Recently, my husband and I spent an entire evening not speaking to each other. My husband is a tech man and therefore likes to update, change and rearrange stuff on our computer or cell phones. There is little that bugs me more than when things are not where I put them. Inevitably, he changed something on my phone (after being asked not to) and I overreacted with angry words.
That fight may have ruined our day, but it most certainly did not ruin our marriage.
Many movies and books suggest that the most important way to know if someone loves you is by how he makes you feel and by the sparks that go flying when you first meet or kiss. I like Disney as much as the next girl, but movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are prime culprits of this view. In the movies relationships start with butterflies and end in happily ever after. But we never get to see the full story of how love grows and matures. One kiss leads to marriage. End of story.
But in my relationship with my husband Darren I’ve discovered that that is not how love works.
When two people become one in marriage there will be conflict. It’s normal! Sometimes Darren and I fight, sometimes we annoy each other. But even when we fight, I know our marriage is not doomed.
Because even when we are arguing, I still love my husband, and I know that my husband loves me. Even in stressful moments I know that our commitment to each other will make our love last.
How do I know?
I am confident of this because we know the difference between “love feelings” and “love actions.” Understanding that difference has helped my husband and me to navigate many of our differences.
By “love feelings,” I mean the emotion or deep desire or longing someone has for another. These feelings are a beautiful thing. But sometimes these feelings can be selfish at the root—more about a desire for attention or reciprocation than a true love of the other person, closer to lust than to real love. Real love is something freely given with no need to be recognized.
“Love feelings” don’t always stay constant. When I’m fighting with my husband, I’m not usually feeling in love with him. “Love feelings” come and go—and that’s okay. Losing “love feelings” doesn’t have to mean that you don’t love each other anymore. You can still show love through what I call “love actions.”
“Love actions” are what I do to show love for my spouse, regardless of how I’m feeling. One of my favorite examples of a “love action” happened near the beginning of our relationship. Darren made a gluten-free cake for his birthday. (I eat gluten-free, he does not–and if you’ve ever attempted baking without gluten you know what a big deal that is.) Darren is great at signaling his love for me in small ways, like bringing me home a bag of my favorite chips, or remembering to bring in the mail. Most of these “love actions” don’t lead to movie-quality butterflies, but they do let me know that I am loved. And that gives me a sense of security that our relationship is built on the foundation of commitment and not the shaky ground of feelings.
When we are in the middle of a fight, I know Darren still loves me because he doesn’t stop doing the “love actions” that he does when we are on good terms. He still gets the mail, holds the door, and pours my water before dinner. Sometimes when I am mad at him, the best thing I can do is something that I know would serve him, like cleaning the kitchen or getting his favorite milk from the grocery store. It’s those unexpected acts of kindness that catch the other person off guard and can sometimes snap you out of your anger.
In this way we can rely on “love actions” to get us through our disagreements and silent evenings. “Love actions” may be harder to do when they aren’t accompanied by “love feelings,” but the result is well worth the effort. It’s the way we show our commitment to love and serve each other in everything. And it’s the way we get to the real “happily ever after.”