Guest article provided by pastorlee.net
What does this mean…successful marriages learn to redefine love? Love seems to come natural to us. No one ever sits us down and teaches us how to love. The design of the soul naturally connects us to those around us with deep affection and commitment. Our nature is to love. We love the people in our lives, our pets, our cars. Some even love their jobs…but we all love. So why do so many marriages struggle to find fulfillment? Why do so many end in divorce? The issue is how we have defined love. Successful marriages have learned how to redefine love.
We need to first define what love should be. We want fantastic marriages and emotionally-stable children. It might seem strange that we need to define what love is because it comes so naturally to us. We might think that we love our children as easily as we breathe the air, but it is not quite that simple. What comes naturally is the affection, the positive emotions we feel toward those we love. But there is another aspect of love that is anything but human nature. This aspect has to do with our behavior when we feel unloved by someone that we love. We may love someone, but if we feel mistreated by them, then we may feel justified to not be ‘loving’ toward you in that moment. In other words, if someone is screaming at you, then you feel justified to scream right back, ignore, or withhold sex. But if we are only ‘loving’ toward others when they are ‘loving’ toward us, then we must ask if our motives are pure. Are we only treating someone well to be treated well? If this is the case, it is not giving, but taking. It is not sacrificial, but self-centered. It is not love in its purest form.
Love is doing what is best for someone no matter what. Imagine being in a grocery store watching a mom with a toddler riding in the basket. The child sees some beautifully red, delicious candy right there at the checkout and they want it. (Grocery stores should be fined for putting candy right back the registers right at the eye level of children.) Mom says, “No, you don’t need that candy today.” But the kid begins to scream at the mother. Now, the kid loves the Mom, but they are not ‘loving’ their mom in that moment.
Now, let’s imaging the mom’s reaction. Let’s say she screams back at the kid, “You quit screaming at me in front of all of these people.” Now, we know mom loves the kid, but she is not behaving in a ‘loving’ way. Or, let’s say mom gives in and gives the kid what they want teaching the kid to scream at mom whenever they don’t get what they want. This too, is not loving. Loving the child might be getting them candy every now and then as a treat, but when Mom says no and the kid screams, to love the child, mom needs to have stern, but ‘loving’ discipline.
OK, so here’s the kicker. We tend to love the way we were loved. I remember sitting in a counseling session with a man crying his heart out proclaiming his love to his wife. She tried to hold back tears because she wanted to be loved by him. She loved him. But the tears seeped through the black blue bruises around her eye and cheek from their argument the night before. This man ‘loved’ her, but the people in his life who ‘loved’ him also beat him.
When we are young, we do not have the intellectual ability nor emotional maturity to understand what love should look like. We simply look at our mom, dad, siblings…the people we naturally assume love us, maybe because they tell us they love us, and watch their behavior toward us. A 7-year-old who is being berated, verbally abused, by his father is not able to say, “My dad doesn’t ‘love’ well.” The boy, in his subconscious, simply says, “My dad loves me. My dad screams at me.” Then as he gets older, when he is angry, to scream at the person who has upset him seems very natural. You can see how the way we have been loved can affect those we want to love today.
The key is to redefine love. If we do not redefine love to what it should be, we will kill the marriage. Too many of us have defined love with ‘unloving’ behavior. Is it loving to have a short temper with your child or spouse? Is it loving to use words that make them feel horrible about themselves? Is it loving to constantly remind them of past mistakes or forgive? I think you get the picture.
Love must be redefined by a behavior that seeks to always do what is best for that person and to do it in a way that allows them to ‘feel’ loved even if they don’t like it. Once we have defined love this way, then we can work on our behavior and communication. We do not want to justify ‘unloving’ behavior when we don’t like what is happening. And when we are trying to do what is right for the other person and they don’t like it, we must maintain a ‘loving’ behavior.
Finally, we must work on our communication to be able to help the other person understand why we are doing what we are doing. When my spouse does not like what I am doing, I cannot get frustrated. Instead, I need to help her understand why. She may not agree but taking the time to let her see that my intentions are for her good creates a much better outcome.
Redefining love takes a great deal of time and effort. But the first thing is to go back and look at the behavior of those who ‘loved’ us as a child and see how often we display the same behavior with those we love. Then we need to remember how it made us feel and be determined to change our behavior, so we don’t make those we love feel the way we did.
Love is an emotion, but it is also a skill that can be refined only after love has been redefined from what we saw growing up to what love actually is.
Live Blessed and Be a Blessing!