Why Loving Your Kids Is Easy (But Loving Your Husband Unconditionally Is Hard)

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Family, Love

Is it normal to feel this way?

When you married your spouse and decided to start a family together, your vows likely said something about how you would love them through sickness, health, for richer or poorer, and to lose your marbles at them if they mess up so much as a little bit in any task, ever.

Not that last one?

When it comes to forgiving your husband for simple mistakes, why does it seem so hard to keep your cool?

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Sure, he probably left the cabinets open, made a mess on the counter, or perhaps left his clothes in the middle of the floor. The same thing your kids do, all the time. And yet, when you see these mistakes, the margin of error seems to fluctuate wildly between what you’re willing to tolerate from your spouse as compared to what you’re willing to forgive your kids for. 

Why is it so easy to unconditionally love your kids, yet so hard to love your husband unconditionally?

Many people struggle to keep their tempers cool when it comes to their spouses and simple mistakes. Instead, they’ll end up furious at them over these minor transgressions, while at the same time, their children are allowed to get away with much more.

Patience for your husband’s mistake is like walking a thin line, while your kids make much worse mistakes all the time without the same residual tongue-lashing.  

And yes, perhaps your spouse “should know better,” but just why is it so hard to unconditionally love your husband even when it’s so easy to give that kind of love to your kids?

We asked three YourTango Experts to weigh in on the subject, and here is their advice for dealing with the situation to help keep harmony in your home.

Three things to think about if you struggle to love your spouse unconditionally:

1. Your brain is constantly telling you to love your kids and forgive them.

“Parental love is from the core of your being. You make sacrifices for your children's welfare and forgive their transgressions because you have a biological instinct to protect them and you feel responsible. You might not always like their behavior but loving your kids no matter what creates much-needed stability in their lives.

With a spouse, it does matter what. You go into the relationship as equals and you naturally expect to get your needs met and have them live up to their vows. But one day you realize that your spouse is an imperfect person. You can love them with your whole heart but not always unconditionally. It’s not only healthy to have standards and boundaries around things like fidelity and respect, it’s more authentic.

True love needs nurturing. See your spouse with fresh appreciative eyes, take a long-term view, and make the choice to love them each and every day.”

Your body chemistry is literally hardwired to overlook the mistakes your children make in the greater scheme of protecting them and ensuring their happiness. And this is a good thing! But it also explains why you might not feel the same way toward your spouse. Still, it’s important to remind yourself that you love them, they’ll make mistakes, and you still need to be gentle and forgiving with them to attribute to the overall harmony of your daily life.

Lisa Petsinis is a certified Life and Career Coach and MBTI® (Myers-Briggs) practitioner with extensive experience working with individuals to uncover their strengths, improve their relationships and achieve their goals. Lisa’s articles have appeared in POPSUGAR, MSN, Prevention, and TheMindsJournal. You can sign up for her newsletter on her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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2. We assume that they “should know better.”

"We often have higher expectations from a spouse than from a child these days. There's less commitment and trust, and more defined boundaries, between married couples than parent/child. It's also easier to forgive our children, while we tend to carry the expectation that our spouses should be mature enough to know better. We realize our kids will make mistakes, and we'd never think of leaning on them. Yet when our spouse doesn't fill our needs, we can feel rejected.

But it's a double standard. If we can forgive our spouses, see their essence, commit to their journey (including their mistakes), empathize when they have a tough day, we'll have long-lasting marriages and children who aren't so entitled. We're all kids at heart anyway, so why not practice a little unconditional love for our spouses?"

We forget that even adults need a little bit of love and understanding from time to time and just come to the conclusion that their mistakes are worse because they’re more mature. If we forget that people have off days and sometimes do things that don’t make sense, it’s important to re-center ourselves and practice a bit of unconditional love and give them encouragement to do better in the future.

Kathryn Brown Ramsperger is an intuitive life coach and author who has worked with and loved people of other cultures (though not simultaneously!). She helps get relationships unstuck worldwide, coaches couples through their differences, and has written about cross-cultural communication and dynamics. You can find out more at shoresofoursouls.com, where you'll find more lessons about loving someone from another culture contained in her debut novel. Or come say hello on her coaching page on Facebook

3. We need to use common sense when it comes to love and forgiveness.

Loving your children unconditionally is the most natural thing in the world. It ensures their survival and sends them into the world with confidence and self-worth. Love your spouse unconditionally? Not a good idea, unless you're a doormat. You can have a deep, satisfying love with your spouse but he should earn your love by being a thoughtful, caring, and respectful partner and vice versa.  You both deserve nothing less.”  

While practicing your unconditional love for your spouse, you’re going to have to set realistic boundaries to protect yourself and your kids. Forgiving your husband for regular, normal mistakes is a good idea that’s healthy for everyone involved. But unconditional love is not just always extending your hand to help them when they turn around and hurt you every time. Unconditional love means loving them in spite of mistakes — not being a doormat for their bad behavior!

Robyn Stein DeLuca, Ph.D. is a psychologist and postpartum expert. She teaches the Two Day Bringing Baby Home Workshop for Couples, which helps couples improve and protect their relationship when the new baby comes home. Go to her website to learn more about all of her prenatal and postpartum programs. 

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For more advice from incredible people in helping professions, look to our Experts. They are here to help!

Merethe Najjar is a professional writer, editor, and fiction author living in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their rescue cat. She graduated with a degree in creative writing and recently had her first sci-fi romance novel Mercury in Retrograde published. You can also find her on her website, MeretheWalther.com, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.