But how do we love if part of loving means inoculating oneself against lovelessness?
That's probably not how one should most accurately put what I am trying to say, but it is more or less true. It is about having the personal strength from God to wade through the dark times of misunderstanding, doubt, conflict, and resentment that arise in marriage. We commonly say that loving is willing the good of the other, and that's true, but I think it is good to add that it is first of all recognizing the good in the other. This recognition will be the focus of one's effort to continue to love the one whom one does not wish to love at a certain moment or time, or who is objectively speaking, acting pretty close to being unlovable. To recognize the good is to start, as all mental processes do, with ideas. Only after this does one move ultimately on to will. How can I will the good when I do not see the good? Focus on the good, then you may be able to will it - with a great deal of help from God.
So this is how you love without needing the other's love necessarily. But love is what it's suppose to be, of course, when you both are actively willing the other's good - but you can only will when you see that they possess a good to be willed and nurtured.
I think I am moving towards actually being a good husband because I am starting to love without requiring love back, but it's based on a solid awareness that I - perhaps more than anyone I know - love being loved, not need, but want. It is healthy to want love, it is healthy to realize that you effectively need love, it is healthy to realize you can love someone selflessly because they are good despite how you feel about them sometimes. I think we can all identify with that!
- But don't get into the trap of thinking you are immune from the need to be loved, but can just love freely and generously. That is a rare state. Most often when you think that's the case, it's just a form of apathy or disinterest.
- Don't operate from feeling. Operate from a deep and honest examination of the good that lies in the other.