If there is one thing that makes motherhood so worth celebrating, it’s a mother’s capacity for love for her children. Whether it’s her willingness to give over her body to nourish a newborn, her patience with the endless ‘but why’ questions of a toddler, or the testing rebellion of a teenager, mothers seem to have a special empathy for the heart of their children.

But most mothers will admit that they don’t always ‘like’ their children. There are times when a child’s behaviour can be ugly and testing beyond reason. Mothers may get cross or be deeply hurt by a child, but they rarely revoke their love. Mothers seem to have a supernatural ability to see their children differently from how the outside world views them – they seem to know their heart, to see the vulnerable child within the rebellious teen or even adult.

A mother’s love, however imperfect, is indeed extraordinary, and it offers important insights into love and marriage.

Like our children, there are times when, as husbands and wives, we can be ugly and demanding in our marriages. Whether it’s stress, moodiness or simple selfishness, it’s fair to say that we’re not always all that likeable, and indeed can sometimes be downright obnoxious. At times like these, sustaining our love can feel like it demands a superhuman effort on the part of the other.

But our marriage vows said nothing about being perfect or even likable. The vows we made were to relentlessly love the other. As couples, we need to remember that there’s a big difference between ‘liking’ and ‘loving’. Liking is a subjective encounter; whether we like or dislike something or someone is as much about ‘us’ as it is about ‘them’. While it’s almost impossible to like a grumpy, self-absorbed, lazy or insensitive spouse, it is still possible to love them.

Being ‘unlikeable’ is not equivalent to being ‘unlovable’. Our likeability relates to what we do. Our lovability is a function of who we are. We don’t have to do anything in order to earn authentic love; it is a freely given gift that we receive simply for ‘being’.

Our marriage vows didn’t have us promise to like each other ‘all the days of my life’ for the simple reason that that is more an emotional outcome than a choice we can make. It would be as unreasonable as promising that we would never be sad. On the other hand, our decision to love is most definitely something over which we have control.

Love is not dependent on the emotions. Love is not a trade or quid pro quo. It is not exchanged only on condition that the other’s actions make us feel good or their presence likeable. Love is a choice we can make; a choice to value the other as God’s beloved son or daughter… even when we don’t like them!

Love is always a choice. And in marriage couples commit to choosing love every day, most especially those times when we may otherwise dislike the other.


Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash.

About the Author: Byron and Francine Pirola

Married for 25 years, with 5 children, Byron & Francine Pirola are the founders and co-authors of the SmartLoving Series – marriage enrichment and marriage preparation courses designed to help build successful and resilient marriages. International speakers and authors of numerous articles on marriage, more than 3000 couples have attended their programs, workshops and conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain Byron & Francine are Executive Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre from which they run SmartLoving programs and produce digital resources. Francine graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Religion and Religious Education. Byron is a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners Limited, and a Director of both listed and unlisted companies. He holds a PhD from the Commonwealth Centre for Gene Technology, Adelaide University.

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