Marlene and Richard attended an intervention with me and my husband, Pete, early last year after Richard had confessed to a number of extra-marital affairs. After 22 years of marriage, Marlene was understandably distressed but quick to recognise that Unconditional Love had been missing from both their lives. She was keen to learn the principles and understand the emptiness which had driven her husband’s behaviours.
After Pete thoroughly described the happiness possible in a marriage based on Unconditional Love, Marlene gasped. “Wow, so if we offer each other unconditional acceptance, we’ll finally have peace and happiness between us—no expectations, no disappointment, no conflict, no affairs? That sounds amazing, but is it hard to get there?”
Pete nodded. “In the beginning it seems hard, because it’s unfamiliar. But you don’t do it all at once. One step at a time. The first step is for both of you to find the unconditional love you’ve missed out on all your lives. You were taught to believe that you were worthless and needed to earn approval from the people around you. Now you can get rid of those lies and learn the truth. It’s a lot like reprogramming your software. You begin by sharing who you really are—mistakes, fear, and all of it—with a few people who are capable of accepting you. If you practice this diligently, you’ll find the Unconditional Love you need to change your life. As you feel more loved and accepted yourself, you’ll be able to offer that same gift to your husband and others. As you offer kindness and understanding without expectation of anything in return, you’ll create the possibility of your entire relationship changing”.
I noticed that as Pete and Marlene talked, Richard had been scowling, with his arms folded across his chest. I asked him, “So, Richard, how does all this sound to you?”
Richard mumbled defensively, “I do a lot of loving things for Marlene. I wash the dishes, I take the kids to after-school activities, I go out and earn a living so she can go shopping all the time. But what do I get? She still she doesn’t give me sex. If she loved me, I’d get more sex, and then I would be happy and we wouldn’t have any problems. I wouldn’t have to go somewhere else for sex.”
Pete leaned in and looked Richard in the eye “Richard I know that you sincerely believe that the root cause of all the problems in your marriage is a lack of sex, but what you’re actually looking for—what you need as much as you need air and water—is love, Unconditional Love. But you don’t even know what it feels like or what it would look like to give it—haven’t all your life—so you’ve settled for sex as a substitute for love. It’s all you know, so naturally you believe that more of it will make you happy. But it won’t. Like all the forms of emotional junk food we use as a substitute, the great feeling of sex wears off pretty quickly, and you start ‘needing’ sex again to feel better.”
Richard looked very sceptical. “So you’re saying if I get this Unconditional Love, I won’t want sex?”
“Nope. What I’m saying is that in the presence of Unconditional Love you won’t desperately NEED sex to fill an emptiness you don’t even recognise. If you have a truly unconditionally loving relationship, you’ll still want sex, but it will be just one of many ways that you both express love to each other. You’ll enjoy sex, but you won’t obsess about it.”
Marlene and Richard left the intervention feeling full of enthusiasm for building a marriage based on Unconditional Love, but that only happens with consistent attention to true principles. Marlene practiced what she learned. She told the truth about her own behaviour in interactions with Richard—and over time she learned to feel loved and to share that with others. After several months, all of Marlene’s feelings of betrayal, irritation, and fear had all but disappeared, and she was visibly happier.
Sadly, Richard didn’t keep learning, nor did he make contact with people who could have helped him. Instead of finding Unconditional Love, he continued to hope that sex and success in his career would make him happy. So, Marlene steadily grew emotionally, while Richard remained stuck in his emptiness and selfish behaviours.
Marlene was so much happier than she’d ever been, and she commented that she enjoyed loving Richard, even though he responded only with more demands. Eventually, though, Marlene realised that she wanted more than the one-sided relationship she had. She wanted an actively participating partner, and Richard refused to fill that role, so she made the decision to leave Richard.
Marlene may or may not find a loving partner in the future, but she will still continue to be loving and happy herself. Richard is very unlikely to change the course of his sad life.
Written by Nikki Uglow