Nick Pavlidis argues that true love doesn’t come instantly, but rather is built over time, as two people embrace each other’s imperfections and learn to accept who they really are.
In his book To Love and Be Loved, Sam Keen challenges whether “love” is something we can “fall” into.
“Falling” is passive, often unintentional. It’s something that just “happens.” Love, on the other hand, is developed over time. Even if you start out with strong emotions—the feeling of “love at first sight”—true love grows over time.
Love is a “complex art” that combines many factors, skills, and talents that is learned only over an entire lifetime. Love is not something that simply comes to be. It is something that is actively created, intentionally built.
So while we can quickly and unintentionally become curious, attracted, to, or even preoccupied by someone at first sight, simply “falling” in love, then, is impossible.
According to Mr. Keen:
We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.
Let that sink in for a minute.
That’s personal accountability at its finest. It flips the concept of love from something that comes to me (a perfect person) to something inside of me (how I see my imperfect wife).*
If I want to develop deeper love I, need to strip away all the drama and emotions of marrying my love to my definition of a perfect person and start building a closer bond with my wife based on truly accepting her as imperfect.
But isn’t that “settling”?
No. That’s not settling. That’s loving her for who she is, rather than some mythical superwoman who has no faults.
That’s real love.
But don’t I want to encourage my wife to grow, try new things, or tap into something “more”?
Sure. But what does that have to do with love?
I’m not suggesting that she shouldn’t continue to develop as a person. I’m just saying that my love shouldn’t be tied to it. At all.
So have I tied my love to her being perfect?
When you’re as imperfect as me, the last thing you do is expect others to be perfect… so, no, my “love” has not been tied to my wife becoming perfect. If anything I wondered more about why she loved me, rather than what more she could do or be….
But reading Mr. Keen’s quote certainly got me thinking that a lot of our frustrations stem from the disconnect between expectations and reality.
Even as simple as expecting her to act or react to something in a certain way has made me incredibly frustrated when she reacted in a different way.
And that frustration certainly doesn’t add any loving feelings…
Embracing her as an imperfect woman and being more sympathetic to that backdrop has really helped me connect with her during those frustrating times and in forming a stronger marriage, even if it wasn’t one of our greatest struggles.
Am I asking you to lower your standards?
Nope. But if you believe that love is an event that you can “fall into,” I am asking you to consider whether that viewpoint is short-changing you and your (current or future) spouse.
Because true love cannot be found by looking for (or lamenting that you didn’t find) the perfect person.
It is built upon appreciating the imperfect qualities that make your spouse who they are and embracing those imperfections.
So I am I’m asking you to be very intentional in disconnecting your love from qualities that your spouse doesn’t have. From who she isn’t.
And actively love her for exactly who she is.
* Yes, I called my wife imperfect. I did that very intentionally. She is imperfect. We all are. But that’s OK. Not expecting her to be perfect is the whole point…
This post originally appeared at Confessions of a Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch; Credit: Image—Patrick/Flickr