Michelle McKinney Hammond on How to Make Love Work
- 2008 13 Feb
Best-selling author Michelle McKinney Hammond has advised thousands of readers over the years how to find happiness in singleness and how to love themselves the way God intended.
One of her recent books, however, serves as a guide for nurturing a godly romance. In How to Make Love Work: The Guide to Getting It, Keeping It and Fixing What’s Broken Hammond takes a practical look at what it takes to develop and maintain a healthy relationship.
Hammond spoke to Crosswalk.com recently from Chicago, where she cohosts an Emmy Award-winning television show and serves as an empowerment coach and speaker.
Tell us about How to Make Love Work.
It’s a manual from A to Z, from singlehood all the way through marriage. Most people make decisions driven by emotions. They think as long as they feel good, love is working, and when they’re not feeling good it’s not working. Love not feeling good is an indicator that there is an area of the relationship that needs to be worked on. People always want the end result, but not the work it takes to get it. Sometimes work doesn’t feel good, but the rewards of it are fabulous.
What makes this book unique?
It’s a practical guide that incorporates a scriptural principle. I’m really just dissecting the parts of love and how you put them together - what proper alignment is, how you troubleshoot areas that are not working well, and the maintenance that’s involved. Nothing keeps growing on its own. A plant is beautiful as long as you water and nurture it with the right amount of sun. A relationship is the same. It has to be nurtured; it has to be refreshed.
I would say the difference also is this book’s much more objective take, in that it simplifies the main elements and leaves the choices up to the person reading the book. I give you tools and you get to make decisions on how to use them.
You indicate in the book that people generally look at love all wrong. How so?
Sometimes our expectations of love and what it’s supposed to accomplish in our lives make us feel we’re not loved at all. What we expect the other person to do, that poor other person doesn’t even know what your expectations are. He may not know or he may not be wired to do those things. Does that disqualify that it is love? It’s the expectation that now does damage to the relationship. That’s why our hearts have to be grounded in God’s Word.
No person will ever be able to fulfill all of our expectations about love, because God won’t allow it. There’s a hole that can only be filled by Him.
You equate building a solid relationship to assembling a great product. What are some of the vital components?
Women are wired to be receivers and men are wired to be givers. A socket is available for the plug. It is what it is, but it doesn’t pursue the plug. It is connected to all the things it should be connected to. Being open to making the connection is important where the woman is concerned.
Men’s initial and greatest fear is rejection. We have to be inviting and look approachable. Hidden attitudes can reveal themselves in our posture and expressions. Loosen up. Compliment the guy on his shoes so he knows it’s safe to talk to you. If he’s a boy and he’s waiting for you to run after him, that’s not someone you are going to want to be tied to long-term. If he’ s not aggressive in his pursuit of you, he will be passive in other important areas.
Let’s dissect your title. The first part of How to Make Love Work addresses how to find love. What’s your advice?
You’re going to have to do the work on yourself first, in your own heart and mind, about your expectations about love and what it takes to be good to you. Dating is for collecting data. You are collecting information to see if this person is qualified for courtship. Then, as friendship develops, you decide if you are going to be more intentional about pursuing a courtship. It tells you the things to look for and the things you need to flesh out as a couple and the maintenance that is required. Every day we choose to trust people who are not qualified to be life partners.
You also advise to readers how to keep love, once they’ve found a partner. Why do you refer to it as preventive maintenance?
People get to the altar and say, ‘I do’ and think, ‘I’m done. Now let me move on to the next goal on my list.’
There are some things that need to be in place to keep you from having problems. The basic things people need are patience, kindness and understanding, as well as the willingness to yield. If we are pursuing principles, sometimes we will lose the partner and the relationship in the process.
What about long-term maintenance?
Passion is important. It’s great to like each other, but it’s nice to have the icing of passion. There should be anchors in relationships that pull you back to your original feeling. You should still have date night and traditions and things in your home that lead you back home.
Laughter is also key. It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves and with one another.
Why do you advise readers not to make their mates their ‘everything’?
Your ‘everything’ should be everything you’ve already built into your life. That person should be a wonderful addition to that. (Otherwise) you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and for the relationship to fail. Giving that person permission to be who they are empowers them to be greater for you. It’s a delicate dance.
What is your current relationship status?
I’m single, single single! There are different levels—there’s ‘Single, but getting out of a relationship;’ ‘Single, but seeing someone,’ and ‘Single, single, single,’ where you are footloose and exploring your options.
Being married is not the qualifier for knowing how to be married. If that was the case, nobody would be divorced. The quality of your present relationships is a good indicator of what your marriage would look like. Are they healthy? Are they long term? Most of the relationships in my life are 20 years old and over. I still have the same friends I had in 1976. That prepares me to know how to do the work to maintain and sustain a long-term relationship. The same keys have to be in place in your friendships and family interactions. You’ve got to do the work in other relationships, too.
You assert in How to Make Love Work that ‘We become the sum total of the love we are able to give and inspire in our lifetimes.’ How so?
Isn’t that the legacy we leave? Nobody talks about your job when you leave. They talk about the quality of your relationship with them.
When Tabitha in the Bible died, the widows mourned and brought their coats and other clothing she had made for them, and Peter raised her from the dead. The relationships and the things you did for others literally keeps you living after you are gone. Your life is a sum total of relationships. Make sure you have good ones. If there is no permanent mate, spread it to family and friends. They are the precursors to everything you’ll experience in a marriage.
Stacy Hawkins Adams is a freelance writer, speaker and Christian fiction author. Her latest novel is titled Watercolored Pearls.