I’m reflecting on LOVE this Valentine’s week, specifically on intimate love in committed relationships and marriage.
Honestly, sometimes I find it easier to say “I love you” to my cat than to my husband. This I’m not proud of. Growing up in a dysfunctional family is one excuse. Love was twisted and confusing. But, really, the core of my difficulty is that loving sometimes is just not easy. Marriage is not apple pie and roses. Relationships are challenging. Why? Once the honeymoon phase is over, intimacy puts a mirror to both the good and the bad of who we are, bringing to the surface both our spouse or partner’s best qualities and flaws in the raw. In intimate relationships, the infections of being human seem to rise from under our skin, ultimately for healing.
Intimacy brings us into a larger story intrinsic in all deepening relationships. Suddenly blissful romantic loves takes us into unchartered territory. Our relationship takes on new plots and story twists, stuff of the Odyssey filled with conflicts, financial challenges, health issues, stresses and bumps in the road, with respites like picnics, Valentine’s Day dates, cuddling laughter, fun and tropical vacations. Protagonists help us through rough spots, antagonists make trouble. Sometimes we, or our partner goes into the underworld – addictions, chronic illness, depression, or a midlife crisis. Committed intimate relationships beg us to love and accept one another despite our flaws and troubles, while helping one another be the best we can be, navigating Red Sea impossibilities life inevitably delivers. Love is sometimes murky in the process.
I cringe when I read St. Paul’s famous ‘love’ scripture since I fall short of such noble descriptions of love. What about you?
Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Of course only an angel can live such love!
Then I remember, I’m more than my love inadequacy, in fact much of the time I love my husband with a burning passion, with a mundane simplicity that’s beautiful, with selflessness.
He also helps reminds me, “you may find it hard to tell me you love me, but you show me instead”, he says. “I feel it, and I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
He pulls me close and reminds me again and again. It’s as if I’m looking in a new, shiny love mirror.
He reminds me my actions are louder than words, louder than my impatience, louder than my pride, louder than when I provoke, when I cannot bear another ounce of his work stress, or when he eats peanut butter out of the jar, or the many nights his snoring wakes me from a deep, dreamy slumber, or when I wish I could run away to a cabin alone when we ruffle each other’s feathers when life gets too hard, when he wants to live alone in a tent in the desert.
Despite all our inadequacies, a grand symphony of love resounds behind the scenes on the edges of mystery led by a great conductor.
St. Paul was talking to the Corinthians at the time of his now famous sermon. They fell short of loving one another, so his words, I think, reminded them return to love, to the possibilities of love, to the nature of love Christ modeled, the one who came in human form embodying “God is love”.
God is love.
As humans, we may fall short of expressing such love with our loved ones at times, but in the container of a committed marriage and relationship, intimacy draws love close where love — God — behind-the-scenes, convicts, guides and corrects. Such great love at work nudges us to forgive, helps us communicate in healthier ways, reminds us of patience, and selflessness. God’s love is a one-way sign back to kindness, faith, hope and goodness that fills the cracks in our love efforts, helping us, well, love well.
God is love is the container that holds us in the fragile container of intimacy, revealing the power that binds and shines and brings life to those we love, while drawing us close, celebrating the greatest gift of all.
If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.
Some facts about love:
In the English language there’s only one word for love. Author Robert Johnson says “Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one.”
Euphoria is linked to romantic love and lasts only about a year before the “committed” stage begins if we last that long. During this transition neurotrophin protein levels become elevated.
Expressing gratitude to loved ones elevates happiness.
Harvard researchers conducted a 75-year long study,showing that love is really all that matters.
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