Re: Romance in MARRIAGE really 'Unconditional love'?
You touch on a very interesting topic here. Marriage vows are conditional by nature. For instance, if my wife promises to "have and to hold" only me, and then decides to "have and to hold" someone else, she has broken her vow (condition for marriage) and the marriage could be dissolved.
However, I think the idea behind unconditional love would be nested "inside" the vow structure of marriage. That's why couples talk about "deal breakers", which are basically things that a spouse would do that would make marriage (or at least living with the said spouse for a while) impossible.
But deal breakers aside, I view unconditional love more in terms of loving your spouse even when he/she isn't very loveable at the moment. It is about making sure that your spouse doesn't have to earn your love, but being assured that your love is always there even when he/she makes mistakes or is having a rough time. Of course, these sorts of actions are also part of most wedding vows, but I'm talking about the day to day here.
According to the book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs, by Dr. Emerson Eggerich, the day to day activity of love and respect is far more important than simply knowing that at some point in your marriage you committed some things via a set of vows. To show love and/or respect to your spouse even when he/she doesn't deserve it is, in fact, what "doing your vows" looks like. Otherwise you get into what Emerson described as the "crazy cycle", where one spouse withholds love because the other spouse is withholding respect (or vice versa). The result is that the relationship crumbles as a result of the constant power struggle. An example:
"She hasn't responded to my need for sex for days. That isn't right and even goes against her vows and shows that she doesn't respect me. So why should I continue to do romantic things like writing her affectionate notes or cuddling with her? Until she realized that she is treating me like crap and standing on my air hose, I'm not going to go out of my way to do those things that she likes me to do for her, either."
Obviously the above example is immaturity -- but I believe many spouses play these sorts of games, even if they don't actually rationalize them out like I did above. For instance, my wife has a lower drive than I do. I discovered she was purposefully withholding affection from me (which is my love language -- physical touch) so I wouldn't desire her as often. This had the opposite affect on me because I was starving for her affection and the only way I seemed to get any affection was when we had sex. Her love language is words of appreciation/validation. So when she would withhold affection I would naturally want to be more affectionate (not her love language -- didn't turn her on at all). I then would become resentful and began to get all critical and pissy with my words. This, in turn, invalidated her and did the opposite of what she truly needed from me -- words of validation and appreciation. So she withheld more affection (and consequently sex, too).
We didn't get on this crazy cycle with the intention of hurting each other -- it just happened automatically. How unconditional love enters the picture is this: I decided to break the cycle by showing her love that I felt at the time she didn't really "deserve" (condition). I wrote to her my feelings, but I also made it clear with words of affection and validation that I was crazy about her and that I appreciated (a whole list) of things that she has done/is still doing in our relationship. I apologized for my critical words and for standing on her air hose even though I felt like I was also suffocating.
She didn't need to earn anything to get the above treatment. She didn't need to measure up, stop doing anything, or say she was sorry first. That is the unconditional part of what went on.
Does this make sense?