We have been discussing the hard work of recovering a severely damaged relationship. We started with the difficult but doable task of forgiving old and severe hurts.
We then took a look at the how-to of recovering trust that was once given to us freely, but now has to be earned back. Last week we examined in detail a strategy for discussing an ongoing hurt issue all the the way through to a solution.
If you are wiling to think about recovery as a process that is like the integer scale in math, we have moved the relationship from a “-3” to a “-2”, a “-1”, and now we are at a “0.” Now we are at a place where loving each other really has a chance. We can now move to the positive side of zero (+1, +2, +3). Remember, you have to feel safe with someone before you can really experience genuine love with that person.
Let’s talk about love. Three of the most practical tools-based authors on loving are Brent and Janis Sharpe, "The Making of a Marriage"; Dr. Ed Wheat, "Love Life for Every Married Couple"; and Gary Chapman, "The Five Love Languages."
Brent and Janis’s book covers in detail some of the tools and strategies we have covered thus far.
Wheat offers some very encouraging words in the first two chapters of his book. He says, “I don’t care if you have never loved your partner, or loved them at some point in the past, but don’t love them now. You can learn to love them. And here’s how.”
He believes the Bible discusses five types of love — choosing love, romantic love, sexual love, friendship love, and “old shoe” love. He spends a chapter on each of these types of love, and describes practical strategies for growing each type of love.
Gary Chapman has an intriguing approach to understanding and practicing love with those we care about. He says there are five ways we all like to be loved. We like all five, but we each have a favorite love language. He says that without realizing it, we tend to assume that everyone is like us.
We therefore will tend to love others the way we like being loved, and be shocked and disappointed to discover 20 years later that our partner never really felt loved by us.
We might respond to the news with, “I can’t believe that. I have done 'this' and 'this' and 'this' for you for 20 years. Our partner’s response is, “Yes, you have, and I appreciate what you have done. But, what I really wanted was …” And, they describe to us the love language that is their primary love language. Wouldn’t it be great if we started our marriages with good premarital counseling that included learning what our partner’s primary love language was before we began our first 20 years together?
It is never too late to learn the tools that make our partners feel genuinely and adequately loved.
It is also important to understand that loving someone is susceptible to the law of entropy. As Dr. Scott Peck describes it in "The Road Less Traveled," it is like pedaling a bicycle uphill. As long as you are pedaling, you do OK. If you stop pedaling and decide to coast, the only direction you can go is backward. You have to always be pedaling.
A good marriage is worth the pedaling.