How do we teach this love skill to our kids? Don't worry too
much about that. They'll pick up everything they need to know from
us, their first and most important teachers. After all, they're
'Tis the season to celebrate love and romance, but what if
you're just not feelin' it? If you're reading Chicago Parent,
chances are good that you're a veteran of more than a few sleepless
nights. The cumulative effect of those sleepless nights-and the
numerous and complex challenges and changes that came along with
the children who inspired them-can make even the best of unions
feel lukewarm and lackluster.
What to do?
Wine and roses-and maybe a little chocolate-might help, but a
shift in your perspective might help even more.
Bear in mind that "love" is not a feeling. Infatuation, which
is, certainly inspires some mighty fine moments. But it should not
be mistaken for love, a sustained way of being in relationships
with respect and care for another's well-being.
This is no small feat. Anyone can love their friends. The more
important and far greater challenge, however, is to love-and be
loving toward-everyone else we encounter, our spouse, other family
members and even our co-workers, even when we're engaged in
Sure. That sounds swell. Doable, even. But why should we have to
try so hard to conjure a loving relationship with our partners in
the first place? Shouldn't "real love" that's "meant to be" be easy
and unfettered? Shouldn't it just "work"?
Au contraire. In my humble opinion, love is work. I don't
believe any love is "meant to be." What I do believe is that people
who set their minds to it can experience a life of love together.
It's the "set their minds to it" part that's often forgotten in the
everyday busy-ness of ordinary life, but with it, I believe, love
can exist and even blossom.
But really, why bother? I think the answer has something to do
with that perennial question, that existential meaning-of-life
thing. If we consider the possibility that perhaps the real reason
we are here at all is to learn love and compassion for one another,
then yeah, this love thing seems worth the effort.
The thing is, I believe that love is a choice. An act of will.
An active verb. Love is operative when the real business of
relating begins. Sometimes love is hard work. Sometimes sacrifice
is involved. Sometimes-and here's the kicker-it requires accepting
the limits of the circumstances we find ourselves in, grieving what
isn't, and learning to allow ourselves and our relationships to
blossom within the possibilities that do exist, however few they
might seem in our darkest moments.
So not what we thought it was all about when we made those
babies in the first place, right? And what about chemistry? Sure,
chemistry is nice. It's more than nice. It can be remembered, and
even re-cultivated, given the right ingredients. You know what they
are, but don't fool yourself: whether you choose to stir them into
the mix or not is another matter.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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