Let’s talk about love

Ok, so as you know from my previous post, we had a conversation with Wayfarer and some IHG staff about love’s place in marriage and reconciliation.

The thing is that we do think it is a worthwhile conversation to have. We’ve thought a lot about a “healthy” definition of love, but we have never before encountered the idea that “love is beside the point.”

We would love to talk about that with our readers. We want to hear your thoughts. We will give our current thinking to these questions below, after asking you the questions, so as to not influence your thought process on these ideas.

What is a healthy definition of love?

Is a healthy definition of love unhealthy to the marriage and/or process of reconciliation?

Is “love beside the point?”

Form your thoughts, then read our answers below if you like. Regardless of our thoughts, we hope you will share yours!

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Our thoughts on those questions:

What is a healthy definition of love?

If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ve probably read several pieces from MC talking about his fucked-up definition of love prior to d-day, that it was all about getting and not at all about giving. For me, it was the idea that if I am loving enough, do enough, that people will love me in return. Both of these ideas were unhealthy.

First, “the key to a healthy marriage is enjoying your mate and learning to love them rather then needing them to love you.” And, second:

“. . .relationships based on romanticism are immature and unrealistic. Indeed, they contain intense emotions, but they are not about mature, lasting love. Instead they are based on wanting what I don’t have and the sacrifices I’m willing to make to get what I want. They are not based on what’s in the best interest of another; they are based on what I believe I need in order to be happy. In the end, this romanticism is incredibly and unequivocally selfish.

While romanticism is based on wanting what you don’t have, marriage is based on having what you don’t always want. There always comes a point in marital relationships where we are wounded or disappointed by our mate, and it’s not until that moment that we have the opportunity to really love another.

Until that moment, love is based on the belief that you can complete me; being with you will result in happiness and fulfillment for me. But after that moment, when hope is crushed and I’ve abandoned my illusion that you are what I need, then my love (if I’m able to love) becomes something more mature and divine. It’s the opportunity for my love to become less about me and what I want, and more about truly choosing the other person. . .

.  . .Truly loving another is the most difficult thing we can do, and it’s completely counter-cultural, but with practice over time it will lead to a more fulfilling relationship than you’ve probably ever known. That being said, truly loving your spouse does not mean you have to subject yourself to situations or relationships that are not safe. Truly loving your spouse does not include enabling poor choices or remaining in codependent situations.”

These ideas by Rick Reynolds (surprise, surprise) were truly eye-opening to us for our marriage and it really got down to the brass tacks of the insufficiencies in each of our pre d-day views of love.

From this, we developed the idea about what we are working towards when we talk about love:

First, when we do loving and kind things for others, we do them because we want to do them. Perhaps, we simply want to help, or bring a touch of joy, kindness, and/or laughter to someone’s day. Perhaps we just want to show someone we think lovingly about them in some way. We do not do these things with an expectation of anything in return.

Second, we should expect that we treat each other ethically, respectfully, and with dignity and decency. We should also set boundaries for ourselves that do not allow others to treat us poorly.

But, these are two SEPARATE things. One does not beget the other. I should do the first because I choose to do it out of love. All too often, we perform one expecting the other. Both are good, healthy and appropriate things, but expecting one to bring about the other is a fool’s errand.

So, for us, love is not transactional, we find that idea personally unhealthy and part of the fucked-up thinking of our pre d-day life. We are working to change all manner of fucked-up thinking in ourselves and in our marriage.

Is a healthy definition of love unhealthy to the marriage and/or process of reconciliation?

Our previous unhealthy views of love were unhealthy for us and for our marriage. We find it difficult to believe that a personal healthier view of love is harmful to our marriage or reconciliation. It is a fundamental shift in how we view love for and with each other, one that has been a guiding star on our journey.

Is “love beside the point?”

Our answer to that question is that love is not beside the point. It is, however, a separate, important and relevant point. Ethics, respect and treating others with dignity are the stalwarts of human decency. That needs to be a foundational element in healthy human relations, something MC has had to and continues to do a lot of work on! Love is separate from, but certainly complementary to, that truth. The two are not dependent upon each other, but they are also not mutually exclusive.

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7 thoughts on “Let’s talk about love

  1. I agree that “love is besides the point” in some cases. We’ve all likely been in love with someone who’s completely toxic to us. Sometimes, love is simply not enough. But true love is much more than being “in love” or “loving” someone. It’s about giving, communicating, caring, longing, empathizing, lusting, compassion. I could go on and on, but one thing true love is not? Selfishness. We all need to get something out of a relationship, true. But true love, in my opinion, is not about asking “what’s in this for me”. In a great love affair, both parties ask “what can I do for you?”.

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  2. Sonofabeach, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You bring up a good point about toxicity. Not allowing ourselves to stay in toxic situations is part of loving ourselves, which is also important. Perhaps the being able to set boundaries for ourselves, the not allowing others to treat us poorly is easier to do when we have healthy love for ourselves too.

