Something's fishy about this love
LOVE. How would our culture define “love”? Perhaps we might hear someone say love is “a feeling of being adored, supported, cherished, protected, or understood.” Others might feel that if their partners anticipate their needs, or are in tune with what they are thinking or feeling, that feels like love. Disney paints a picture that you must be royal, beautiful, and sing like a bird to fall in love. If ten people were asked to define Love, we would likely get ten different answers.
Has the word Love become overused? “I love candy!” “I love that song!” “I love my new shirt!” Do we just love objects that make us feel good? Does that mean we are looking for a partner who makes us feel good? Is that love?! What about those days when our partner is NOT making us feel good? Does that mean that we do not love them on that day?
Rabbi Abraham Twerski illustrates this point with a story of a rabbi and a young man:
Rabbi: “Young man, I see you are eating fish. Why are you eating fish?”
Young Man: “Well, I’m eating fish because I love fish!”
Rabbi: “You love fish?”
Young Man: “Yes, I do love fish!”
Rabbi: “You mean, you love fish so much that you take it out of its environment, you kill it, cook it, and then you eat it? That’s love?”
Rabbi Twerski highlights that when the young man speaks about loving fish he is referring to the way in which he uses it for fulfilling his own needs. The fish is the object that satisfies his appetite, hunger, and desires. How often do we look at our partners in such a way? We see them as the vehicle of our own gratification. Is this a partner’s job to make us feel happy, content, secure, etc.? One of the problems with this philosophy is that the moment they stop providing these feelings, we believe we have fallen out of love with them. Often the next move is to end the relationship and find someone else who provides those same emotions again.
When we hear what the Author of love says, we get a completely different picture. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Interesting! It does not speak of love causing us to feel a certain way! Instead, it speaks of what we do when we are loving one another.
When I look back upon the times that I have felt deeply loved by my husband, a certain dark period of my life stands out. I had just broken my leg and had it surgically repaired. While I was in the hospital, my husband’s father had a stroke and died eleven days later. Our youngest child was launching to college for the first time, leaving an empty nest. I was out of commission physically, sitting in a recliner with my leg propped up all day long, unable to care for myself. I was depleted emotionally by the loss of my father-in-law, and the upcoming launch of our daughter. I was in a deep depression with no ability to comfort my husband as he was navigating the same pain. Yet somehow, my husband would come home every day to his homebound, depressed wife, help me into my wheelchair, and take me out on a three-mile walk. He would huff and puff up and down the hills of our neighborhood, dripping with sweat as I soaked up the fresh air that filled my soul. THAT is love! I had nothing to give him and yet he did not withhold love.
As a therapist, I often hear, “If he would just be kind to me then I would be kind back,” or “If she would show me some respect I would do the same.” One partner is waiting on the other to make the first move. What happens if neither is willing to put pride aside and respond in a loving way, no matter what the other chooses to do? That relationship is in trouble!
My challenge to you is to focus on yourself rather than your partner. Ultimately, you can only control yourself anyway. Decide who you want to be and how you can show love to your partner and then set out to do that. It may bring about some beautiful changes in your relationship. If you would like some help navigating your marriage relationship please feel free to contact me, Deana Reed, at 512-238-1700 ext 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.