Spring is a time when people turn toward love, but couples often are confused by what love is. Love comes in many forms. For example, Jesus loved the world, so He willingly died on a cross. He took on the world’s sins and pain. Mothers and fathers love their children and bond with them. The love experienced between marriage partners and couples is another form.
New relationships are exciting and wonderful, but they can fall apart if couples don’t understand what love is or what it means for them. My Marriage Manual helps couples understand love. The book defines love and the context of marriage and relationships.
Infatuation may be blind, but genuine, mature love really does see the imperfections in the beloved. It simply “bears all things” ( 1 Cor 13:7). It does not maintain a ledger with a list of all the faults in the beloved. This is a critical element in marital love, namely its ability to see the faults and failures of the beloved and to accept that person as is, warts and all.
Power struggles and arguments where each partner tries to prove himself/herself right and the other wrong are signs of a lack of acceptance, i.e., signs of a lack of love. Love means total acceptance of the other person with his/her view points, feelings, preferences, and eccentricities.
To love at the hour of critical illness or death may mean simply sitting by the side of another person in pain. When a person is grieving, you want to be available, but you don’t have to say anything. In marriage, availability means you need to take time to listen, hearing with the heart and the head. Paying attention to your spouse shows that you believe his or her thoughts and feelings are more important than any other communication surrounding you.
Just as each human is born with a need for physical nourishment, so we are also born with a hunger for emotional nourishment. Furthermore, there is a strong connection between our emotions and our body. There is a skin hunger and a stomach hunger in every new born child. We see the same need expressed when little chicks huddle under the mother hen or when puppies play together. It is one of the greater pleasures of love to give and receive affection, to hold the hand of an elderly bedridden aunt, to hug a friend, to romp on the floor with a child, to kiss a sweetheart, or cuddle with a spouse.
Love is the power that forces the sleepy, bone-tired mother at 3:00 a.m. to go to her baby when she hears the cry. It is the power that moves a Samaritan to stop and help a Jew, the Samaritan’s historic enemy. It is the power that opens the pocket books of those who have much to give to those who have little. It is also the power of those who have little to give all that they have, like the poor widow, who out of her poverty gave her two small coins, “everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mk 12:43).
When couples decide to marry, they promise to love each other, which proves love is more than a feeling. We can not promise a feeling, but we can promise to do an act whether we feel it or not. We promise to love at all times, not just the good.
Love is all of this — acceptance, availability, affection, and action — and more, a truly splendored thing.