Unequal Love

Unequal love is a normal part of relationships. There is a natural ebb and flow to love. When love is out of balance for an extended period of time, it is painful. It makes one evaluate the relationship. Trying to save or rebuild the marriage all by yourself, solo, is challenging and stressful. In this article, I show you how to get the love back in balance. The efforts you can take to balance the love is how you can flourish in an unequal love relationship.

Unequal Love

Writing for ThoughtCatalog.com, Chelsea Fagan writes an article about unequal love. She’s experienced it. She knows what it’s like to love yourself less because the one you love, loves you less than you love them. It can be humiliating. The many who left comments gush at the article reading about someone who experienced what they are now experiencing. She handles the issue with a soft touch.

As a marriage coach, I see things differently. I have to assume most of the readers of Chelsea Fagan are young and may be in their first “real” relationship. They do not have the experience of having lived it before. When you feel love for someone, you don’t want to let it go, even though it may be the best thing to do. It hurts. There is a real gut-wrenching pain to unequal love. As a marriage coach, working with unequal love is very common.

Unequal Love in a Dating Relationship

In this section, I’m not talking about teen love. If you’re reading this article I’m assuming you are an adult who already has experienced some heartbreak.

One purpose of dating is to find the person you are committed to living the rest of your life with in happy marriage. It doesn’t matter how dreamy he looks. It doesn’t matter how hot she is. Are the two of you so happy together in the relationship that you can’t imagine living your life without this person? Unequal love doesn’t seem to fit in that picture, does it? And yet, so many people justify marrying the wrong person for all the wrong reasons. The feelings of love have strong powers over our will no matter what our age.

Dating is a time to test relationships. Use it!

If you are willing to accept unequal love during a dating relationship, you better get used to it and accept it in marriage. It might sound harsh, but it is your responsibility to make the right decision. In marriage, you are making a vow to love this person forever. What value do you place on your words and your commitment? If your self-worth is diminished because you love him more than he loves you, then you better decide if that lowered self-worth is acceptable. If it is not, it is time to get out of the unhealthy dating relationship and find someone who will love you the way you want to be loved. I don’t mean to be so brutal, but I have to be honest. This may not be the soft touch of Chelsea Fagan, but as a coach, I have to say what needs to be said to get long-term positive results. That’s what I am paid to do.

You deserve to be in a happy marriage. That means you have to find the right person to marry. What you accept in a dating relationship you also accept in a marriage.

If you wish to balance the unequal love in a dating relationship, read on. The following strategy for married couples applies to serious dating couples also.

Unequal Love in a Marriage Relationship

In a marriage relationship there is a natural ebb and flow with love. It is never the same. There will be times when you feel abundantly happy and deeply in love with your partner. Other times, you’ll be asking yourself what you ever saw in them. It is natural.

There is a natural ebb and flow with love. It is never the same.

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Nate Bagley interviews couples who are happily in long-term relationships. He quotes a lady from Georgia who has been married for over 60 years. Her featured remark is this…

Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.

It is a natural thing in marriage when you feel like the one giving the most in the marriage. There will be times when your partner will feel the same way. Remember, someone has to lead. Someone has to take the risk of giving when you don't feel like giving any longer.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is famous for his Love & Respect series of books. One thing he talks frequently about he calls the Crazy Cycle. It is when there is conflict in a marriage and the husband withholds the love he knows his wife needs. At the same time, the wife withholds the respect she knows he needs. It is a cycle that can end a marriage, and yet it is so common. He does something you don’t like, so you get back at him by doing something you know he doesn’t like. He sees that and responds in like measure. It is a downward spiral that can end a marriage.

Unequal love can be the start of the crazy cycle.

There is a solution to avoid the crazy cycle and deal with unequal love. It is a solution that allows each partner to not just survive, but to flourish.

Flourishing with Unequal Love

As a marriage coach, I don’t like to give out common marriage tips. Common tips are a dime-a-dozen, and most often do not work because they do not provide a proper context or execution. I work with strategies. Strategies offer step-by-step plans to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Along the way, there is time for reflection, assessment, and adjustments to improve results.

Below is a strategy similar to what I offer in my coaching programs. If you are experiencing unequal love, and feel like it has been out of balance for too long, I strongly suggest that you follow this strategy.

