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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Lessons in the Sand

Romance. It is not the same as love. The pet names are great if somewhat nauseating in mega doses. The concept of there being an "our song" is rather artificial, my guess is a product of WWII if not the first one. Wine, roses, chocolate and that frivolously overdone card the screams I love you in a technicolour hue of glitter or flocking.. it is all a nice. It leaves one with a warm fuzzy feeling for all of the very special day of February 14th. But those things are not love.

Romance is being swept off your feet. Love is having the wind knocked out of you by a kindness that you do not expect.

Romance is fleeting and it fades. Love grows with time and it glows.

Love is patient, kind, it does not envy, boast, and is not proud.
Love does not dishonor others nor is it self seeking.
Love does is not quick to anger.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love delights in the truth.
Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

Yes this sounds suspiciously similar to I Corinthians in the Christian Bible. That is because it is. And I do not oft quote the thing because it has been so easily used to manipulate people. And right after it has all these wonderful things to say about love it turns right around and does some mild bashing that looks, to me, like an introduction to Sharia law. So I do not often quote. But with Valentines around the corner, it is worth considering the concept of love and romance.

And I think it is worth picking apart those things that love is.

Love is patient. Let's not assume we know that that means. says that patience bears provocation, annoyance, misfortune and pain without complaint. Or the loss of temper, manner, and without irritation. Hmmmm.... I think the key for me is the loss of temper. Romantic love or, at the very least, an immature love, gets annoyed when things don't go as planned. I can think of a multitude of romantic comedy drama queens who fly off the handle when the man doesn't get to the dinner on time. Can't she be happy that he showed up and was not involved in a car wreck or triple homicide? No.
Real love is relieved when an upsetting situation rectifies itself.

In other words if you are constantly irritated and annoyed with your partner you should be asking yourself if that is the right partner for you. Why? Because your love is not covering a multitude of that persons sins.

Love is kind. What is kindness? It could mean similarity. As in of "a like" or a "same"-ness. It could mean friendly. Romance is kind to a point. In a tit for tat way there is kindness. I give you a valentine. You give me a valentine. That was fine in school. In the adult world, Romance offers "a lovely candlelit dinner for some kind of sexual favor to be named". Romantic love is almost always conditional. Kindness is not. Love is not. Love does for another what we recognize we would like done for us. And love makes it effortless. Romance is all effort. And thus I think is easily annoyed when the effort is not met with expected reactions. But I may be ahead of my case there.

Love makes dinner even when all it wants to do is sit down and put its feet up. Love rubs out the knots and cares of a work day rather than abandons one to their own devices. Love lets someone sleep in instead of insisting that person maintain a schedule that is not their own. Love gives with wisdom. Romance goes into debt. Love is a cold soda on a hot day. Love is a gentle hand squeeze in a moment of frustration. And it takes effort.

This is also where listening shows love. If your partner doesn't like liver, don't make them eat liver to show them they are missing out. It is not a partner's job to overcome long held prejudices against food. Or fear. There is a lot that we  can let slide as partners that we don't because we think that we know what is best for them. And that is a horrible trap to fall into. You've got a partner begging to be heard when they say that something is disagreeable or frightening while the other partner is attempting to correct a perceived defect. This can not end well. The one who is not heard suddenly stops communicating. The one who is correcting is redoubling efforts to see progress and the relationship is no longer a meeting of the minds & heart but yet another lesson is someone not measuring up.

Yes. I saw this at home. I see it happening at work too. A lot of people get comfy in a hotel or restaurant and forget that the rest of us can see what is going on and hear the pain. I've had it happen in relationships myself. I'll kill your spider if you don't make me climb a ladder. But how many people want to "cure" the fear of heights while their fears require respectful distance? Right. We all do this to some degree. We all want everyone to be free of fear and to live with wild abandon. But ya know.... I'm fine if other people want to be on ladders. I'm fine if other people don't want candles because they don't like fire. The world is not going to fly off its orbit just because some people won't go near water. So I try really hard not to force someone into overcoming something that they need not be afraid of. That is kind.

