I recently spoke about relationships with a Twenty-Something who lamented that there just wasn’t any love left in her marriage. I can relate. I felt the same way two years into my marriage when I wearied of being perpetually belittled and pushed around. (Remove any notions from your head that I was the perfect wife. I had my faults, too).
Years later — when I was definitely older; and if not wiser, then hopefully at least less foolish — I realized a fundamental truth. Love is not an emotion. Real, honest, sincere love is a decision to put the well-being of another person ahead of your own. When everything goes as it should, the other person makes the same choice about you, and there is a balanced, harmonious relationship where each person is looking out for the best of the other.
Often that doesn’t happen. Caregivers, for example, often lose out on the reciprocity because the other person simply doesn’t have the capacity to give back. That’s understandable and provides an opportunity for people to step in and provide for the caregiver.
Unfortunately, more often the lack of real love is due to the selfishness that is becoming more pervasive these days. It looks like an adult temper tantrum with pouting and demands. It sounds like excuses. In severe cases, it becomes abuse. That’s not love.
This is love:
- Real love is patient. It doesn’t get irritated when someone is a little late or when someone has to be reminded to do or not do something for the 900th time today.
- Real love is considerate. It takes the feelings of others into account and places those above it’s own desires.
- Real love is not jealous. It doesn’t fly off the handle and jump to conclusions. It gives the other the benefit of doubt.
- Real love does not boast. It takes pride in the accomplishments of the other and finds joy there.
- Real love is not rude. It seeks to build up the other, not tear the other down.
- Real love is willing to compromise without losing sight of truth. There are basic truths that should guide us, but real love picks its battles rather than fighting over the little things.
- Real love lasts. It is not subject to our volatile emotions because it is a conscious choice, not a mere feeling.
There are, undoubtedly, examples to negate each of those characteristics, but the basic premise remains. There are plenty of people who sound and act as if they are the center of their own universe and everyone — including a spouse — must pay homage. No wonder relationships collapse so quickly. People expect the warm, fuzzy feelings of new affection to last, but they don’t. Once those wear off, many people conclude the relationship is over. They extricate themselves as soon as possible only to repeat the problem with another person in an unending cycle.
Set yourself free from the pattern. Choose to love another, even after the warm fuzzies of new love have gone.
(c) 2007 Robert Fornal. Used under Creative Commons License.