Have you been told to love your spouse more than yourself?
Have you heard you can’t have a good marriage unless you push your needs and desires to the back of the line, permanently?
Have you been shamed for having normal human yearnings – like wanting to be honored and respected, needing safety, peace and fidelity?
Have you heard that as Christians, we’re supposed to love others more than we love ourselves? That loving others more is the second commandment?
Well, here’s some fun truth: God didn’t actually say that. Matthew 22:39 doesn’t say we love others more than we love ourselves. Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Love for self is used to clarify how we love others. Love for self shapes our love for others.
Is it good to love your partner more than yourself?
Here’s the thing.
If we’re not exploring and accepting our own sense of worth, dignity, and innate value as children of God and as human beings, we’re going to struggle to explore and resolve the worth and dignity, and personhood of others.
We’re just not able to “export” what we’re not cultivating from within.
And no, loving ourselves first doesn’t automatically mean we’ll become thoughtless and self-centered. We could, but that’s just another unhealthy path. The possibility of pitching into that other harmful side doesn’t discredit the reality of a healthy, godly medium.
Love for self is right up God’s command to love others the way we love ourselves. There’s an assumption about “self-love.”
Mark you, a healthy love for self is not as automatic as we imagine. Human beings often have wounds, trauma, and inaccurate beliefs that mar how we view God (our Creator), impacting how we see ourselves (created).
(e.g., people who see God as detached and demanding might struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, which influences how they relate with themselves and others.)
However, when we begin to explore what it means to love from a healthy place (examining our own sense of worth and dignity, our needs and limitations), we can more easily discern whether what we’re receiving from others is love or UNlove.
We can more easily discern disrespect or harm.
Are you supposed to love your spouse unconditionally?
As Christians, we need to get comfortable with the truth that we can
- Love marriage AND call out unhealth in marriage.
- Love someone AND step away from a harmful vortex.
- Forgive (in our own time) AND not trust that individual again.
- Pray for change in a spouse AND safely advocate for ourselves and our needs in the relationship.
Valuing ourselves within a relationship will quickly clarify if the love we’re giving is being reciprocated. Being in tune with our own needs and giving those needs a voice is critical.
When our priorities are in order (we are healthily loving ourselves first), a relationship will orient to its actual condition.
Two resources to help you discern between safe Vs. toxic behavior in marriage:
1. Systems of Abuse: A Guide to Recognizing Toxic Behavior Patterns
In this eBook (affiliate link), author, speaker, abuse recovery coach Sarah McDugal outlines 13 categories of behavioral patterns, giving simple, tangible illustrations for each category. Abuse can be difficult to identify, especially if you have been conditioned to see it as normal. Check it out here.
2. Systems of Love & Honor: A Guide to Recognizing Safe Relationships
In this eBook (affiliate link), author, speaker, abuse recovery coach Sarah McDugal outlines 13 behavior patterns that make relationships safe. When mistreatment is “normal”, it’s hard to know what safe looks like. Systems of Love & Honor illustrates simple, easy-to-understand actions and attitudes that reflect God’s intention for safe loving relationships. Check it out here.