Pinpointing Romantic Love
People have been trying to examine and define "love" since the beginning of existence. We have heard that love is a feeling. People even enter into a lifelong commitment because of that feeling. But since feelings come and go, recognizing love only as a feeling can leave us questioning our relationship.
We’ve also heard that love is a choice we make every day. Leaning on our commitment during valleys of hopelessness can certainly get us through. But our willpower has limits.
Love can also have us doing things that we never thought we would do when it feels right or goes wrong. Allowing ourselves to love certainly makes us vulnerable to a variety of emotions. And our minds and hearts are quick to autocorrect the word "vulnerable" to "self-protection."
Whatever has been said about love, if we have ever loved, we know it can be great. But it can also be hard. It hurts to love big because there is so much on the line when it comes to the marriage relationship. We are invested emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. And we are vulnerable financially and sexually.
Yet, we pursue love despite the risk because deep inside every one of us is a desire to be known and not be alone. We want to feel adequate and be seen as valuable by at least one other person on this planet. And we want to share our life with this significant person.
We can believe that God loves us, and we can look for his many tangible and intangible expressions of his matchless love in our lives. But we desire more. We want to taste God’s unconditional love with another human. And through his design of the marriage covenant, we have many opportunities to experience how God loves us.
Marriage is surely the testing waters for our character, self-control and patience as well as our ability to extend grace and forgiveness. Because of our selfish nature, however, we can get stuck with blaming our spouse for not meeting our needs or even unfairly criticize him or her for not meeting the needs that only God was designed to meet.
Although we see and experience acts of love, our love barometer can still seem variable and intangible. So, perhaps we should focus on how to attain and maintain love rather than to define and fully understand it.
Primarily, we must realize that there are many pathways to love. Each day we have numerous opportunities to give and receive love, to express and experience love in distinct ways. We must start by identifying how and when we specifically feel loved. And then we must clearly share these practical discoveries with our partner.
Consider finishing the following sentences with multiple answers:
1. I feel loved when______.
2. I feel special when______.
3. I feel cared for when______.
4. I feel like a priority when______.
5. I feel close to you when______.
6. I feel connected to you when______.
7. I feel understood when______.
Clearly, experiencing love involves emotions and feelings. But thankfully we don't have to rely on guesswork. We can share with our romantic partner exactly the circumstances that leave us feeling loved. The answers to these sentences turn into requests for repetition. We must take note of these specific needs and pathways to our partner's heart. We must slow down and pay attention to this intimate information and repeat regularly our partner's love recipe.
We can feel confident about shaping and enhancing our relationship! We can experience a lasting love when we pause to access our own feelings and take the time to articulate them in the way our partner can hear.
So, I encourage you and your partner to exchange the most meaningful gift of deeper intimacy! Grow in your knowledge of each other as you journey through the pathways to each other’s heart. There is no better gift!
Alex A. Avila is the author of "40 Forms of Intimacy: Integrating Daily Connection Into Your Couple Relationship." He is a Licensed Professional Counselor who is passionate about helping couples connect! Alex is also the Founder and Director of Relationship Institute of the Rockies, an organization dedicated to helping teens, couples and families thrive in their most important relationships.