Oh yes. There is self assurance and independence but that is a whole different topic. The "I can't"s get me too. But there are a lot of things that we can let go of that for some reason we like to pick on in relationships. And we all need to stop doing that if we want love to be more than fleeting romance.

Love does not boast. It is hard to think of boasting as a condition of relationship. But give it a moment. How many people do you know with trophy relationships? The hot girl or hot guy that they can not wait to take to a party? Romance will replace that person when someone hotter comes along. Or worse, won't give that hottie the time of day if there isn't a crowd to show him/her off in front of. But boasting also comes into play in other ways. Are you embarrassed by how little money or not prestigious the job your partner has? Do their setbacks make you cringe on the inside? Are you more concerned with how your partner looks when you go out? Are you transferring your perceptions of your partner onto others?

Love wants you to be safe, even if you are late for work. Love knows setbacks are temporary. And love knows that one persons setback is not a blemish on the other. Love doesn't care if you are in jeans or a dress but it does care if you are comfortable. Romance is all about what the other person brings to your table. Romance adorns its ego with someone else. And if that other person is not close enough to perfect that person will be replaced.

Yes, love always wants you to be  the best person you can be because that will make you happy. In turn your happiness makes a happy relationship because it isn't all tears and complaining. Love cares about how you look to yourself not how you make the other person look.

Love is not proud. I know pastors Nick and Bud had many profound things to say about pride and love. But I will be danged if I can remember them. And my own initial opinion is that it is a lot like boasting. When you look at pride versus bragging the picture gets clearer. Prideful people have a whole passle of things that they are too good for. Some people are too good to take out their own trash, let alone someone elses. Some people are too good to eat peasant food (I'm a bit guilty of this myself. And I KNOW peasant food is the best!) Some people won't eat below a champagne and  caviar pay scale. Or are just too good to be with somone who doesn't live in a McMansion, doesn't drive a Hybrid etc... In that way those proud little peacocks use their relationships as a form of adornment as well. But really their standards for looking for a mate are set so high that no one will manage to fit the bill.

Romance doesn't eat out of a crock pot while Love, if it is all there is, will eat from an alluminum foil packet on an engine manifold. What is it in your relationship that you are too good for? And justifying the opinion that you do not have to do something for someone because they are well/whole enough or able to do so for themslves is a kind of pride too. It compares you to them. Love is not about "if I can do it then you have no reason not to." Love does "just because" since it is kind to relieve someone of a burden or a task once in a while. "Your arm ain't broke." is not love.

Love does not dishonor nor is it self-seeking. With the work I am doing in therapy with boundaries and such, I'd have to say this is where boundaries fall in the scheme of Corinthians. I take it to mean something similar to being respectful or having awareness. For instance, repsecting a persons need to work and the demands that places on their time; their need to care for themselves with sleep, chores, bills etc. Being mindful of the things that the individual does as part of who they are... for me that is time for art. The self-seeking part of the statement has me hearing "Pay Attention To Me!" in my head. I had a friend like that many moons ago. I thought that we were great friends because we enjoyed so many activities together. But really he just wanted me to pay attention to him. He was always at my work, dropped by my house all hours of the night and day to tell me his woes... I thought it was love to listen. But nothing about that relationship was respectful. When I needed something from him he was always too busy.

And if we look back at the dictionary we see the words reproach and shame making an appearance. Translation? Love does not find fault. Romance is always nitpicking someone to death because the slightest deviation from the "romantic picture" is an insult to the portrait of love they have in their mind. Love doesn't care if you drop something on the floor. But it does get concerned when your car looks like it could have a trash compactor monster swimming around your feet. Love wants to know why you think a thing and that you are okay rather than to tell you that your thinking is wrong. Thoughts go wrong. Perceptions get a little wonky with repeated upsets. Love wants to know how it can help you. It wants you to lead the discussion. When love isn't present you are left with someone whos is always trying to tell you how wrong you are. I find nothing honorable in that.

