Earlier, today, I read that Huffington Post article that’s making it’s way around. It’s called “I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married” and it details the way that the author has noticed the love in his marriage has changed. All in all it’s a pretty typical “love is a verb” type of article. I don’t disagree with anything in the article. I highly suggest you read it! There are just a few things that I want to add. Not that I’m an expert or anything.
At least in the Evangelical communities in which I grew up, this is not a foreign concept. We hear all of the time “love is not a feeling it is an action”. And that can be true but that also led a lot of us girls to grow up with a misguided notion that led many friends and dorm-mates to rush into very young marriages believing that it’s okay that maybe things didn’t feel exactly right–love is a verb. It’s not a feeling. This was dealt with in various ways. Some young couples that I know have grown into happy, loving marriages. Some divorced just as young as they married. I don’t think either way was the right way. Everyone is different and everyone’s relationship is different. I don’t dispute that love is a verb but I think that “this is right” feeling is pivotal, too. It just needs to be used correctly. More like a compass rather than something used to gauge whether or not things are alive or dead.
Elad Nehorai talks about when he would go out of his way to be extra romantic or lovey-dovey, trying to rekindle that initial fire that he felt, it would not be reciprocated. Probably because it felt very fake, put-on, or like he was trying too hard (enormous turn-off). But then once he started doing things, say, around the house for his wife or just taking some of the burden off of her (to use another form of Christianeese, “he was speaking her love language”), he noticed that she would look at him as a woman who loves her husband. And that would fuel his fire to keep doing these loving things. To quote my dear friend Angela, “love begets love.” And this is an excellent point. Love is what produces more love. You can’t create it out of thin air.
But I think there’s another way to love, too. And that’s by living loved. I mean by living as one who is loved. I mean by accepting that this person across the table loves you and then actively accepting that love from them. I speak from a woman’s perspective, of course, though I’m sure this speaks to men as well. When someone compliments us, we’re expected to deflect it. When someone says, “I love this recipe!” We say, “Oh, it wasn’t that difficult.” When someone says, “You look great today!” We’re supposed to say, “No, I look awful.” When someone offers to help, we’re supposed to say “Oh, no, I can do it on my own.” Regardless of what we really feel, we’re supposed to downplay ourselves and our wants and our needs and that, I think, is really detrimental to our relationships with other people.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for over two years now. That’s not long, I understand that and so I’m not trying to speak as an expert on the subject. But I have lived a little. I’ve tried to make a man love me who was completely incapable of giving me what I needed and after years of trying to get water from a stone, it made an imprint on me as a person. I thought that I was doing it right, though. Because everyone says that love takes really hard work and that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a verb. So I trained myself to love by giving and giving and giving without reciprocation.
Well now, here I am two years in with a man who loves the hell out of me. And I catch myself, still, going back to those old habits and trying and trying and trying. And when I’m met with, “I love you” sometimes I don’t know what to do. And I deflect, like we’re supposed to. But for me, one of the most loving things that I can do for my boyfriend is to let him love me. To let him compliment me. To let him buy me dinner. To let him clean out the cat box because he knows I hate to do it. And it doesn’t come easily. Not at all. It can be scary and vulnerable to just sit there and accept kindness and compliments and kisses. Sometimes it takes everything in me to fight that impulse to push it away because graciously accepting something that I want and enjoy isn’t something that I’ve been trained to do. I’m the one who’s supposed to be working for it, not you! But real love is reciprocal. And love begets love begets love. And so I keep trying.
And I just wanted to tell you about that.