This is the final part of the “Pathway to Love” series, dealing with marriage and marital love.
Every human is his or her own person. We all possess our own “I,” our own “Me.” Since I am my own person, no one can want something for me. No one can enslave me or make me change my mind, not morally anyway. Because I have free will, I must have the facts, think it over, and then choose to change my mind or make a certain decision. It’s my choice.
That is the point here. Many people think that marriage is death. Picture the typical ball and chain. It is the end of your freedom and life. This is such a pessimistic and immature attitude toward the Sacrament of Marriage. (One wonders why these people ever get married). The proper lens with which to view marriage is not one of slavery but one of service and sacrifice!
In his book, Love and Responsibility, Pope John Paul II teaches that in marriage, you surrender your “I.” You freely choose to give yourself as a lifelong gift to your spouse. In like manner, they choose to surrender themselves as a gift of love to you. Together, you make a gift of yourselves to each other forever. Beautiful!
This self-sacrifice is the opposite of selfishness and childhood egoism. Thus, it’s not slavery, but a choice to love. And, love by its very nature is selfless, a gift.
Loving others the way they need to be loved!
In marriage, it is important to love your spouse (and kids) the way they need to be loved, and not how we feel like loving them. We need to expand our love, sometimes outside of our comfort zone. There are different “Love languages” so to speak, by which others feel loved. A few examples; a person could be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.
Visual people love getting flowers, receiving love notes, seeing the house cleaned, etc., all because they can ‘see’ how much their spouse loves them. Other people are auditory. They like to hear messages (on the phone vs. seeing them in a letter), have long conversations, and hear the words “I love you,” or “You mean the world to me,” a hundred times a day.
So, if a visually minded person writes them a long sappy love note, they may shrug and say, “Umm, thanks dear.” Similarly, auditory people who love to hear how much they are loved may mistakenly think the desires of visual or kinesthetic are the same. They may share a lot and be free with loving poetic compliments because that’s how they want to be loved. The kinesthetic (or visual) person may see their good intent but not feel loved or intimate. There may be some disconnect. A reply may come dryly, “Umm, thanks sweetie.” The kinesthetic person usually says little, but loves to cuddle and be close; they love to hug and hold hands, etc. One long hug for them will be worth more than a hundred words or a hundred presents.
This is important to know, as it is one reason for strained and resentful marriages. People may give their all, but it’s the way they themselves want to be loved. They may give wholeheartedly but either they feel they don’t receive much in return, or it seems the other person is just ungrateful. Either way, it can lead to a lack of intimacy, tension, and even hurt feelings and frustrations.
Whatever the love style, here’s the bottom line: In marriage, you cannot say, “I don’t like,” or, “That’s just not me,” or, “That’s not the way I like to love,” etc. We need to get over ourselves and get out of our comfort zones. This is an absolute must if your marriage is going to grow and thrive! You may still choose to be stubborn and selfish, but you will not grow much as a person, and your marriage will remain stunted. True marital love is selfless and requires sacrifice!
In closing we need to find out what our spouse’s love style is and work toward loving them in that manner, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. From experience, it may be difficult at first, but it gets much easier over time.
Marriage is two people learning to love each other the way they need to be loved. It’s also becoming interested in their hobbies and interests. If your wife absolutely loves to dance and you don’t, try to make it work for her sake. If your husband loves to camp, and you don’t, try to enjoy it. Selflessness. This is what makes exceptional marriages!