Somehow we have all grown up with this notion that love is a feeling, only a feeling, something we have or we don’t. For women, I think perhaps it started with the Disney princesses and the prince riding in on his trusty steed in shining perfection. As a result, if we don’t “feel” love, we decide we must not love this or that person. We also assume those warm gushy feelings floating around inside are “real love” and we act on them as if they were absolute truth.
I think we all have had at least one experience with this. Okay, maybe more than one!
By adulthood, we have probably all heard there is more to love than that. We hear words like “love is a decision” or “don’t trust your feelings” and we begin to rethink the whole idea of love until we watch the latest romantic movie. We watch the scenes of looking for letters in the mailbox in The Lake House or the poignant love affair in Nights in Rodanthe and once again we are very clear that feelings are a core part of love or being in love.
That feeling belief about love learned so long ago never seems to totally die. We all like the possibility of perfect love while living in an imperfect world with people who love imperfectly whether they are a spouse, a parent, a friend, a child, or a neighbor. If we are honest, most of us don’t do a very good job on the loving admonition despite knowing that “to love” is the great commandment: Love the Lord and love one another as you love yourself.
Of course, we often struggle on the front end with the part of loving ourselves in a healthy way as well. We may struggle with old tapes in our heads, which have convinced us we are not lovable or worthy of love. No matter what we hear about grace, we measure ourselves by inaccurate means and end up thinking too poorly or too highly of ourselves.
As a result, in our everyday lives we tend to act toward others in whatever way we are feeling about them. If it isn’t great, we also become experts at excuses for why we have not been or acted loving. We know these are faulty, but we use them anyway despite knowing the other person takes no comfort from our excuse. If we’re feeling great about the person and we act that way, we can be tempted to pat ourselves on the back with how loving we are without picking up on the truth that we are suddenly making it all about us instead of the other person.
I learned in my graduate courses on marriage about the principle of acting “as if” you love your spouse and then your feelings will follow as you practice the behavior of loving even if the feelings don’t match.
So, how do we become a better lover? Here’s the secret to move you ahead in this quest!
Today I read something by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity that gave me the secret in the best words.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you do. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.
If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.
There is indeed, one exception.
If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit and wait for his gratitude, you will probably be disappointed.”