Emotions happen. Hormones happen. Romantic feelings happen. But love does not just happen.
Oh, sure, love can coincide with feelings and hormones and emotions and that can be pretty amazing when it does.The problem is when we confuse those other things for love.This puts a lot of pressure on our relationships and marriages by causing us to focus on the wrong things. It causes us to miss the abundance of joy that is right there for the taking by chasing something that invariably will ebb and flow throughout life. Confusing emotions and feelings for love results in dysfunction that a relationship can not stand up under easily. And something a new relationship, a new spouse, even, ultimately will not fix.
The great thing is this. Love is a decision. You no longer have to wait for it to “happen”; you can decide to experience love today, at this very moment even. And when you practice this real, true kind of love, more often than not you will find that those positive emotions and hormones and romantic feelings often follow in its wake. I would say more often than not. Real love has the power to stir up some amazing feelings like you can’t even imagine. Want to be adored by your spouse? This is almost guaranteed to work, even in challenging relationships. Not only that, but by practicing love you are building a strong foundation for a healthy marriage, one that can stand the test of time.
So what does this real kind of love look like?
Love is always, always kind. It is using your words to build the other person up, to encourage them when they are down. It isn’t sarcastic or cutting. It is you willing to wait and sometimes to do things you don’t like for another. It’s not insisting on things always going your way. Instead it’s looking to see how you can serve the other person. Love is surprising them by doing a chore or task, especially one they dislike. It is offering patience when the other is tired and a bit short.
Love isn’t arrogant, thinking that it knows everything there is to be known. It listens and learns. It cares about what another person thinks, believes, and feels. *Gulp*, even when they disagree or they offer criticism. It doesn’t hold a grudge and make another person “suffer” for a perceived wrong. Love offers grace and forgives and forgets. It’s admitting when you make mistakes and asking for forgiveness. It’s sticking with it even when things are tough. Love doesn’t give up. Love is full of hope and belief. Love is forever.
How this works for us
Brance and I have found that the more our marriage is in sync with the two paragraphs above, the more amazing it is. When the law of love is at work in our marriage, we are more likely to experience all those positive feelings and emotions (which makes marriage more fun, right?!). And then when the storms of life come – sickness/disease, financial stress, failure, and disappointment – our marriage is able to stand the test, and even thrive because of this firm foundation. The loss of Brance’s father, ulcerative colitis, depression, a big move, or even the 101 little daily stresses are things that we are able to weather together gracefully when our foundation is real love. Of course we are not perfect and do not do this perfectly. But the more we try, the easier it gets… and the better our marriage gets.
A one-way street
Maybe you are interested in giving this real love thing a go, but are afraid it might be a one-way street. It may be. There are no guarantees when it comes to love, but there is a VERY good chance things will change. There is a very good chance that the person you treat with love, regardless, will take notice and likely even decide to respond with love (it may take a bit of time as they see that the change is permanent). And that overtime your relationship will become stronger, healthier, and more beautiful as a result. Although, you win regardless. Even in the unfortunate event that the other person never responds in kind. As you treat people and situations in life with love instead of anger or bitterness or envy or impatience, you’ll become a happier, more whole version of yourself. Your life will inevitably change for the better as you approach it with love. You win!
By the way, if you are in a dating relationship with someone who you discover is unwilling to practice real love, it is time to say goodbye. You deserve better; you are worth real love. As difficult as it may be in the moment, your life will be better for this decision. And ultimately you win by walking away. We view marriage as a sacred union so we would encourage a married person in a similar situation to seek good counseling. But if you aren’t married, there is no reason to stick around and fight for a one-sided relationship.
Love is so worth it
This love thing is no little thing. Making the decision to practice real love in your relationships has the power to turn even the most difficult ones right-side-up. And even more than that, it has the power to transform YOU. When you decide to really love other people, even in challenging circumstances, your life raises up from the ashes. You are set free from the prison of bitterness, anger, and envy to live a happy, healthy, and fuller life. I dare you. Give it a try.