catholedigger asked: Hey Unka Glen! I’ve been struggling a little bit with the topic of romantic love. What’s the difference between loving someone like I should love any other person, and liking someone romantically in addition to loving them? Besides physical attraction, I can think of no differences. [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: Well yeah, you’re right, we’re meant to love everyone, and to love them with God’s love (what the Bible calls “agape”, that is, love that is given to us from God), and so we should have that same kind of love (and more) for the person we’re dating and eventually marrying. And yes physical attraction is part of that picture.
But here are a few important additional elements besides the agape and the hotness:
Romance. Sure, all that heart-pounding and butterflies in the stomach gives way to something more familiar over time, but still, there needs to be that sense of always making a special gesture. It’s about looking for ways to surprise that other person with something that makes them feel special.
Respect. You can have agape love for someone who is living a life that’s not worthy of respect. But if you lose respect for the person you’re with romantically, then that relationship is basically dead, whether or not it’s had the good manners to lay down and be buried.
If you think about it, respect eliminates a whole class of ugly behaviors. Let’s say a girlfriend is insecure, and she acts jealous around her boyfriend. This is actually disrespectful to the boyfriend. It’s accusing him of very ugly behavior, not based on what he’s done, but based on her insecurity. If you respect someone, you certainly see that they deserve better than to be a pawn in the drama playing out in your head.
Understanding. If you respect me, and understand me, you’ll be able to look at a lot of ugly behavior without judging me. That doesn’t make wrong stuff acceptable in any way, but it can help people to change. More than once I’ve been ranting to my wife on the phone about something driving me crazy, and she’ll say “have you eaten anything today?”
She is so understanding, she can tell by the tone of my voice, that I’m cranky from not having eaten anything, and she knows that if I eat a sandwich, all of this will look much better. And she’s always right. Understanding brought healing, awareness of my wrong attitude, and kept my frustrations from being a conflict between us. Understanding is powerful!
Celebrating victories. As I get older, my relationships are more and more organized by those who celebrate my victories, and those who don’t. Your beloved’s victories should matter to you. Big time. When you do it right, everything is a team effort, and thus, it’s a team victory.
Help with calling. Here’s where it gets good. A good partner can reflect back to us a side of ourselves that we might not have seen before. They can help us see our giftedness in a deeper way. They can help us find, refine, and dial in on that calling.
More than that, you can reverse the roles when needed to make that go. If the wife is heading out to help with the youth at the church, that husband needs to take over doing the dishes and cleaning up. And behold there shall be foot rubs upon her return. If the husband is going out to help build houses for the homeless, maybe he comes home to find the game was recorded for him, and there’s a cold drink next to his recliner.
Life is good when you’re good to each other.
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