I love the words the Apostle Paul uses to define unconditional love. First he says basic things love is. Then he says the things love is not. Then he tells us how love is a two way "street".
We think, in idealistic terms, that love is selfless. Part of it is. But, honestly, if we don't get something back, then it isn't a relationship. Would it be real love if we just continued to be patient and kind and humble with someone who continually lied to us and used us and did not care about our needs? No. That's called doormatitis, not love.
One of the indicators of real love should be "I like who I am when I'm with you."
Another indicator should be laughter.. it is an indicator of healthy emotions in a relationship.
Another is safety. To quote someone I know very well: "Marriage is best when it is a safe haven and a place where two people are committed to respect each other, no matter what.. even if someone squeezes the toothpaste the wrong way!" If I could copyright that, I would. It may be the best thing I've ever written. A safe haven in marriage means one can tell the other "you hurt me", and the offending partner will change behavior and words to avoid that hurt again.
Two people committed to each other to help each other accomplish their dreams: that is the substance of real love, and is such a rare occurrence.
One of the greatest things about being in real love is that there is someone in the world who really cares when we don't arrive where we are supposed to when we supposed to. Yes, parents are like that. But it isn't quite the same as being in love with someone like that.
Perhaps real love does not protect us from our fears, but helps us face our fears and overcome them.
Real love does not view one's partner as a project. As one person is reported to have said about her approaching wedding day when her father implied that her husband would keep her "in line": "Daddy, its a merger, not a takeover." Perhaps this adjustment in the cultural psyche about marriage is one of the healthiest adjustments in the history of the culture, so long as the commitment is for mutual welfare and growth.
The biggest test of real love comes after a major failure by one person in the marriage. Suppose the man invests the family savings in a "sure thing" and it fails.. becomes a total loss. How the wife responds will reveal whether it is real love or not. Or, suppose the wife has a secret obsession with shopping and runs up thousands of dollars in debt on credit cards. (What is the difference between the failed investment or the huge credit card debt? None. Both are failures in judgment and perhaps in character. Both need the healing and care of love.)
What changes in real love is that it is no longer "mine" and "yours", but it is all "ours". Our successes and our failures. Our children. Our car and our house. And our boat. (If she said no, I don't want a boat, then he failed at love when he went ahead and bought it.)
When I was a child I grew up in farm communities. The joke was that you could tell who was the boss in a marriage. If the barn was much bigger than the house, the man was supposedly the boss. if the house was bigger than the barn, then the woman was the boss. Interesting.
Do you know what happens to a business when one person is the "expert" in all aspects of the business? Either the business will stay small or it will fail. No one is good at everything. In order for any venture to be a complete success it requires the combination of talents of two or more people. And, in marriage, responsibilities should be divided according to talents and interests. And, each one should have a deciding vote.
I've said so many times to couples "The word 'obey' is not in this ceremony. If there is respect, then obedience isn't necessary. And if obedience is demanded, there probably isn't much respect." If she is better at handling money, then... But, she also needs to make sure he knows where all the finances are if something happens to her. And, vice versa. I do the driving. Especially on long trips. And, if I'm the passenger, I keep my mouth shut.
My brother and I went to Haiti together back in 1996. My brother always expected me to criticize him when he made a mistake. On that trip I never said one critical word about anything. It was a marvelous trip. There was one moment that was so much more peaceful than anyone could have expected between my brother and I, especially with the circumstances.
The asphalt road was full of deep potholes. Randy didn't move over on one of them, and the tire slipped down in the hole. As it pulled up out of the hole, the asphalt edge ripped open the side of the tire. Then we learned there was no jack in the rented vehicle. Thankfully I kept my mouth shut about the driving error I felt Randy made.. it could have happened to me too. We just solved the problem and enjoyed the moment in spite of the interruption in our trip.
It should be like that in marriage too.. we need to keep our critical opinions to ourselves.
Hey, guys, do you know what a "husbandman" is? He is a "cultivator". A cultivator is someone who makes it possible for plants to grow to their fullest potential. (Do I have to spell it out for you, guys? Or do you get the point?)
OK, ladies.. do you know the Bible does not command a wife to love her husband, but it does command her to respect him.. and then to be taught by the older women HOW to love her husband. Respect first, then love grows.
One lady told me she couldn't respect her husband because he cleaned septic tanks!! It paid the bills. He wasn't sitting at home on the couch while she worked! It was honest work. He wasn't selling drugs!
Attitude adjustment. Go back and find your first love for your spouse. Sometimes we focus so much on the things that irritate us about our spouse that we forget all those wonderful qualities that caused us to fall in love to begin with. Guess what! Those qualities are still there. And, a wise man and a wise woman will learn to forgive and then will go back and remember the good. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Dan Jenkins is an ordained minister, Entrepreneur, Internet businessman and author. You may view video teachings by Dan.