When you live with depression and anxiety love is a most fluid concept!
I’ve been trapped in a cycle of writing and not publishing recently as I try to work through a number of issues that run unchecked through my brain. I’ve written perhaps tens of thousands of words and yet none of them has met my ‘exacting criteria’ (!!) to be published. That is: Is what I’m saying helpful?
So here I am. Attempting to be helpful. I hope it works!!
I’ve had a BLOG working title running through my head for a couple of months: The Truth about Love. I want to share what I think love is about. Because to put it bluntly, I don’t think love is about the things we think it is.
I’ve had the privilege of having been married for a very long time. More time than I’ve ever been anything else! And, in all that time I’ve weathered a great number of seasons in which there has been good and bad; happy and sad; calm and mad. There have been times when my own behaviour has been disgraceful not to mention the behaviour of man I married. And times when, both of us have wondered whether cultivating the dry, fallow field of our marriage has been altogether worth the trouble.
In those dark drought filled times there are the obvious reasons why staying in a dying relationship makes sense. Of course there are the children, the house, the money, our friends our dreams and our identity. All good reasons to go through the motions of maintaining a status quo and avoiding upheaval. The trouble seems that we become so focused on being comfortable, that pretty soon that comfort becomes disinterest. Then perhaps we find ourselves believing that we don’t feel either loved or in love.
Of course we are continually bombarded with images of what ‘real’ love looks like. And we know what ‘that’ love feels like because we once felt it. Whether we’re comparing an adolescent crush or new relationship excitement, all of us have had the intense pleasure of what might be called love. The scripted and carefully staged images we’re presented remind us of those feelings and perhaps because of how good we know it feels, we lament about what we’ve lost. What our relationship might now be missing.
During the time I’ve been a wife I’ve also been a mother. And while I can tell you that I’ve somehow managed to raise two amazing adults of whom I’m extremely proud. I can also tell you, that had I applied the same soil test to my love for my children that I from time to time applied to my marriage, I would have put those two children up for adoption. Frankly, there are times when loving children and parenting them are contraindicated. Yet, without any qualm, no matter the difficulty, no matter how dry the soil, I never stopped loving my children and I’ve never stopped changing in order to become a better parent (now grandparent) because I love them.
I find we can too easily, test the soil of our marriage and make an assessment about whether it has anything left to nourish what we’ve planted. We say; I just don’t feel anything. That thing that drew us inexorably together no longer exists.
So what is the truth about love that I wanted to share?
The reality it seems, is that love doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it involves a degree of snot covered ugliness while we get to the bottom of what the relationship should be about. If you’ve ever seen my snot covered, swollen red face in the middle of a discussion with my husband about some infraction (his or mine), you might be inclined to believe that you’ve just witness an alien manifestation. No, it’s not pleasant and yes, hurtful things are said. And, to take my own side of the argument for just a moment, I’m saying to him that I need something to change. I’m displaying the degree of hurt his behaviour has imposed!
The same covering of snot occurs when I have caused pain. The shame and distress at my own poor behaviour is poured out in my own sorrowful lament.
So yes, this works both ways. There are times in a marriage when one or both need a ‘shift’ in behaviour for the benefit of the other. If my behaviour is outside what it takes for you to feel loved by me, then I will attempt to change it. Because; I love you. Because I agreed to the vows we made. I promised, among other things, to love until death.
I carefully apply a disclaimer here because no one can change who they are. The person I am is a product of my biology. My behaviour however, is a product of my choices. I do not sleep around because of my biology. I do not beat you because of my biology. I do not willing embarrass or belittle you because of my biology. I am not a racist because of my biology. These and the many other ways my behaviour might make you feel unloved, are all a product of choice.
You see, anyone can fall out of love if the only pleasure they seek is their own. If the only need they seek to fulfill is their own, then love would seem, absent.
For me, the truth about love is a two way street of sacrificial change. Like any gift, it costs something to give however, the pleasure of the giving and receiving it is life giving. Life changing.
From author Joseph Campbell: When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.
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Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
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(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)