During February I’ve been thinking about LOVE–and noticing how some in our Christian culture view married-love. There seems to be a mini-epidemic of spousal-obsession that gives way to over-helping, people-pleasing and just plain “fixing.” (Okay, if you want to call it codependency, go ahead! And yes, it can be done with lots of words or with silent manipulation.)
This leads me to ask: What did Jesus say about how to love? Along with other wise teaching He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) The original word for “neighbor” means someone close to you. Well, your mate couldn’t be much closer, right?
So here what I’m learning: Loving my spouse as myself does not mean loving him instead of myself. As a healthy child of God, I will love, respect and take care of myself. Yet I won’t be obsessively absorbed in self to the point of leaving him out of my inner life; nor will I live my life through orfor him.
To live primarily through or for another person means that I feel, think, decide, and hurt for that person. I try my best to fix all situations so he does not have to be sad or disappointed or angry or hurt. I’m sorry to say that I’ve been there and done that. I thought this epitomized LOVE, but it backfired.
I discovered that “fixing” (or excessive helping and managing) can actually rob a mate of living his own life before God. It may even deny him a sense of accomplishment and self-worth because I give the impression, “You are not capable of doing this, so I’ll do it for you.” In this process, I often deprive myself of the time and energy I need to grow personally and spiritually.
The relief-producing news: I can learn to accept, appreciate, and respect the person God created to live inside my own body. That God-ordained love, acceptance, and respect can splash over to my spouse. I can be authentic about our reality and still leave him room to develop and make his own decisions. I can learn to love myself and my spouse. It may be a messy process at times AND our married-love is worth it.
For each couple, this growing process will look a little different. What would it look like for you? (You don’t have to over-share. I’d just love your interaction and comments!)
NOTE: Guys, you can substitute the “him” words in the post to “her”, because guys can over-help and over-control, too. Just saying…
Ahhh. It’s LOVE week. All is well. Or is it?
If you’re like some lovers, you may sense that one or both of you are trying too hard to control how the other one expresses love. Instead of increasing intimacy, it pushes you apart. So what’s up?
Okay, no one is perfectly loving 24/7. Yet, you can grow in your Valentine-Relationship when you both commit to developing these God-honoring characteristics:
1. Allow for individuality. Differing talents or temperaments do not threaten true love. Feelings and thoughts can be expressed without fear.
2. Avoid trying to change the other. We may not like everything about our partner, yet when we consider the total picture we are able to be more accepting.
3. Care with detachment. Healthy love cares, listens, and responds; yet does not try to fix or remove the uncomfortable feelings of the lover.
4. Affirm equality of self and partner. A mature relationship treats the partners as equals. There is no sense of competition or one-upmanship.
When you practice mature love, you accept what the other person is able or willing to give. You allow each other space to grow and develop.
This week I invite you to pray with me: “Lord, teach me to love authentically…with joy and fun. I don’t wish to make inappropriate demands–and force my own way. Help me to be honest about what I want. And also listen to understand my mate’s needs and desires. You had a good idea when You created romantic love. Thank you.”
Have a lovely V-day. I know I will, ‘cuz it is also my birthday!
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.