Like most of us, I have long pondered the meaning of love. As a young woman, I equated love with sad poems and tragic romantic scenarios. Now I see love as an action rather than a feeling. In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck defines love this way:
“GENUINE LOVE IMPLIES COMMITMENT AND EXERCISE OF WISDOM…THE WILL TO EXTEND ONESELF FOR THE PURPOSE OF NURTURING ONE’S OWN OR ANOTHER’S SPIRITUAL GROWTH.”
In order to explore the more mature love that Peck describes, one must be able to delay gratification, accept responsibilities for one’s actions, speak and act honestly, and keep things in balance. These are all things that we are challenged to learn to do during the early months of parenting and that then inform our couple relationship.
Our couple relationship is fragile during the early years of parenting because we have so little time for ourselves, much less for one another. We are also both changing so much and learning so much as new parents that we have to redefine, just like everything else, our couple relationship.
“WHERE LOVE IS, NO ROOM IS TOO SMALL.” Talmud
How can we make room for our love once baby has come? Without putting too much pressure on yourselves, be ready to respond to a time when the baby first goes down for sleep at night, for example, as a time to check in with one another. Eventually find two hours a week to be together to talk. You don’t have to go out; make a special candlelit dinner at home. Have a picnic on the living room floor. As the baby can tolerate it, go out for two hours together one time a week. This is a period during which the ability to delay gratification will come in handy.
‘LOVE CONSISTS IN THIS, THAT TWO SOLITUDES PROTECT AND TOUCH AND GREET EACH OTHER.” Rainer Maria Rilke
Do nice things for one another. Leave a loving note. Write something on the bathroom mirror. Offer to help out with an inconvenient task. Notice something that needs to be done before someone mentions it. Lean on one another. Pick up the slack for each other. Let yourself be helped. Here’s where accepting responsibilities for one’s actions will go a long way.
I HAVE FOUND THE PARADOX, THAT IF YOU LOVE UNTIL IT HURTS, THERE CAN BE NO MORE HURT, ONLY LOVE. Mother Teresa.
We suffer for love. Real love is not always convenient and we can’t control it. The early months of parenting are a time that we just have to suffer through and we must not criticize ourselves if we break down at times and feel that we’ve reached our limit. This is simply evidence that we have the courage to suffer for love. Here’s where speaking and acting honestly will help ameliorate the suffering.
YOUR TAKS IS NOT TO SEEK FOR LOVE, BUT MERELY TO SEEK AND FIND ALL THE BARRIERS WITHIN YOURSELF THAT HAVE BUILT AGAINST IT.” Rumi
Through suffering the early months and years of parenting, we learn to take ourselves seriously. We see that our children are mirrors of ourselves and learn from our example. If we want to love them, and hope to guide them, then we have to change ourselves first. We always have to change ourselves first. And, at the same time, we have to refrain from taking ourselves too seriously and continue to trust that things are as they should be. A healthy sense of humor can help keep things in balance. Humor is the universal antidote to any and all of our negative emotions.
When I’m feeling sorry for myself and over-dramatic about my own suffering, I like to listen to Monty Python’s, “Four Yorkshiremen.‘
How do you keep your sense of humor as a parent and a partner?