Four Steps to Assume Love


Here’s how you Assume Love. Consider doing it every time your spouse does something or fails to do something and you feel anger, resentment, hurt, fear, shame, frustration, or superiority taking hold of your emotions:

  1. Assume you are completely loved by a wonderful person.
  2. Attempt to explain how such a person might come to do what just happened.
  3. If you can think of one or more explanations that might possibly apply to your real life situation, too, decide whether you choose to react to the negative explanation or to one of these positive possibilities.
  4. If you choose one of the positive ones, check whether it teaches you something new about how your spouse loves you.

Here’s an example…

Matt just arrived home from work at the end of a long day and has an important meeting scheduled for tomorrow. Julie didn’t pick up his suits at the cleaners as she had promised, and he has no other clean suits in his closet. He’s worried about how he’ll manage things in the morning, angry that Julie put him in this position, and stinging with hurt that she apparently chose not to keep her promise to him.
Matt’s ready to lecture her about the importance of this meeting (and unknowingly ruin the mood of a dinner Julie planned as a reminder of their first date). But he stops and asks himself how a good, thoughtful person who loves him completely might have done what Julie did. On his first try, Matt thinks there could have been an emergency that required her to spend hours at the emergency room instead of running errands. But things are calm at home. So he tries for another explanation. Maybe the dry cleaners closed because they had an emergency. Unlikely, but possible.
Perhaps this hypothetical wonderful person who loves him completely didn’t know about the meeting tomorrow or the lack of clean suits. Both could be true for Julie. Maybe she hadn’t understood their agreement to mean the suits would be picked up today. Or perhaps she knew and made a conscious choice to do something other than go to the cleaners, a choice that Matt would have gone along with if only he knew. Matt feels that while it’s possible Julie was just being irresponsible or uncaring, he’s got several other possibilities that are just as likely. The anger subsides. He’s not sure if he feels hurt or not now. He notices the terrific smells coming from the kitchen and smiles at Julie.
“I notice you didn’t get to the cleaners today. Did something else come up?”
Julie answers, “Yes, I got a call from that new restaurant, and they want me to create their menus and ads. It’s a huge job, and I fixed us a wonderful dinner to celebrate. I hope tomorrow’s OK for picking up the suits, because I got back after they closed.”
“Oh, Julie, that’s great! You worked so hard preparing that package you sent them last week. I’m delighted for you,” Matt replies. After they celebrate, he says, “I’ve got a big meeting tomorrow at 11, and I’m going to need one of those suits at the cleaners, but I’ve got to be in the office before the cleaners open. Can you possibly pick them up and bring me the gray pinstripe at the office?”
Julie agrees and begins reading, and Matt silently moves onto the last Assume Love step. He notices that Julie had placed a work opportunity over a promised chore, put effort into celebrating her work success with him, and offered to help him be successful at work tomorrow, even though it would eat up a significant part of her day. It makes him think about Julie’s whole attitude toward work, far more upbeat than his own. Today’s the day he first realizes that Julie approaches her work as a means of loving and caring for him and sees his work as an act of love for her.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • I am so glad that I found this site. I too have struggled with some of the same things you have in your past, but with Gods help and understanding that alot of my happiness is up to ME, not my spouse our marriage is better than it was. I have learned that acceptance is the key, and to not sweat the small stuff, even though you might not understand everything, you can DECIDE to be happy and be happy together.

  • Thank you for making more people see marriage as a commitment to love rather than just a mere contract about mutual rights.

  • Hi Patty,

    I came across your wonderful blog and while a lot of things resonate with me, i have a question. What if my marriage is on the brink of divorce and i try the assume love approach, how long does it take for a spouse to start the giving? And what if it never happens, despite me assuming love 100%?

    I don’t actually believe that my husband actually wants to be a wonderful life partner, i feel like a placeholder in his life, a wife, sons mother, that’s it. I don’t think he feels any duty towards the marriage / relationship/ me and only pretends to make efforts for the sake of our son.

    • Neeraja, it sounds like you are the one on the brink of divorce, and he’s OK with things as they are. This is often the case. If you work on your own perception of the marriage, as I suggest in this blog, I cannot promise you that he will become more loving or that you will find him any more lovable. However, you are already in a place where you’re on the brink of divorce (a horribly uncomfortable place to be) and looking for a way to force him to show you more love, which, unfortunately, is not a natural choice for someone comfortable enough with the status quo or for a person married to someone giving off the vibes of a person in a horribly uncomfortable place. You’re stuck in mud and spinning your wheels, digging yourself in deeper and deeper.

      I know just how truly awful that situation feels. I was there. And only because a totally unexpected event occurred do I understand now what I might have done differently. That event was my husband’s sudden death, leaving me with no divorce lawyer fees to pay, full custody, and all of our assets, but no improvement in my life, just more unmet needs. Even the best possible divorce would not have changed what I wanted to change back then.

      Twenty years ago, I married again. I don’t for a minute think I found a man who is better at marriage or a better match for me, but I’ve been happy all of these years, because I changed how I handle situations that frustrate or disappoint me. And because I am usually happy, my husband usually behaves the way he did when he was trying to get me to love him. But he doesn’t think about it much. It’s just because he feels wanted and approved of. Most men don’t try to change partners who are unhappy or unpleasant. They just try to avoid them. They have much lower expectations than most of us women bring to a marriage. Read through the comments in this blog to learn how many of them were shocked to learn their wives were so unhappy that they want to leave. Read their requests for advice on how to hold onto someone who has already decided to go, which is a pretty tall order.

      If you’re still at the place where you’d stay if he did those wonderful things, I recommend you start creating a happy life for yourself instead of waiting for him to do it. Pick any time frame you like for separating, but until that date, build your better life instead of tapping your foot waiting for him to build it. Assume Love when you try to understand why he does what he does. Expect Love in whatever form he might offer it instead of the way someone else (in real life or, more likely, fiction) offers it to his wife. You will most likely notice a lot more attempts at loving you, as I did as soon as my husband was dead and I reviewed our life together without any more expectations. Find other people and places and organizations to help meet some of your needs.

      If you know your Love Language, find friends who share it, so you’ll long a bit less to get it from him. Instead of forcing yourself to speak his Love Language until you magically tip some scale that would change the way he shows his love, show yourself some love. If you long for Quality Time together, schedule things you’d enjoy doing together and do them even when he won’t join you. That look on your face after doing something that engages you will affect his feelings about you and about spending time together. If your Love Language is physical touch, take dance lessons (with an instructor or a class full of strangers) or pay for massages or pedicures. If it’s Acts of Service, hire someone to come by once a week and do chores you don’t want to do.

      If things don’t improve in your marriage as you build this better life, and you go through with the divorce, you’ll be well on your way to figuring out how to live a good single life even when the only men interested in you aren’t interested in a long-term or sharing relationship.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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