I read an article recently about how lovely it is to be in love—to lay in bed all day, gripping toes, listening to thunderstorms, sipping coffee together in some perfect café in Paris. Who lives that life?
What about when things get hard? When the alarm goes off, the kids are dumping dog food into the cat’s water, the car won’t start, and no one has slept because of the toddler who screams instead of sleeps. Or when we have real problems—a spouse in prison, or a car wreck, or job loss. We get stressed. We feel pressured. We get annoyed with each other. We push each other’s buttons.
Arguments are going to happen. We can’t ride the waves of love through them. We have to live real life. And in the midst of real life, there’s not always time to sit idly and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.
So how do we hold on to love while doing “life” together?
Perhaps we need to love differently. What if we loved to simply love, not to get love in return? Loved without expectations, without selfishness, without keeping score or wanting to win. The kind of love where I look at my partner and I say to myself I want to do everything in my power to make that human’s life easier and happier.
I want to change the idea of love. I’m talking about a radical change. A giving and selfless sort of love, in a society that is very “me” focused.
We’re never taught how to love another human. We’re taught to marry a man who is rich, who will take care of us, or a girl who is beautiful and intelligent. We are taught to focus on what we’ll get out of the marriage. A trophy. Babies. A house and two cars.
Some of us marry for love, but that doesn’t mean we know how to love. We think that it just happens, that it’s a natural thing that we do. I disagree. I think love is work, albeit rewarding. It’s constantly changing and at times it’s frustrating and difficult and maddening. But it’s worth it.
I want my love to not be a fantastical idealized form of love but a practical, real-life form. How to do that? I believe that by stepping outside of our inner “me” dialogue and entering into a more mindful, purposeful way of thinking and behaving, we can put our love into action.
When we argue:
Let’s give our partner time to explain his point of view. This means listening, and not just waiting for our turn to talk. Truly seeking to understand another where another is coming from.
Let’s admit when we are wrong and accept it and own it. Let’s learn from our partner, rather than trying to win imaginary argument points.
Let’s apologize when we realize we have done something that harms the relationship instead of helping it.
Let’s make an effort to identify what those things are.
Let’s apologize because we genuinely feel the need for an apology, not because we want to end the argument.
Let’s make our relationship more important than being smarter or better than each other, or winning arguments.
When we are living life together:
Let’s give each other the freedom to be ourselves, even though it’s not ours to give.
Let’s encourage each other to grow as humans and do things that interest us.
Let’s help each other live the lives we’ve dreamed of.
Let’s treat each other like adults, not like children.
Let’s be open and honest with each other instead of playing games and being manipulative.
Let’s come to each other if we have an issue and allow each other the space to express our needs.
Let’s make an effort to learn how our partner thinks and communicates. Sometimes arguments escalate simply because one person wants to talk it out, but the other needs time to think and process. No two people think alike, and it’s worth taking the time to learn about each other.
Let’s support each other’s dreams and goals in practical ways. Bring dinner to the office when he’s working his ass off instead of being upset that he’s not eating at the table. Run errands for her when she’s working late on a project that will bring her closer to her dream job. Keep each other’s goals on our minds and look for ways to move them forward for each other. Be each other’s motivator, cheerleader, and support person.
We’re bombarded with “it’s all about me” messages. We’ve got a long road to go to unlearn what society has taught (and not taught) us about how to love. But loving someone is not just a thing that happens. It’s a choice you make with the things that you do every day.
I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m not that great at some of these things yet. I really do like being right. I am sometimes an argumentative person. But I am a work in progress. Every day I am getting closer.