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Marriage

What Does Real Love Look Like?

By October 24, 2019 May 18th, 2020 2 Comments

What Does Real Love Look Like Standard

I spend a lot of time teaching clients that focusing on your partner’s negative traits will only bring more misery and unhappiness. Conversely, focusing on his/her positives will bring more satisfaction and joy. Most marriage counselors know this simple fact because we are taught it. I know it because I lived it. 

For years, I was unhappy in my marriage because I had a mental list of all the ways my husband disappointed me. He never planned special date nights or bought me flowers. He didn’t always remember the things I needed him to do, and I’m pretty sure in our 30 years of marriage, he has never surprised me, even once, with a special gift. I noticed how my friends’ husbands treated them to weekends away, while mine was content to hang out at home doing nothing special.  

Over the years, my list grew and my disappointment festered. I would pull out the list when we were fighting so I had one more weapon in my arsenal. What an ego boost I gave myself by focusing on what I perceived to be his flaws! And to think I felt very justified in my judgment. I truly believed I deserved better. It makes me cringe just to write it as I can barely stand to remember that woman now. I was self-absorbed. I’d bought into the fantasy version of love and marriage and it almost wrecked my family. Thank goodness my husband wasn’t creating his own list of my flaws. I can only imagine what would have been on it.

Where do we learn what love looks like? Our parents? Our friends’ marriages? Books? Movies? Social Media? I once had a client who had a big fight with her husband every time she saw a Facebook post about something amazing one of her friends’ husbands had done. Of course the same friends didn’t post when their husbands left dirty dishes on the counter or forgot their anniversary, so it fed her fantasy version of love and marriage. If we aren’t careful, we create unrealistic expectations of our partners and expect them to fill all our gaps so we aren’t lonely, bored or dissatisfied. Men do this as well. 

Some time ago, I started making a relationship gratitude list and that’s where I discovered what real love looks like. Here are a few things on my list.

  • He always puts gas in my car. I haven’t pumped my own gas in more than 20 years.
  • When he does the laundry (which is often), he always hangs up my clothes.
  • When we return from a trip, he unpacks all our luggage and puts everything away.
  • He volunteers to run to the grocery store late at night when I’m having a craving for something.
  • Every fall he buys my favorite treat and has it shipped to me. DeBrands chocolate covered apples… Oh my!
  • He goes yarn and clothes shopping with me and never complains or grumbles.
  • He has embraced my family and loves them. He never acts impatient or put out when they visit. 
  • He tells me he loves me every single day. Usually multiple times.
  • He makes my coffee most mornings and brings it to me.
  • He gives the dogs their medicine each day because he knows I hate doing it.
  • He loves our boys and is an amazing father.
  • He tells me I’m beautiful when I’m in yoga pants and have no makeup on.

He doesn’t expect anything in return and he doesn’t do them to bolster his own self worth. These are the gifts he gives regularly because he loves me, flaws and all.

Two lists. Two perspectives. Same husband. This is real, dependable, lasting love, my friends. It’s not always pretty. It’s often messy. But it’s REAL.

I’ve learned my level of satisfaction and joy is my choice. And isn’t that a wonderful thing really? If it is my choice, I have the power to make myself happy. I don’t have to depend on someone else to do that for me.  

My challenge to you is to make your own relationship gratitude list. The longer you focus on your list, the more your gratitude will grow. 

Kim

2 Comments

  • RJ says:

    Kim I’m all those things and more and have been doing them consistently for 11 months now and my wife still does not want to try? She knows I’ve changed and in her words a perfect husband and father but she says it does nothing for her and she does not want to try and work on our relationship, she’s done and tells me every day wants a divorce and will not try and keeps distancing herself more and more and communicating less and less?

    What do I do?

  • Brian says:

    I was encouraged to read your post. Especially your relationship gratitude list. As I read line by line, it occurred to me that I was mentally checking off every item as I read them, yes I did that, that too, yep, uh huh that one and again that pattern continued to the last item on your list. Then, I sat and began to consider, what was different about her list? Nothing, I could have written it. Then why after all this time did the woman I loved with every piece of my heart, all of it, still want to end us? Sadly it was because she had other designs. The last evening we spent talking prior to my exiting, I told her that I had treated her like royalty. She acknowledged that I had been so very good to her and that was what made it so hard to end us. Not one excuse was a relationship ending stumbling block for me. Soon I realized my love was real, deeply rooted and committed and unconditional. I told her as I was leaving that she was letting a man walk out the door who would have laid down his life to protect her should the need ever arise. It didn’t phase her, I’ll never forget the look in her eye. She no longer loved me. I told her that there was something else or worse, someone else. Mournfully, it was the latter. In only five months she was married to this person. This is why most men become absolute cold and distant despots. Please don’t misunderstand, I have not become that man. I will love again and when I do, I will love just as deeply and unconditionally as before. But, the key point I see in this is that you realized what was going wrong and you were honest enough with yourself and cared enough about your husband to make a list confronting your own expectations and shortcomings. A dear friend told me that the Lord was very likely protecting me from something worse down the roadway of life with this woman. I don’t know what could have been worse than having your heart handed back to you in shreds. If you’re reading this and you are having difficulties in your marriage or relationship, make a heart motivated check list, be honest, be clear and examine yourself against the image of and reflection of truth. If you have someone in your life with imperfections, don’t direct your attention to those fault lines of life because there will one day be an earthquake in that person’s life and it will be as a result of your undue stress and pressure. But rather consider the good in him or her and count each item as a precious gift of the heart, the heart of a soul that loves you completely and unconditionally. Sadly, there are people in this world who can never fully love… I know, I was married to one of them.
    My friends tell me that her new marriage will likely (90%) chance fail miserably. It is not healthy or normal to come out of a marriage or relationship and remarry in less than six months. I still believe in love, because I have felt it, lived it, breathed it, shared it and declared it. There will come a day that I do so again and when I find her or she finds me, she will be loved like no other woman on the planet. Faithfully, unconditionally and eternally.