Often…all too often…an individual comes to me for therapy and they vent their long and dirty laundry list of their partner’s shortcomings. They talk of the terrible fights, the dysfunction and lack of hope. I allow a certain amount of this ‘venting,’ but eventually, I say,
“wow, those are a lot of items about your partner that don’t seem to be working for you…can you tell me the reasons that you are choosing to stay in this relationship?”
The answer is generally,
“I love him/her”
This is a perfect time for me to say…
“So, what does that mean to you…on a daily basis…loving him/her and being loved by him/her?”
It is like a suddenly took away this person’s ability to form coherent sentences at this point as they squirm in their therapeutic seat and hem and haw over the fact that if they were to shrink the idea of what loving and being loved by their partner down to a daily basis, they are not sure what that would look like…what it should look like. What is should FEEL like!
I believe, as a Marriage and Family Therapist…as a human being, husband and father…that “love” is something that is put into motion on an hourly basis. “Love” is a verb. Action is required. It is not something that is just a general, ambiguous and overarching thing that is expected and expressed because of a commitment. It is not a passive act that allows one to have the privilege of using the words “I love you.” Love is highly connected to empathy, sympathy, good boundary setting skills, emotional vulnerability and self-care. Love is extremely hard work…harder than any physical occupation that exists outside of relationship.
I challenge you to break down the idea of loving and being loved to what goes on in your relationship on a daily/hourly basis…use “love” as a verb and put it into action and reaction. Be aware that it is the total sum of the small acts of loving kindness that represent true happiness and prosperity.