How we use our words can shape our thoughts and attitudes. Love is many-splendored indeed, and we use the word “love” in many ways.
Anna says, “I’m not in love with my husband anymore. We used to be in love, but now we’re not.”
“In love” implies a state of being, much like being in trouble, or in debt, or in between jobs. It kind of implies that love is done to you; you were walking along minding your own business and zap! You found yourself in love!
Perhaps you have fallen in love, and as long as you perceive that you are in love, you feel satisfied.
Now here’s a question: Do you have any control over whether you fall out of love?
Anna is now experiencing a whole host of negatives that she feels are being “done” to her. Her description: “He doesn’t make me feel special or cared for. He ignores me; he avoids me; he argues with me. He just doesn’t love me anymore.”
Anna says that she has been trying to help the situation by letting her husband know that he ignores her, by complaining about his lack of caring, and by blaming him for their failing relationship. The more Anna tries to shape him up, the less he complies! How is it possible that Anna’s actions are not making things better?
One suggestion for Anna is to recognize that “love” is also a verb—an action word.
There are certain actions that go along with the verb “to love,” and we already know what they are! That’s because we know the kinds of actions that we would like to receive ourselves.
We want to be treated kindly, compassionately, to be recognized for being truly special. Actions such as listening, caring, encouraging, supporting, paying attention, empathizing, all fit with the verb “to love.”
So, what can Anna control? If Anna wants to feel the feeling of being “in love” again, a good starting place might be to use “to love” as a verb to guide her own actions. That is, she could choose to act toward her husband with actions that correspond with “to love.”
“But I don’t feel love!” Anna protests. OK. If Anna doesn’t want to tell herself, “I choose to love my husband,” that’s her choice. However, even though she may not perceive that she feels “in love,” Anna can still choose actions that correspond to love: listening, expressing interest, supporting, encouraging, and so on.
Will taking those actions rekindle Anna’s own feelings of love? There’s no guarantee that they will. However, will continuing her criticizing and blaming behaviours rekindle those loving feelings? That hasn’t proven too successful so far, so perhaps a change is worth a try.
But, but…what if Anna displays loving behaviours and her husband doesn’t reciprocate? That’s possible. Her husband’s response falls into that category of the many things that Anna can’t control. She can’t control how her husband will respond.
Given that, do you think a change of behaviour by Anna is worth a try?