The Art of Staying in Love Part I
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."1
What is more exciting and exhilarating than falling in love? Is there anything?
Sadly, though, many of us have learned that it's just as easy to fall out of love as it was to fall into it. And while finding love and affection is one of our greatest personal needs, why is it that so many fail to stay in love?
Falling in love can be the start of a loving relationship, but lasting relationships don't just happen; they grow. In many ways nurturing a relationship is like tending a garden. Neglect it and it dies. Constant care and cultivation—including the following suggestions—are needed to keep love alive and growing.
Love is being there. One of the chief ingredients of love is to give another person your presence. Without presence, as Dr. David Augsburger says, love receives an invitation to die.
Presence is not only spending physical time with another person but it also means giving him or her your undivided attention when you are with him/her. It includes being sensitive to his/her feelings and aware of his/her needs. It means not only hearing with your ears but, much more so, hearing with your heart.
For instance, recently I visited with a friend who spent the entire time talking about his interests and concerns. I tried to share some of my interests, too, but felt as if my words fell on deaf ears. There was no experiencing of mutual presence—the basis for all meaningful relationships including friendships.
Love is understanding. Most behavior is caused or motivated. Once we understand this, we can be much more accepting and loving. For example, one father I know was having difficulty with one of his two children. One was the "perfect" child, the other constantly rebelling.
"Is one of your children a favorite?" I asked the father. With a tinge of embarrassment he admitted the "good" child was. "Do you think this could be the cause of your difficult son's negative behavior?" I asked again. The answer was obvious.
To be continued ...
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to have an understanding heart and be sensitive to the needs of my partner, my children and/or my friends. Help me to listen with my heart, be understanding and accepting, and always be present for those I love. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Ephesians 5:25 (NIV).