What are the similarities between a great workout and a thriving relationship? With both exercise and a loving relationship, you decide ahead of time that you are going to do what you don’t feel like doing, when you don’t feel like doing it. Your choice to get up and exercise is made the night before. When your alarm rings in the dark, early hours of the morning, there is no further choice to be made. You’re off to the gym.
Similarly, your relationship’s best possibility of thriving is if you have decided ahead of time to make the conscious choice to act loving at those moments that you don’t feel loving and at those moments that you have fallen out of “like”.
As marriage and family therapists, we frequently see just the opposite pattern played out in front of us. It’s based on the principle of “fairness” whatever that is. It is a ” tooth for a tooth” mentality. It’s karma.
There is an assumption underlying this concept of “fairness”.
If my mate is not being fair, kind, or loving, I don’t have to be to them!
If my mate is acting poorly, that gives me permission to treat them poorly. I am definitely not going to be the mate I am capable of being.
They don’t deserve it.
The less one feels loved the less one acts loving. One mate sensing their partner’s detachment reacts. They justify pulling away. They keep their distance. After all, they aren’t getting what they want from their partner so why give anything to their partner?
In the process both partners feel less loving and less loved. At that point they justify their withdrawal by telling themselves it is only fair and equitable. If I am being treated this way, I have the right to treat him/her this way too.
In reality this isn’t fairness. It is revenge!
It certainly isn’t love.
The greatest Conscious Lover of all time, Jesus Christ was an intentional initiator even when others were rude, critical, and self-centered. He was intentional even when they accused Him of evil intentions.
Because Christ is our mentor, we initiate love, not because our mate deserves it, or because we feel like it, but because our Master desires it.
Our Master operates out of grace rather than karma.
We follow His example. As a result, a most unusual transformation takes place. Whether I feel loving or not, I choose to love. My actions reflect that choice. As a result I develop strong love muscles and…
When I initiate, I feel more in love.
We find it interesting that the partner, who refuses to initiate loving acts because their spouse doesn’t deserve it, often acts graciously when it comes to parenting. In the parenting arena they conscientiously develop their love muscles.
As you know, a newborn is absolutely beautiful and at the same time totally helpless. That baby is dependent on us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Do you remember much about your child’s first three months? Perhaps, you remember how head over heals in love you were with your little treasure. You may also remember how tired you were. That little bundle of softness needed to be fed every few hours and frankly that newborn didn’t care how awful or how tired you felt.
I remember feeling overwhelmed as a new mother. Our first child Christopher suffered from colic for six months straight. He cried day and night and I often did too. After several months of torture, David offered in the middle of the night to get up and bring the crying baby to me. Then after I nursed Christopher, David would burp him and get him settled until the next feeding. I was deeply touched by David’s empathy and kindness.
One night, I was sitting on the edge of the bed rocking Christopher or so I thought. I called out, “Dave, Dave” so he would come and take Christopher from my arms and put him back in his bassinet.
David stumbled over to my side of the bed and stood there staring at me. Why? I was sitting on the edge of the bed. My arms were empty. I was rocking nothing but air. Christopher was still in his bassinet crying and waiting to be fed. I was in such a stupor and so completely exhausted that I didn’t even realize I hadn’t fed him.
What is the reward for the enormous number of sacrifices you make as a young mother or father? A smile, a hug, a kiss, and “I love you!” That’s about it.
Yet whether there are words of appreciation and affirmation flowing from your child’s mouth, or not, you still affirm and encourage every step that little one takes. When they are hungry, you get them food even if you’d rather nap. When they need soccer cleats you scrimp on personal items so you can purchase cleats. When they have their third temper tantrum in the same day over the same, “no” you don’t withdraw love. Why? Because that is how love acts. Love initiates and continues to initiate in spite of poor behavior.
When your teenager attempts to inform you that you can’t chew gum right, you keep on loving, serving, and affirming what deserves to be affirmed. Even if your teenager rebels and gives you grief after grief, you still love them. If you didn’t love, your heart wouldn’t break.
And you know what, when that same teen leaves for college or moves out on their own, you actually miss them. Amazing! What has happened? Over the years the initiation of loving words and actions on a daily basis, when you did and didn’t feel like it, and certainly when they didn’t deserve it, has transformed you.
Yet the same parents, who treasure their child, sometimes refuse to initiate loving choices in their relationship with their mate. Why? They tell themselves that their mate doesn’t deserve it. After all, they are adults. They should know better.
In reality this rationalization may protect the withholding mate from feeling vulnerable. When we put ourselves out there, especially when our mate is distant, withdrawn, or grumpy, we all feel incredibly anxious. Rather than being receptive to our loving actions, they might ignore us, criticize us, shame us, or distance even further from us. We might feel stupid.
The natural reaction then is to give our mate what we think they deserve. If they attack, we attack back. After all, that’s karma. Over the years if that is our pattern, we will end up bitter, prideful, angry, competitive and revengeful people.
Conscious Lovers do the exact opposite of what comes naturally.
So here is the takeaway… If our mate attacks us, we will set a boundary. We won’t attack back. If they distance, we won’t justify withdrawing. If they threaten us, we won’t threaten them. As conscious lovers, we choose to consciously love and to extend grace, whether we feel like it or whether our mate deserves it.
What are you going to initiate in your relationship this week?
Karma or Grace
It’s up to you!
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…