04 Feb Love Is…
“Love has an immense ability to help heal the devastating wounds that life sometimes deals us. Love also enhances our sense of connection to the larger world. Loving responsiveness is the foundation of a truly compassionate, civilized society.”
The month of February often brings thoughts of Valentine’s Day. For some people this brings up happy feelings and for others, maybe feelings of sadness or loneliness. As this point in my life, it brings thoughts and feelings of happiness, not only because of Valentine’s Day, but also because my wedding anniversary is in February. So I’d like to share some thoughts with you, related to romantic relationships. If you’re currently in a relationship, use this time to reflect upon how you show up in your relationship and how that relationship is meeting your needs. Or this may help you crystallize what to look for in a relationship and how you WANT to show up when your special someone comes along.
First, let’s look at what love IS. The best definition of love that I’ve ever seen is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
How does that definition measure up to how you treat your spouse? If you’re human chances are, you fall short. But if this is the ideal to which you aspire, and you’re fortunate to be with someone who’s willing to do the same, you’ll have a healthy relationship. It reminds me of the allegory of the long spoons, which is a parable that shows how two people are unable to feed themselves with the utensils set before them. However, if they feed one another, both are able to eat. If both partners are primarily concerned with meeting their mate’s needs, everyone’s needs will be met most of the time. And I only say most of the time because no human being is going to be perfect at this. Even my precious spouse falls short at times. And I fall short more than I like to admit.
Another important idea to keep in mind is that conflict is inevitable. Each of you come to the relationship with different backgrounds, life experiences and temperaments. If your expectation is that there will be no conflict, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. My LPC supervisor used to say that he disliked the term “conflict resolution,” because there’s no such thing. Conflict management is a more accurate term. John Gottman’s research spanning four decades supports this. According to Gottman’s extensive research, 69% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable. SIXTY-NINE PERCENT!! This research emphasizes the idea that couples must learn to manage conflict rather than avoid or attempt to eliminate it. If conflict is approached in a healthy, respectful way in which both partners have a voice, it can be very good for the relationship. When couples come to me for help and tell me they never argue, I realize that there are larger problems than they probably realize in the relationship. Or that they’re not being honest with me. Either way, counseling is probably exactly where they need to be.
The third and final thought I’d like for you to think about is “repair.” Because we’ve established that conflict WILL happen and we won’t always handle it in the most ideal way, the idea of repair is extremely important. In fact, the distinction between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one lies in the area of repair. According to Gottman, when couples are willing to admit responsibility for their part in the conflict, they can begin the process of healing their bond. “They realize their relationship is more important than the problem. The goal of repair is to understand what went wrong, and how to make your next conversation more constructive.”
If you feel like you’re struggling in your relationship with your significant other or spouse, all five therapists at Empowered Life Counseling are skilled at helping you navigate the issues in your relationship toward a healthier, more loving one. Or even if you have a good relationship, we can help you take your “good” to “great.”
I hope you enjoy this month of “LOVE!”
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to!
Alisa Johnson, LPC