Dictionary also likes the minor definition of rape or seduction as meaning to dishonor. The Bible is full of that as is Shakespearean lore. Someone dishonored someone's sister/mother/wife/mistress when the man of the house wasn't looking. Rape is rape. We all know there is nothing noble or honest in it so there is no need to discuss. But what about seduction? Sweet nothings. Is that love? Or is that romance? Hellooooo..... it is all Romance. The words dipped in 3 flavors of chocolate dangled like a large strawberry in front of a woman's lips do no one honor. The fruit of seduction looks good. It smells good... but it is riddled with those little seeds that get under your gums. You will be picking those bits out of your teeth long after your bed has grown cold just like you will be picking his words out of your ears long after he has moved onto another target. Romantic seduction is the ultimate in self-seeking behavior.

But where both sexes go wrong without meaning to is in the way in which I have most recently been guilty of unlovong behavior. To love one man (or woman) and  to bed another. Self seeking is to go looking for what you want from whomever will give it when the one who is supposed to be your partner is either incapable or unwilling to give it. If this is happening it is best to break up and go look elsewhere. Things get messy and unnecessarily complicated when you don't. And here we have the issue of settling. If you love someone who won't love you back it is neither smart nor fair to look for someone else to fill the void. That is self seeking. Wait until you have grieved the loss of the one who won't be before you look for the one who wants to be.

Love is not quick to anger. Do I need to comment? No. Will I? Yes. If you are flying off the handle when engaged in relationship behavior with your partner it is time for you to back off. That is YOU. It is not him. It is not her. It is YOU. YOUR temper is ruled by YOUR emotions. And it is not love.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Nor does it keep a running tab of investments made in the relationship. Oh man! Does that annoy me. My mother was one of those people who measured every one by their bottom line (Which she had no right to know) and the quality of a relationship by what she got out of it. And I seem to have found several people who fit that category. Remember in Ever After, how Angelica Houston's character tried to play the guilt card at breakfast?
"All I've done. All I do to keep..."
blah blah blah blah blah.... exactly. With that and the running list of things that a person has done "wrong" during the time spent together and you have one heck of a relationship killing meteor headed your way. The person who starts the fault finding and meets no resistence just keeps piling on the list. And pretty soon one or two "faults' here and there is a steady stream. I've been in one of those relationships which make me wonder why the hell the guy even wants me. I've seen boys do it to my sister. I've seen my brother do it to women he has dated. Lest we think this is a male bashing entry, let me point out that the ladies can be the meanest of all nit-pickers. I've seen a lot of women in nit-picking mode see that moment when their victim breaks and just keep going.

Never seen it? Look at someone who is being nit-picked next time you are in a resteraunt (why this happens over a public meal is a mystery to me). The nit-picker is intense. The victim usually is actively listening to the dreck their are being fed regarding their poorer qualites. Then the picker hits on something too close to the bone. There is a flash of recognition; eyelids fly open, eyebrows arch ever so slightly and the shoulders droop. The victim makes eyecontact and you can see that there are tears close to spilling over. Then the kill shot. The victim will not look up from the table for the rest of the meal. And if their was anything slightly animated in the conversation it will stop.

At that point though, it is done. Once the fault finding has gotten to that point the good that is done will cease to be counted by the nit-picker. And the victim there then views their good as feeble, or mediocre at best.

Delighting in the truth. I think this is where Paul was talking about the church and God and not really about interpersonal relationships. If it is pertinent, I do not know how. Unless it is in the personal truth of who some one is. The intrinsic self. Or maybe, now that my brain is ticking away on topic, maybe the only truth that we need be delighted in is this: the person on the otherside of the meal table from you was fearfully and wonderfully made, forged in the fires of human passion and choking on the fumes of selfish rage*.... just like you.

Love protects. It does not attack. Physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, sexually or financially.

Love sees a boundary and knows it is there for a reason. To protect and serve. Love joins forces with a boundary it does not go get a battering ram to bring down the fortress when all it has to do is wait... or use the back door.

