Price: Your thoughts are the key to loving well
I was looking through my library recently and came across the book “Ratty Bathrobes, Cranky Kids & Other Romantic Moments.” My first thought was “I have to get this author to write a column for The Daily Times and be my guest on ‘TWOgether as ONE.’” I’m happy to say that the author, Tamyra Horst, consented to both.
In this column, she shares thoughts on “loving well” even if, or perhaps especially when, you don’t feel like it. I think you’ll enjoy reading what she has to say and hearing more when she is my guest on the radio at 6 p.m. Monday on KLJH 107.1FM.
Learning to love well
As a young bride, head over heels in love, scenes of romantic bliss danced in my head as I walked down the aisle. I imagined living happily ever after in our new little home. We were in love, and that’s all we needed, right?
It wasn’t long before I realized marriage required more than being in love. There were days when I didn’t feel in love — when I wasn’t even sure I liked him. Living happily ever after seemed an impossible dream. But a new determination replaced those images of romantic bliss. I decided to love well, even when I didn’t feel in love.
I realized the goal of loving well isn’t to live happily ever after. There are going to be good days and bad days — days when you are happy and days when you are angry. The goal of loving well is to encourage, affirm, enable, empower, support and challenge each other to be the person they were created to be. Marriage is an ongoing journey. Not a destination. My goal was to love Tim well and support him as he pursued his passions and purpose.
I had begun our marriage expecting him to “complete” me and make me happy. I expected him to come home from work and the two of us having long, meaningful conversations over dinner. Trouble was, by the time he came home from work, he wasn’t interested in talking. Or going out. And I’m not even sure what “completing” me would have looked like, but I was definitely not feeling it. Unmet expectations are the biggest threat to any relationship, so I decided to put aside my expectations, take care of my needs myself and focus on just loving him and making him happy.
At first, I thought that this meant always being nice. Making sure I did all the things that made him feel loved well. Trying to meet all his expectations. But this wasn’t something I could do either. And sometimes trying to meet all his expectations didn’t seem like the best thing for him either.
Really loving well is hard. It means setting boundaries and not allowing bad behavior. It means acting loving when you don’t feel it. It means being persistent in teaching your spouse what makes you feel loved and helping them love you well. A marriage isn’t strong and healthy if only one person is feeling loved and happy in it. Sooner or later, bitterness and resentment build up to a point that is difficult to heal.
I learned that the key to loving well isn’t what you say or do, though they are important. The key to loving well is what you think. The story you tell yourself about your spouse. The story you tell yourself about your relationship. Sometimes it’s easier to say or do loving well and harder to think it, but what we tell ourselves over and over becomes the truth we believe. So if we tell ourselves, “I don’t love him anymore,” “This is just too hard, I can’t do it” or “I’d be happier with someone else,” we believe it and begin responding and acting accordingly.
It’s not good for our marriage.
We need to be careful how we talk about our spouse and our marriage not only to others, but most importantly, to ourselves. Tell ourselves, “I’m angry and hurt right now, but I do love her,” “This is hard, but our marriage is worth fighting for and we’re going to work through this” or “He didn’t intentionally set out to hurt me or make me angry. He does love me.”
There will be difficult days. There will be times when you’re not sure that you feel in love any longer and when you can’t remember what you loved about him or her in the first place. We’ll have our moments when we’ll disagree or even fight. It happens in all relationships. It’s how we respond in those moments that’s key. When being right is more important than understanding how your actions or words impact another person, you are not loving well. We need to care about the other person’s heart, as well as our own. Remind ourselves that they are not the enemy, but the person we vowed to love forever.
Loving well means not only staying, but staying committed. Pursuing your spouse. Engaging. Connecting. Talking. Learning to “speak” love so that your spouse “hears” it. Loving well is active and intentional. It requires continuing to date and do those little things that make your spouse feel loved and respected. We’ve been married for more than 33 years now and still go out on dates. We plan “adventures,” more typically known as vacations. We not only want this marriage to last, but we want to live as happily ever after as two faulty, selfish, opposites can live together.
Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.