What is Love (Part 3)
1 Corinthians 13:4
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way, it is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance". (NLT)
We've tackled the first two sentences of this very recognizable passage from 1 Corinthians; let's keep on going!
(Love) does not demand its own way, is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. Boy this one is as hard for me as the whole patience thing! Let's break this down.
Love does not demand its own way. To me that means that love is not selfish. So let me just put this out there for you all - I can be a pretty selfish person (at least I recognize it right?). But this can be harmful to a relationship and has been harmful in ours. Being selfish in a relationship means that you are concerned about "you" and not about "we". Now this is not to say that you are not important and that your wants and needs don't matter. We definitely need to take care of ourselves and make time for ourselves, but we have to evaluate if we are, more often than not, putting me before we. Are your plans more important than your partners? Does your schedule come first? Do you always do what you want to do on a date night or on a Saturday afternoon? Does it always have to be your way? I definitely find myself in this situation - I decide where to go to dinner; I decide what "we" want to do on the weekend, etc.
Marriage is all about compromising, and sometimes we're going to have to do something our spouse wants to do, even if we don't want to (like hunting for fossils in the desert). I know for SURE that Ron didn't want to spend an entire Saturday a couple of weeks ago planting a garden. But you do things you don't want to do, and put your selfish needs aside because it's important to your spouse. We should have learned as children that we don't always get our way, but I think that many of us believed that once we became adults, we could get our own way all the time - we would be in charge. Well maybe this works for you if you live on a deserted island, all by yourself. But being selfish as an adult doesn't work any better (it's probably worse) than it did when we were children.
I have to make a conscious effort to not demand my own way all the time. And I have a spouse who, for years and years, has let me get away with my selfish tendencies. But as we work to improve our relationship, one thing that I have been focusing on is not being so selfish.
Love is not irritable. Well, here we go again! Seems like this sentence is saying "Heather - wake up!" Irritable could be my middle name. It doesn't take much to get under my skin - loud chewing, messes, waiting on someone (there's that patience thing again), and heaven help you if I'm hungry or tired...or hot...or cold. I think that there are a lot of things that can lead to irritability. If something your partner has done upset you, but you never talked about it with them, that frustration can build up and then you can be more easily irritable around them, because you're mad about something else. Don't let things fester; take some time to have that conversation with your spouse and try to resolve the issue.
I've found, for myself, that most days I have to make a choice about my mood. If I wake up in a bad mood, I DO have the power to make up my mind not to be in a bad mood. It is not easy, and I have to check myself for a while, but usually my bad mood will turn into a better mood. On the contrary, I can do the opposite - if I wake up in a bad mood, I can also decide to stay in it. And that does nothing for me or for Ron. We'll both end up having a miserable day because I take my bad mood out on him. But, sometimes, no matter how hard I try I cannot get out of that bad mood - there are times where life's circumstances, a frustration at work, or whatever it may be just gets me down in the dumps. What I have to try when this happens is to not become irritable with Ron. If I'm going to be in a bad mood, that's my issue - I don't need to make it his. This is hard to do - especially if you're used to taking things out on your spouse. I think if you take a minute and talk to your spouse, let them know what is bothering you and that you are upset, tell them that you don't want to ruin their day too and ask for their patience, that helps a lot.
Love keeps no record of being wronged. Another one! Wow - like I said, this sentence is speaking right to me. One thing that both Ron and I do is keep track of who did what last, or who does what most often. This tends to be something that we argue about more than anything else. I will say "I cleaned the house every week for the last two months - you don't do anything around here". Well, that's not really true. Sure maybe I have cleaned the house for the last two months, but it is 100% not true that Ron doesn't do anything around the house. I'm just keeping track of what I want to keep track of and throwing it in his face.
Let me make a clarification here. Not keeping record of wrongs does not mean that you don't recognize that a wrong has been done. This doesn't mean becoming a door mat. This does not mean that the person doesn't need need to be held accountable for that wrong. It doesn't mean that you pretend the wrong never happened. If you've been wronged you need to discuss that wrong with your partner and tell them how and why it hurt you. If you ignore it, it may happen again and again. If you've been wronged, you deserve, at the very least, an apology. That person needs to be held accountable for what they did. But again, constantly throwing their wrong(s) in their face is detrimental to your marriage. I do think, however, that we often make "wrongs" out of unintentional oversights. Did your spouse really mean to hurt your feelings, or was it a misunderstanding? Keeping track of these "wrongs" is certainly not helpful.
Are we keeping record of being wronged so that we feel better or more superior to our partner against their list of wrongs? Do we do this to make ourselves feel better, so we can be the martyr? Keeping record of your partners wrongs leads to resentment and hostility towards them. You cannot have a healthy relationship in that state. If this is something you struggle with (like myself), make a focused effort to recognize when you are doing this, and stop yourself. Your partner likely already knows that you struggle with this - so ask them to help you too. Ask them to, kindly and patiently, point out to you when you start down this road so you can stop.
Three difficult topics for me - definitely things I am working on and need to continue to improve. If you're trying to have a better marriage, ask yourself if these are issues you need to address.