Halfway through my last blog post, I realized I wasn’t going to get through all of my ideas on the subject. I still wanted to express my thinking on a couple more aspects of love and why I am grateful for them. However, if I put them all in a single post, then it would’ve been a massive, unwieldy thing, more like a rambling chapter than a post. Here, I will attempt to cover the rest of my thoughts on the subject, but do it in a clear, and hopefully, enjoyable manner.
Service gets a superficial nod when it comes to love. I am grateful for this aspect of love because it allows me to dedicate my efforts to another person and show them how much I love them. There is an old saying that love is a verb and I believe this is true. Love increases when we act upon it and withers when we do not. I have to be careful about how I express love as my efforts can backfire if my love is self-centered and not other-centered. As Dr. Chapman points out (in his work on the five love languages), if I am only focused on giving love based on how I feel love, then I am self-centered: I am focusing on myself and my own feelings instead of what my wife is feeling and her needs.
So, how do I serve my wife? I am not here to say that I do these things remotely well – these posts are reminders to myself on how I must improve, as much as anything else. When I love my wife well, it is because I observe her – when she feels happy, when she is indifferent, and so on. For example, I know that she enjoys physical demonstrations of love, through acts of service. One way that I do this is by giving her car rides, which usually last almost an hour and end with buying drinks at our favorite drink and cookie stand, Sodalicious. It allows us to spend time together and just be around one another and enjoy a pleasant ride around town. This is something that she enjoys and allows me to show my love for her. It’s going to be different for each couple – but you have to have your eyes open as to what it is that your partner wants and and what increases their love for you.
Perhaps all of these elements come from having shared values with each other. There is an old saying that opposites attract, but sameness stays together. I think this is because we are attracted to the new, the shiny object, the “other.” However, with exposure, the “new” becomes the “regular.” Once that newness wears off, then there has to be something solid, something enduring. Unfortunately, many people form relationships based on external, temporary qualities, so when these things change, the relationship suffers because it was based on something that cannot last. I would consider such qualities things like money, physical attractiveness, athletic or creative skills, and things of this nature. It is a demonstrable fact that people change over time and if I enter a relationship with a person based on their looks or ability to earn wealth, when those things change, and it is likely that they will, then that relationship will collapse as the connection between me and my partner was based on a poor foundation.
Interior/intrinsic values, or as I wrote about in my first post – virtues of the heart – are longer lasting and are built upon the foundation of self-development and character building, and thus are much more durable, especially when turbulent times come. In my own life, I was first attracted to my wife because of her energy, her generosity, and her charisma. That has helped me immensely through the whirlwind of life because it created a bedrock that I could place the relationship onto. Now, it’s important to note that people’s nature can and does change, those elements that are central to a person’s nature is the least likely to change and therefore, the best place to anchor the relationship.
We are always going to tie our relationships to certain anchors, the aspects that we consider to be the most important parts – we might as well as anchor them to deep virtues that will stay constant over time and create a richer, fuller connection over the duration of our lives. I am grateful for my wife’s desire to serve our family and those around us. On many occasions, she has been the one to push me to serve and I have been a better man for it. But that is an important part of love as well – bringing out the best in one another with the best intentions, using methods that are honorable to reach the best possible ends.