We are in the third part of our eight-part series to determine if you are really ready for love. How do you rate so far? Most of us think we are ready for love, but fail to fully evaluate exactly what love demands of us. Because we are anxious to be in a relationship, because we want to have someone to love, we believe we are really ready for love. Not necessarily so.

Thankfully, there are markers we can use to measure our readiness for love. Our third criteria for love readiness is honoring and respecting the uniqueness in your mate. While this is similar to the last criterion, seeing your mate realistically, it is different in that we now must not only see our mate realistically, we must love and care for their unique qualities. We must practice the encouragement given us by the Apostle Paul to “bear with one another’s weaknesses.” (Colossians 3: 13)

Sadly, many meet someone and initially adore their unique qualities, and even weaknesses, only to later find those same qualities absolutely annoying. You know the routine: You meet a man and admire his reserve, his quiet strength. He reminds you of that trait in your father you so appreciated. As time goes on, however, his quietness bugs the tar out of you. Now you want to shake him to get him to talk. So much for the silent strength you initially found so appealing.

Men, how many of you were at first attracted to your mate’s spontaneity, only to later find her giddiness bothersome? How many of you liked the way she would spend money freely, especially on you, only to later see red at her readiness to drop a hundred dollar bill in no time for a pedicure and facial; or a new dress—actually, a hundred dollar bill wouldn’t buy a new dress, would it?

You get the point. Too often we forget what attracted us to our mates. Too often we delight in certain qualities at first, and later wish we could change them. When we tire of certain traits, wanting to change them, we spoil the relationship. Mature love demands that we appreciate and accept the uniqueness that made us attracted to them in the first place.

Stephanie came to see me for counseling several weeks ago. She is an attractive, thirty year old woman who has been seeing a man for nine months. Previously married, this is her first serious relationship since her divorce. Her boyfriend, Jerry, has been hinting that he is ready to consider marriage, but she says many of his idiosyncrasies bother her.

“It is nothing big,” she told me recently. “It is the way Jerry chews his food. It is the way he drives. It is the way he takes care of his apartment. At first I thought those things were cute, and I would tease him about them. Then, it seemed all of a sudden, those same things bugged me. I don’t know whether to talk to him about them or not.”

“Do you love him?” I asked. “Do you like spending time with him?”

“Oh yes,” Stephanie said quickly. “I can’t imagine being away from him. But, I know I am a perfectionist, and the way he lets his apartment get kind of messy drives me crazy.”

“Well, did you date much before meeting? Can you honestly say he is the kind of guy you want to be with forever?”

“Yes, I dated a lot before meeting him. I really do love him. I’m just not sure if I can accept our differences. I guess that is something I need to think about.”

In fact, that is exactly what Stephanie needed to do. I gave her several suggestions.

One, make a list of the things she appreciates about him, as well as the things she doesn’t like about him. She then needs to explore the two lists. Do the things on the first list far outweigh the second? It often helps to remind ourselves of the positive aspect of the things that bother us today.

Second, consider how much those things that annoy her are likely to change. Can the issues on the second list things be adjusted, or at least discussed? Are they likely to change? Some of her issues could be discussed and perhaps even be altered. His driving, for example, if particularly troublesome, was something that could be adjusted through honest discussion.

Third, could she accept the things that were not likely to change? Could she remind herself that the very things she previously appreciated could possibly be appreciated again? Sometimes we let ourselves brood over inconsequential matters. It is important that we practice putting things in perspective. While I don’t recommend making molehills out of mountains, I also recommend keeping molehills, molehills.

Fourth, honor and respect her mate’s uniqueness. Sometimes simply the act of championing our mates not only builds them up, but makes us appreciate them more, too. The Apostle Paul tells us to only use language with one another that builds them up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4: 29) Our mates need us to encourage them, to build them up. The world is full of criticism and defeat. Our homes and relationships need to be places where we are affirmed.

Finally, remembering this helps Stephanie put things in perspective. She remembers that she is not perfect, and it is immature to expect perfection from him.   She decided she would talk to Jerry about some of the things that were bothering her, and to work within herself on some of the things that seemed inconsequential.

How about you? Are you making mountains out of molehills in your relationship? Are you able to see the larger picture when it comes to your mate? Are you able to remember why you fell in love with him or her in the first place, and keep that in the forefront of your mind? If so, you may really be ready for love.


 
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. 

He is the author of over 18 books, including
Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, released in February 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.