Step 1. Understand your present situation.

I call it a beginning assessment. You cannot get to where you want to be until you know exactly where you are now. For an unequal love relationship, here are some questions you need to reflect on and answer as honestly and completely as possible. I highly recommend writing the questions and answers down in a journal.

  1. 1
    How long have you felt you are giving more to the relationship than your partner?
  2. 2
    Be specific. What are the top 5 things you feel your partner needs to do to help put the relationship back in balance?
  3. 3
    Has your partner ever done these 5 things before? If so, when did the actions stop? If not, why are these behaviors so important now?
  4. 4
    Why do you think your partner does not do these actions? What would your partner have to believe to explain why they are not being done?
  5. 5
    What have you already done to encourage your partner to take these actions? Specifically, what were the results of your conversations?
  6. 6
    On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being awesome and 1 being horrible, how would you rate the quality of your marriage today?

Step 2. Develop an empowering mindset.

Think of a mindset as an attitude. Develop a new attitude about the situation that is empowering. Empowering mindsets do not focus on the problem, but rather of the desired results. Here are 4 recommended mindsets.

  1. 1
    Understand that unequal love is a natural occurrence. If you are feeling like you are giving more than you are receiving in your marriage, understand that it is normal, and it may be just a normal phase. If it continues to be unequal in the long term, that is another issue. Many see the ebb and flow reverse and on the receiving end of the love scales. If every time you feel like you are giving more and make an issue out of it, you can start a crazy cycle. Understand that it is natural and allow it to run its course. Once you feel it has run its course and there is no change, you need to approach your partner to discuss the 5 things you listed above.
  2. 2
    Don’t keep score. I hear so many folks complain that they are doing this and doing that, but their partner isn’t doing squat. They sound like they have a large scoreboard somewhere and it’s a blowout in their favor. Stop it! You married for richer or poorer, health or sickness, and you dated this person for hopefully enough time to really know how they are going to be. In a marriage, there should never be a scoreboard. You vowed to love them forever. Now, if there are real issues, then yes, seek coaching. For your everyday issues, accept them and don’t keep score. Keeping score makes the marriage a competition. You are partners, not competitors.
  3. 3
    Do the right thing – your best in loving your partner – always. Nearly 40% of all married couples report being unhappy in their marriage. If only he did this. If only she did that. Happiness comes from the inside and being true to yourself. Just like being on a job, when you do your very best and are productive, you feel good about yourself. You come home, exhausted, but with your head up and with confidence because you did what you were supposed to do. Why treat your home life differently? What are you supposed to do if not love your spouse? When you know the feeling of love has a natural ebb and flow, and you don’t keep score, you will come home and say or do what needs to be said or done to properly love your partner. And you will do it without complaining or regret. Take some quiet time and seek the answers for what you need to do. The answers will come to you. When you love your spouse, without expectations or recourse, you will know in your heart you are doing the right thing. That will help you feel happy.
  4. 4
    Don’t live in that land of “should” or “shouldn’t.” To say that your spouse should or shouldn’t do something is not beneficial. That may be your desire, and that is fine. By the very fact that your spouse is doing or not doing something is the reality, and you have to live in the real world. Try to understand why your partner is taking or not taking a particular action. The “why” is most important, but often overlooked. Try to be aware of your partner and understand your partner at a whole new level of understanding.

Step 3. Select the proper mechanics to change behavior.

Think of mechanics as tools. What mechanisms, what tools, are you going to use to enact positive change? Your spouse will sometimes stop doing a behavior because you stopped doing something.

One of the first mechanics I recommend is a discussion at the dinner table to honestly discuss your feelings of unequal love. Let your partner know in advance that you need to talk about something important to you. Make a nice meal or pick up something from your favorite take-out. Having answered the questions above as a beginning assessment, you have specific information to discuss. Whatever happens, don’t get angry or defensive. You can start with something like, “I really liked it when you used to ___________. It seems like you haven’t done that for a while. When you did that, it made me feel really good – really loved. Is it something I’ve done that made you stop doing that?” Starting in such a way opens the door to an open and honest discussion without blaming or accusing your partner.

