All you need is love?
Really, is it that simple?
It may be.
The problem is that a simple saying is easy to say, but the application, on a consistent basis is extremely hard. As I write this, I struggle with it and what to say. It is a vast subject and is something that always teaches us more about it as we go through life. Hopefully my few thoughts can help both you and me.
You may be like me. Sometimes when I get annoyed with Jessica or get feelings of indifference towards her, I have the same scripts come into my mind. Many can be negative, but luckily I have one that is positive and helps me get back on the right track…Love her.
You may be familiar with that idea from Steven R. Covey. He uses a great example of what this means his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He shares the following:
“At one seminar where I was speaking on the concept of proactivity, a man came up to me and said, “Stephen, I like what you are saying. But every situation is so different. Look at my marriage. I’m really worried. My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her anymore and she doesn’t love me. What can I do?”
“The feeling isn’t there anymore?” I asked.
“That’s right.” he reaffirmed. “And we have three children we’re really concerned about. What do you suggest?”
“Love her,” I replied.
“I told you, the feeling just isn’t there anymore.”
“You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.”
“Then love her. If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.”
“But how do you love when you don’t love?”
“My friend, love is a verb. Love — the feeling — is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?”
In the great literature of all progressive societies, love is a verb. Reactive people make it a feeling. They’re driven by feelings. Hollywood has generally scripted us to believe that we are not responsible, that we are a product of our feelings. But the Hollywood script does not describe the reality. If our feelings control our actions, it is because we abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so.
Proactive people make love a verb, Love is something you do: the sacrifice you make, the giving of self, like a mother bringing a newborn into the world. If you want to study love, study those who sacrifice for others, even for people who offend or do not love in return. If you are a parent, look at the love you have for the children you sacrificed for. Love is a value that is actualized through loving actions. Proactive people subordinate feelings to values. Love, the feeling, can be recaptured.”
To love is hard. Marriage is hard. Throw kids in the mix and it gets even harder. It is work, but it is worth the work. So what does this work of love look like?
I had a professor in college who used to teach us about communication by analyzing the smallest little aspects of speech. We would take a 20 second audio phone clip and analyze the different aspects of what was being communicated for the whole class. We would video ourselves for one minute and analyze our group dynamics. His favorite saying was “How do you do being ________”. He would fill in the blank with a new word each time: confident, happy, an expert, mad, shy, etc.
So how do you do being loving? How do you do being happily married? What are the actions you take, the things you say, how you say them, and your underlying motivations and feelings that make up the doing of love? Here are a few thoughts.
Do I really listen when my wife says that I need to come home at a certain time from work? Do I really listen when she’s ready to run away from the kids? Do I hear the underlying messages of what repeated requests are asking that indicate an area of improvement? Do I take the time to listen not only to the words, but also notice the tone, the expressions, the mood? A powerful act of love is to listen to your mate with your whole self.
Love is spelled T-I-M-E
There is a great book of stories and quotes with the title To a Child Love is Spelled T-I-M-E. The same applies in marriage. We got into our relationships because we spent the time. The only way to continue to strengthen them is to continue to spend time. Your spouse will know that you love them by both the quantity and quality of the time you spend together. It’s actually fun to spend time together, and if it isn’t, it’s your choice to make it that way.
What’s mine is yours
In marriage, you make the decision to join your life with someone else and make one life together. The difficulty comes because before we are married we are quite free to structure our life however we want to. Most decisions are made with you as the major interest holder. Then once we are married, this changes. Even with just two of you, it becomes us. All of your decisions now affect the other spouse. That adjustment can be a struggle to say the least. Marriages based on selfishness are almost destined to fail. Marriages that focus on the comfort and happiness of the other person are just what they make it, happy ones. When you are united, when I’m concerned with making you happy, naturally your happiness results in my happiness and we succeed together. Love grows by giving of yourself. The more completely you give, the more completely you love.
Believe in your marriage
Happiness in marriage doesn’t come just because I want it to be there. It is a state of mind and comes from within. It requires us to believe in our marriage and in the other person. We must choose to act on those beliefs and live as to make them come true. A great quote that illustrates this is by Erich Fromm.
“Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love”
Allow God to help you
Our small collection of thoughts would not be complete without acknowledging the greatest force of Love out there. Not only does God love us as his children, he loves us so much that he will help us figure out how to love each other because he wants us to succeed! We get in the way. So often we have a prideful desire to change, or try to love, without the help of God. As you seek His help, you will not be disappointed. As soon as you turn to Him, you will witness his love and power on behalf of yourself and your marriage. God’s can help you let go of old patterns and replace them with promptings that lead you to a better, fuller way of loving. Afterall, God is Love (1 John 4:8). Love starts with us making choices and reaching outside of ourselves. The most power I’ve ever found to love and change has come by humbling myself and allowing God to help me.
Hopefully you’ve thought about DOING something to love your spouse in the few moments you’ve spent reading this. Love is a verb. you can talk about it, but when you DO it, it really is all that you need.
Be sure to check out what our friends over at the Kid Project have to say in 7 Things I Love About My Wife. We’re teaming up with them for our marriage series!