I want to wish you a happy and loving Valentines Day with todays article. Make this day a day to remember for yourself and your loved ones. A day to honour the love inside us by showing eachother how much we care.
Ah, February! Our minds start turning to thoughts of Valentine’s Day.In the middle of winter, romance is suddenly in vogue. The stores are filled with cards, candy, jewelry, and any number of other products touting the opportunity to show your love how you feel.
Are we being set up? Have we bought into the idea of romance so much that we are literally destroying our relationships with expectations? I think we are. In fact, I think we have made a false idol of romance at the expense of true love. We have confused infatuation and erotic love with deep, abiding love that leads to successful marriages.
Let me be clear. I have nothing against romance and romantic gestures. But we have made this the lead, not the result of love. We want to be awash in loving feelings and attraction for our partner. Then we expect those feelings to be the cement, the glue that keeps us together. Hogwash!
I just checked my email. In the last month, I have received 104 pleas for help from people hearing this statement from their spouse, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” The translation is this: “I have a feeling of care for you, but I don’t feel erotic emotions toward you.” The problem is that this statement is a lie on the front end (“I love you”) and a misunderstanding on the back end (“but I’m not in love with you”).
The lie, I’ll get to in a moment. The misunderstanding is this: being “in love” with someone is based on the nurturing of a relationship. It is not some emotion that is at the whims of Cupid shooting an arrow. Too often I hear, “I can’t help how I feel.” True, but people can choose how they act. And that is really the crux of the matter.
Love has been confused in our culture. The ancient Greeks were much more clear. They used three words to talk about love: Eros, Phileo, and Agape. Eros was about attraction (erotic love). Phileo was about friendship. And Agape was about commitment. Our society has segregated these three areas. Interestingly, we all want commitment and acceptance from our lover/spouse (Agape love), but too often want to feel attraction (Eros love) toward our spouse.
In other words, we want that attractive, successful, romantic, loving person to accept us, mistakes, shortcomings, failures, and all. We want what we have a hard time offering.
So what is the lie? Love is a commitment. It is an action verb, based on being loving and doing loving actions toward the other person. It is based on making a choice to love the other. Not for a moment, but for a lifetime.
Brain scans show that people who are “in love” (caught up in the infatuation) have very similar patterns to those who are mentally ill. So being “madly in love” is not just a figure of speech. It is a physical reality.
The problem is that this is unsustainable. The love of infatuation has to temper into a choice to being loving toward another person. I love someone because I choose to act lovingly, not because of the constance of a feeling. That moves the whole possibility from being at the whims of Cupid to having a conscious choice over how I participate in a relationship.
Let me be clear here: I am not opposed to visits of Eros. In fact, I think this is a feeling that is important and necessary in a long-term marriage. But I believe the emotion emerges from acting in loving ways. In other words, when I make romance primary, I am lost when it is gone. When I make love a verb, and action I can choose, the romantic feelings will naturally emerge.
Valentine’s Day is a threat to your relationship when you make the romantic feelings the goal. To paraphrase a commercial: card, $3.50; candy, $20.00; flowers, $50.00. Acting lovingly toward your spouse: Priceless (and free!). When Valentine’s Day rolls around, make it an opportunity to show your love, not a day to judge your erotic feelings.
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