Additional things to do, mechanics, can include:

  • What are some things you have stopped doing because you didn’t feel loved by your spouse? You need to start doing those things again. It’s going to be hard because for the short term, you’re going to be giving more.
  • Give love to your spouse the way they want to receive it.
  • Stop doing things that you know irritate your spouse.
  • Arrange a date night. Yes, ladies can make those arrangements too.
  • Send loving texts during the day.
  • Prepare a favorite meal.
  • Start doing more chores around the house.
  • Arrange for constructive conversations during dinner time, like the one suggested above.

All of these things I refer to as the mechanics that can be used to enact positive change.

Step 4. Put your plan into motion.

All the planning and knowledge doesn’t do a thing until it is put into motion. Take action today. Right after you finish reading this post, perhaps print it out and start your beginning assessment. Take action now. Until you put the plan into motion, nothing will change in your marriage.

Take Action

Action Exercise: I want you to take a few minutes and put yourself 1 year into the future. I want you to see yourself living your life 1 year from now. As you see yourself and your spouse, I want you to see the changes you desire put into action. One year from now, your spouse is doing exactly the things that make you feel loved and respected. You are happy. You are feeling abundantly loved. You are giving abundant love to your partner the way they want to receive love. See yourself living that life. Take a few moments and put yourself there seeing who is doing what behaviors. Let the feeling of that vision wash over you. Let it sink in. Now, come back to today and understand what has to happen for you to live that desired life. What has to change? Do you need to change any of the 5 items on your list that you made earlier? Start taking action today.

Step 5. Give it a month and then evaluate.

After 30 days, take a few minutes to evaluate what happened in the past month. Consider some of these questions:

  1. 1
    Think back to your beginning assessment to understand how you felt 30 days ago.
  2. 2
    What mindsets did you focus on this month?
  3. 3
    What mechanics did you use? How often did you use them?
  4. 4
    How would you assess the actions you made this month? Did you make a lot of effort or just a little?
  5. 5
    What worked this past month? What helped you feel better about yourself and your marriage?
  6. 6
    What didn’t work too well? What changes will you make next month?
  7. 7
    On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being awesome and 1 being horrible, how would you rate the quality of your marriage today?

Then, next month, start these 5 steps all over again. Repeat the process until your desired goals are met. Once the goals are met, simplify the process to maintain the happy marriage for the long term.

Understand, that the more you understand and learn about building a happy marriage, the more you can work with to enact positive change. I’m referring to building up your knowledge about mindsets, mechanics, and motions. Imagine if you were to paint a picture of your house from the roadside. Your only supplies are red paint, green paint, and a 2-inch brush. How good would your painting be? If your art skills are like mine, it probably wouldn’t turn out so well. Now, add to your supplies a wide variety of paint colors, brushes, and other art materials. With all of these new supplies, you can probably do a better job of that painting.

Your marriage is the same way.

With the proper knowledge and actions, you can have the affection, love, sex, respect, intimacy, and connection you desire.

Then you are flourishing.

Additional Resources

Do you feel you are alone, trying to better the marriage all by yourself? Trying to improve a marriage SOLO is challenging and stressful. The first thing you need to understand is that one person can change a marriage. Just like one person can damage a marriage, one person can turn it around. Please visit my Services page to find out how I can guide you to improving/saving your marriage all by yourself.

About the author

Mark Jala is a certified marriage coach, researcher, and consumer advocate. Certified in Strategic Interventions, Mark bases all of his services and advice on verifiable research. With nearly 40 years of problem solving experience, Mark has developed a holistic approach to marriage coaching which provides a context and execution plan not seen in ordinary marriage services.

  • RockRockHollyRock says:

    I learned zero from this unhelpful article.

    • I welcome negative comments. They can help me to improve my communications. What isn’t helpful is a comment like this that doesn’t give any details. You didn’t say why it was unhelpful. So, I ask you…
      – Did you assess your current situation?
      – Did you come up with some things to do differently?
      – Did you discover some ways you can be a better spouse?
      – Did you try to make any changes?

      I welcome your constructive feedback.

  • Lenora Geyer says:

    How can I ever flourish in a marriage that is unequal, where I get yelled at by a spouse that is in total denial and defensive anytime i bring anything up and always has to be right? 49 years and still hurting

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