    This sparks some thoughts. . .You always see folks talking about low-self esteem as part of the problem for both betrayed and unfaithful. Perhaps, if we cannot love ourselves (in a healthy way), it would be hard to give and be open to healthy love in our lives? This begs the question, what does healthy love for ourselves include? Healthy boundaries, saying our truth in a loving and authentic way, not allowing others to treat us poorly perhaps are all part of it. But, it seems there must be so much more to it???

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  3. Statements like “true love isn’t selfish” are what have me questioning what exactly is it that I have with my H who is a SA . Prior to D Day he was incredibly selfish (both related to the A and unrelated). As he works through his recovery he’s still very self-oriented. So then, what did we have before D Day that is worth saving, and doing all of this hard work for? We had my love and devotion, and, when it suited him, because it fed his ego, we had movie-romantic moments. To be fair, with the knowledge I have now, my “love and devotion” was also unhealthy. If asked at the time if the acts I did for him, and the sacrifices I made were transactional I would have vehemently denied it. But now I see that I was looking for something in return: love and faithfulness. Even though he said he loved me, by the “true love isn’t selfish” standard he didn’t. So if he never truly loved me, and if my acts of love were more about me than him, then where do we go from here?

    Now my bitterness and anger has me doing very few if any “acts of love” until I see him willing to step up first. Which he isn’t doing well because he’s spent 30+ years being selfish. So while I wouldn’t have classified my view of love as transactional prior to D Day, it’s become so in my mind now. Now, I don’t know if I love him anymore, because it feels like he never loved me, and I’ve wasted the past 10 years of my life pouring love into someone that wasn’t worthy of it. Someone who actively betrayed and lied to me.

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    1. Oh Radlady, I totally get that. I will wholeheartedly tell you that after d-day, these “acts of love” without expectation of anything in return were not on my radar at all. I pretty much went numb.

      MC came to understand it, feel it and act upon it first. In fact, I feel like one of his “acts of love” in this way was to show me that he was going to be there with me, by me, for me through this shit storm without any expectation that it would actually help anything, save our marriage or anything else. I truly began to see and feel like he wanted me to be happy and safe, even if I left him.

      I’m only recently starting to feel this desire to once again take part in giving “acts of love” toward MC. Partly because, now if I do it, it won’t be with the hope of trying to convince someone to love me. You know?

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      1. I wanted to add, without my compulsion to edit my posts constantly (a little of my own OCD), that I know some of the SA, 12-step programs have the SA totally focused on their recovery, with the spouse getting their own separate help. I think the idea is to break co-dependency cycles, perhaps? One way or another, the cheater MUST own their shit. But, I think empathy development is also a very important factor that can sometimes get pushed down the road too easily.

        I know it is only our path and each person has and needs something that works for them as a couple and as individuals. I just know MC working on his own shit includes addressing his selfishness and I think it helps him, us and our family. Though, nothing is a sliver bullet. Damn it, where can I get one of these silver bullets?

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        1. Thanks TL – i’m by nature a very giving person and withholding generosity and signs of my love has been hard. In the 5 Languages of Love – mine is “service.” It’s good to know my expectations aren’t “out there” that he SHOULD be stepping up to the plate even without getting anything back from me. I agree that the 12-step program is geared more towards his own healing. We talk about my healing, his healing, and our healing, but the “our” still just doesn’t seem to be there, even though individually we’re still making good progress. Our MC hauls him over the coals, and despite being CSAT trained, doesn’t buy into the whole CSAT method of treatment, which I am grateful for as his previous CSAT counselor just didn’t challenge him enough, repeatedly giving him the “it took you 30 days to become like this, it’s going to take a good long time for you to change, you’re doing good” speech, whereas our MC says “your wife is hurting and you need to become her rock today.”

          Love used to be something that I “felt” now, I think in order to move forward it has to become something he first “does” and then later, I will follow the lead.

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          1. I’m glad your MC is making him face what he needs to do to help you too. I do think it is so important.

            I am a people pleaser, found it so hard to say, “No.” The first thing that went out the door for me was giving a flying fuck about doing things to please others. So, that instinct just went out the window for awhile, especially toward MC, ESPECIALLY toward him.

            The other effect it had was that I was just so numb, I had lost the ability to love even myself, let alone others. I think seeing me in such a zombie state, a person who in the past always had a smile for everyone, was shocking and scary to Mindless. He and counselors helped me through that trauma. The poor kids, I just couldn’t put on the “mask” as I so wanted to do for them. But, Mindless helped us all through.

            My first step back from the zombie apocalypse was to start caring for myself and be there for the kids as best I could. Going back to school has been a good step for me, but there are others I still need to take. As I increase my ability to be healthy and loving toward myself, the desire to be loving towards others increases too. I’ve learned that being loving for its own sake makes a lot of sense, and that letting the “people pleasing” motivation rule my thoughts and actions is so unhealthy and MUST go, also a work in progress, but it is progressing. So, it is not so much that I tried to not be loving toward Mindless, but for a while I just didn’t have it in me.

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