it right not only through words but also with actions.
As I said earlier, these 5 things are non-negotiable in a relationship. You are right to expect them of a spouse or partner in a committed relationship. These are realistic expectations that every relationship needs to be successful. The thing is, you can expect them, but you can’t make another individual give them to you.
You can make sure you are giving them all freely and abundantly. If you are doing that, then you may just find that your partner will begin to feel free to do the same.
However, if you are giving, yet not experiencing these basics in your relationship, it may not be the loving relationship that you thought you had. You are right and reasonable in your thoughts that your partner may not truly love you if you are not receiving these 5 basics in your marriage.
If you are feeling unloved because some, or all of these things are absent in your marriage, I encourage you to reach out for support.
See a counselor or talk to a trusted friend or mentor. You may need to work through some things in yourself so you can respectfully leave the unloving relationship you are in, especially if your spouse refuses to cultivate these necessities so you both can experience receiving them.
Please reach out in our Facebook group if you have questions or would like support.