What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014

I frequently ask clients why they would want to work on a struggling relationship. They often answer with what they think I would see as obvious: “Because I love him (her).” My client is often surprised when I don’t understand what they mean. An often-misused word, love gets mistaken for infatuation, lust, need, obligation or dependence.

I like author Scott Peck’s definition of love: when you care about an other’s thoughts, feelings, preferences as much as you do your own; you nurture an other’s spiritual growth as you would your own. In his classic book The Road Less Traveled, he makes a point of saying that love is not a feeling, it is a choice. It requires effort.

The next series of questions are often quite illuminating for the person who answers. How do you know you love them? How do they know you love them? Answers quickly go beyond the internal feelings to how they are demonstrated, including your telling the person how much you care about them. We often wish others could read our minds, but few of us are truly clairvoyant. I spoke with someone today who spoke of how they learned how proud their father was of them at their father’s funeral. Sadly, their father never told their child directly, and this child lived their life never feeling confirmed by them.

The effort is not just in the telling. There are many ways to demonstrate love. Gary Chapman’s Love Languages describes five different ways people like to receive love: words of encouragement, acts of service, quality time, physical affection and touch, and gifts. Do you know how your particular loved one likes to experience love? What really floats his or her boat? We frequently make the mistake giving what we’d like to receive rather than what our loved one would cherish.

We often only confront these questions within ourselves when the relationship is on the brink of disaster. Or when we are faced with a significant loss. Take a moment to review how well you are loving the people in your life. Ask them how well loved they feel. The question alone will stir their heart.