Love trusts. It doesn't tell you that you will go off and find someone else. Love does not tell you that you will probably cheat on it. Love does not ask you to remind it of why you love it. Love does not want you to reaffirm your committment everytime you pee. Love trusts that you will love all the while that you are being loved.

Love doesn't read journals without invite. Love does not solicit information from third party sources. Love does not do the late night drive by on a mission to find strange cars or no cars in the driveway. Love does not hide itself. It says what it needs to say and trusts that was the right thing to do.

Love trusts a partner to make his/her own choices. Romance controls.

Love hopes. It does not give up on you because you are having a bad day, week, month or even a year**
Love doesn't take a break while you are having a crisis. Love will let you have some space to gather yourself & it will ask for space when it has fallen into unhealthy behavior and needs the space too. But it doesn't stop being love.

And yes there is a difference between space and break. A break means that you have to cut all ties and not consider yourselves to be together. A break is a separation. Space is about time. It is about knowing that this thing in your life is too overwhelming and you need to do some healthy things for you that your partner can not participate in. When your partner is contributing to the issue and you need to have some space thet is not breaking up. That is getting distance so that both of you can see better, its a way to sharpen perception. Romance finds that insulting. Love says "Whoa why hit the brakes so hard?" & then investigates. Space making is good. Break taking can be good but we all know it usually is the end.

Love doesn't take a break when it is in crisis. Love hopes that the end will come and hopes that the end will be soon. That is the end of a crisis will be soon. Love hopes that there is always time. Love hopes that there is always forgiveness. And love is right in that hope because it is quick to forgive. Romance is not tough enough to wait out a crisis because it was always a flimsy shadow of the real thing.

Love perseveres. Love maintains its purpose inspite of difficulty, discouragement and obstacles. Love bolsters flagging faith. Love sustains and upholds another in the face of weakness.That means it doesn't take a break when  things get rough. It doesn't wait for you to clean up your act so that you can revisit the idea of the relationship. Love will reset itself when it sees something unhealthy is happening. Love will step back, like a parent letting go of the bike the first time out without the training wheels. But it doesn't go hang out with the kids who already know how to ride. Loves sits with you when you are sick if that is what you need. Love waits. In the waiting Love is prepared to wait forever while it hopes that it will be only a little while.

By my rather long dissertation, it sounds like Love is nothing but hard work. It is hard work. But the absolute best thing about it is that none of that work feels like work or a waste of time when it is done out of love. Love is a partly a perception that eases a person's burden. If you don't love someone then rubbing sore feet feels like a chore and a good excuse to lecture someone about being independent and capable. When you love someone that kindness feels like a present. And unlike a vacuum cleaner on Valentines day.... it won't be held against you in the court of popular opinion.

I know it sounds an awful lot like a rant. And maybe you would assume after reading this that I have a lot against being in relationships, that I am anti-Valentines day. I am not. This is simply a reminder to myself of what love is and isn't. There is a lot that I tend to do on the romance side that is devoid of love too. We all are like that from time to time. What I am really talking about here is balance & evaluation. When you look at the course of the relationships you are in and weigh it against what love is and what romance is over time then you can see if it is love or fiction. If it is fiction let it go. If it is love you can see where you go off track and you can fix it.

Most of you who follow me are pretty young still. And I think that this bears mentioning because I know that this doesn't get talked about. And I am not in any way shape or form sneaking in a lecture to inspire anyone to the Christian faith. THAT is not my job. I'm just sharing what I have learned so that the lessons stick with me better too. That this segment of the christian codex seems to work hand in hand with what I am learning from the very secular world of human psychology is mere coincidence.

I want you to be good to yourselves first. That way you will know what it is to be good to someone else. Sometimes that means you have a long period of singlehood between realtionships. That is okay too. It does make you better equipped to handle others. And really it is not so horrible a thing to be single. It does get lonely. But the lonely doesn't last forever.

*Thank you Rich Mullins
**Friends clap

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