Scott Peck made this definition of love famous: Extending yourself for the welfare of another. Of course this is similar to the Apostle Paul’s definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (I Corinthians 13:4).
We bandy the word ‘love’ around, saying we love our mate, we love our friends, we love our church, we love our job and so on. But, do we really love these people or things according to Peck or the Apostle Paul? Do we love to the point of extending ourselves beyond our comfort level? Do we give more of ourselves than we might customarily and do we give to the point where we make an impression upon the other?
Gene is a 32 year old businessman whose wife, Marlys is a professional accountant. Both lead busy lives and with two young children they are often on the go. Their weeks are full with responsibilities and obligations. Their marriage was suffering as a result.
“I wish she spent more time with me,” Gene said during a recent counseling session. “I know we both agreed to have full lives, including a career, but I’d like to have the sense she was going out of her way for me.”
Marlys took offense at his comments.
“I’d like the same thing,” she said defensively. “I’d like a nanny of my own. I’d like you to go out of your way for me.”
Both stiffened and glared at each other.
“Sounds like you both want the same thing,” I said. “It’s not uncommon at all for busy professionals to feel deprived. You give a lot of yourselves at your work and then need a place to unwind. With two young children, I wonder how often you really give to each other?”
“Never,” she said quickly. “We are both tired at the end of the day and have little left to give when we get home.”
“What have you done to try to remedy the problem?” I asked. “You both know that you are hungry for a little TLC and without it your marriage is going to shrivel up and die. In fact, it may already be doing just that. Love means extending yourselves beyond your comfort zone. It means giving when you don’t really feel like giving. But, you’ve got to do just that. You’ve got to know what would really speak ‘love’ to your mate, and then do it.”
Fortunately, Gene and Marlys still cared for each other and were willing to go out of their way to meet their mate’s needs. They had not let bitterness or resentment build up barriers to their desire to give. They did have to overcome the inertia that occurs when you are tired, but that was something both were willing to do.
Consider the advice I gave to them and see if it might help you as well.
First, extending yourself is not optional. Love doesn’t just ‘happen.’ Love is a verb as much as it is a noun, and you must think of ways you can extend yourself for the welfare of your mate. By definition it will not necessarily come easily; expect it to be hard at times. Consider how you might do that this week. Consider what might speak ‘love’ to your mate.
Second, we all have special love languages. Most of us have special ways we want to be loved. For some it is a special action; for others it is a special word. Still for others it may be a series of small gifts or possibly that occasional large expression of love. Consider how your mate wants to be loved, not just how you are inclined to express it.
Third, we must never stop loving. There is no Love Bucket that once filled remains full. We must keep on giving and loving forever. Consider how you want to be loved indefinitely; that is the same way our mate wants to be continuously loved.
Fourth, we must express love in a multitude of ways. While there may be a primary way our mate wants to be loved, it is likely that you will need to string together a series of small, loving gestures throughout the week. A kind word here, a loving gesture there, with a bold gesture thrown in at an opportune time.
Finally, loving actions give something back to us. Not only will our mate appreciate our loving gestures, but we will experience the kindness of doing something gracious for another. Love comes back to us in many ways. Notice how being loving changes our hearts, even if it doesn’t always land perfectly with the other person. Being loving extends ourselves, making us larger, kinder and more gracious than we were before.
We want to hear from you. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams as well as free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: October 21, 2013