What is love? Love is a verb, not a noun. It does not exist independent of behavior. It is created or destroyed minute by minute by what we do. Love is an act that is accompanied by a feeling, but it is not a feeling itself. It is the behavioral commitment of one person to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual potential and welfare of another person that is equal to, if not greater than, the same commitment to oneself. Love is the quality of a relationship that totally excludes negative judgment; it is the full acceptance of the other as they are, not as we wish them to be. Love accepts and honors difference and does not limit itself to similarity. It is the hyphen between the I and the Thou, the Space Between each partner.
For over thirty years, we have been helping couples in our Getting the Love You Want workshops to create love in their relationship—guiding them to foster a space between that is safe and passionate. We help couples transition from the bliss of romantic attachment (which is unstable and naturally goes away) through the dark valley of the power struggle (which is inevitable and natural) to relaxed joyfulness of real love (which is reliable and permanent.) We all yearn for this relaxed joyfulness of real love, for being understood, accepted and even adored by the other, to feel the rhythm of connection that oscillates from I to thou to us and we. This connection promotes healing and growth for both partners and the creation of the dream relationship. Essentially, love is a spiritual journey, which requires us to stretch into new ways of being for an “other” that is “not me.”
In my time of quiet today, I keep in mind that real love with a real person is achieved only through hard work. I give thanks that I have a loving partner who is on this journey with me.
For thirty years we have heard stories from couples who were in a crisis or on the brink of a divorce, that were able to transform their relationship by first understanding the purpose of conflict and then by choosing to work thru conflict in ways that promote healing. And we have found that the healing that begins at home in a committed relationship radiates outwards—to the children in the home, to other family relationships, to the workplace, the grocery store, the community. Couplehood, thus is also about social transformation. When healing can happen in the home, then we are able to move out of our fear of the other and of difference, and learn to hold difference side by side, providing empathy, collaboration, and cooperation and ultimately evokes transformation. We become better citizens and stewards of the world. Our world is hungry for healing. And to us, healing begins between the dyadic structure of a committed relationship.