“I just don’t love him anymore,” Jennifer, a 40-year-old divorcee, said to me recently. “I don’t really understand my feelings. I really cared about Dan for a long time—then everything about him started bugging me.”
“Tell me about your feelings,” I said.
“Well, this has happened before. I’ve been with Dan for a year. Before him I was with a guy for two years and I just cut and ran.”
“Sounds like a lot of guys I’ve been talking to lately,” I told her, smiling. “I thought cutting and running was what guys did?”
“Nope. Believe me. Women can do it too.”
Jennifer and I explored her pattern of leaving a relationship when things got rough. We talked about our final criteria of readiness for love: expanding your spiritual and psychological self in a relationship.
As Scott Peck said in his book, The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” He should have said, “Relationships are difficult.” It would have been no less true. Relationships require us to move beyond the “honeymoon” phase of relating into the real nitty-gritty aspects of relating.
You know the dance: Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl; girl falls for boy. Things go great for months. Life is exciting. Hormones are raging. This must be love. Then, sometimes gradually, sometimes overnight, the hormone buttons turn off and you see the real person.
If you are really ready for love, you understand this relational shift will happen, and rather than cutting and running, you see this as an opportunity for growth. We fall in love, enter into a committed relationship, get married, grow up and then live happily ever after. Now think about that.
Okay. I hear some of you murmuring, “Are you nuts?” “Dr. David, you don’t understand. He spends too much money on his toys. She spends too much time on the phone with her friends.”
Not to worry. Just opportunities, I tell you. Each of these situations is an opportunity for spiritual and psychological growth. Cutting and running, or blaming him/ her for all of the problems is a way to stay stuck. It is a way to stay small. These issues are places for you to explore, avenues to expand your spiritual and emotional self.
“But, I didn’t sign up for growth classes when I started dating this guy,” you say.
If you are really ready for love, you are ready for the changes that take place in a relationship that provide opportunities to sand off the rough edges of your personality. In fact, there is no better place to sand off those rough edges than together while creating a relationship.
A love relationship offers enormous potential for expanding character, stimulating our capacity to love, leading us to care both more deeply and with wider scope.
We are self-centered people. Even many efforts that appear to be benevolent are really disguised manipulations to please ourselves. Note how often we get upset when things don’t go our way. We pout, slam doors, refuse to talk, sneak around, we get even. There seems to be few limits to what we are capable of doing.
But, in the love relationship we have an incredible opportunity to break the bonds of selfishness. When we practice, really practice, Ephesians 4:29, about “letting no unwholesome word proceed out of our mouth except that which is fitting for building others up”—wow, the possibilities. We can think about what our mate needs at the moment, and provide it, whether it is a listening ear, a gentle hug, given without expectation to receive.
When we are thoughtful of others’ needs, when we work at being considerate, and even work at understanding the love language of another—then real love develops. Can you imagine a world where:
- Each conflict is an opportunity
- Every “issue” can be a way to expand ourselves, spiritually and emotionally
- There are always new ways to keep love and excitement alive
Solomon, the wisest man in the world, is informed by the Lord to ask for whatever he wants. He says, “Give your servant a discerning heart … to be able to distinguish right from wrong.” (1 Kings 3) If we do not understand our past, we are prone to repeat it. Or, said another way—doing the same thing and expecting different results is called insanity. The wisdom of man is folly to God. Allowing God to move in our lives—even aspects of our love lives or old behaviors we want to rid from our lives—can be very empowering.
Will you explore how you can grow emotionally and spiritually in your relationship? Will you see conflict as an opportunity to grow? 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.