“It’s killing me reading week after week about how couples come back together. Why can’t it happen for me? Or for us?”
Although seeing someone on the zoom screen is not the same as sitting across from someone in my office, it took no great analysis skills to see I was speaking to a man who was desperate for answers.
“Do these Champions you write about have a different kind of love? What is it that causes their relationships to heal? And why can’t I heal mine?”
An interesting thought … “the love of a Champion.” It inspired me to reach out to many of the wonderful Champions that I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with through the years.
I asked only two questions, hoping to ensure a better response rate. Although I’m not sure the high response rate had to do with only two questions, I welcomed their insights and feedback.
The two questions were:
- Do you believe your love has changed after resurrecting your Champion?
- If yes, what do you believe are the defining qualities and/or beliefs of your love now?
This client, and the responses I received from Champions, inspired this blog.
Let’s talk about love first. Love has been defined in so many ways by so many great writers.
I always like to start my definitions of love with the one that comes from the greatest best-selling book of all times:
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others.
Isn’t always “me first.”
Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
Puts up with anything.
Trusts God always.
Always looks for the best.
Never looks back.
But keeps going to the end.”
Paul, The Message
Scott Peck defined love as: “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
So many power definitions of love:
- “Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ —
is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.” C. S. Lewis
- “Honesty, listening, giving, respect, and tenderness.” Dr. Phil
- “Love and romance and trust are conscious decisions to cherish what is wonderful about your partner and nurture gratefulness for what you have. Mostly, all you can do in love is repair how you screw up.”
Dr. John Gottman
- “True love is free from emotional bondage, free from clinging, and free from all kinds of toxic and unhealthy attachments. When you truly love someone, your love sets them free.” Maya Angelou
- “True love heals and affects spiritual growth. If we do not grow because of someone else’s love, it’s generally because it is a counterfeit form of love.” ― John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You
When I finished reading the last definition for us to consider, my new client blurted out: “Holy smokes! I know what the problem is now… I don’t know what you would call what we do have, but I’m certain it is not love!”
I told him I thought they were all amazing definitions of love, but I told him that the answers to the survey I sent out to Champions actually gave me great insight to how all of these great definitions play out in the life and marriages/relationships of Champions.
He was eager to hear and see if he could garner enough information to heal a marriage that had been falling apart for well over 30 years.
I am hoping that these great markers/beliefs of love from Champions will help you learn to give and receive love at an even greater level. Or if the love is gone, I believe these exact same things can resurrect it!
1. LOVE IS A DECISION… NOT A FEELING.
“Well, there it is! I thought we were falling apart because I didn’t feel anything for her anymore. And I don’t feel anything because she’s a loudmouth, she’s bipolar, crazy, and she would argue if you told her the sky was blue. She would defend herself if you said anything other than you’re the most terrific human being in the universe!”
I nodded, and I could see he was looking for validation. Instead, I commented: “I never like a one-sided story. If I were to add your wife to this Zoom session right now, and ask her if she loved you, what would she say?”
“That’s easy… Hell no would be her answer!”
“And what would she say if I asked her why?”
“She would say I’m a dry drunk, I never touch her, or say nice things to her, and that I don’t take showers often enough.”
I chuckled as I commented, “Touché!”
I reminded him that a Champion views love as a decision, not a feeling. “Perhaps you do have love, but the feelings are gone. My question is … has your decision to love waned or have you changed your mind?”
His response: “These are hard questions. How does it work? The ‘decision … not looking for a feeling’ thing?” I admired him asking.
“It works like this… All relationships have challenges. All relationships have disagreements, arguments, and problems.”
“Then we’re normal after all!” I had to laugh.
“Yes, you are normal on the first part of it, but probably not on the second part. A Champion’s love knows that problems, challenges, disagreements, arguments, and/or fights are temporary.”
“In addition, they know that all of those are opportunities for growth and deeper intimacy. Therefore, they look for the opportunity in the moment, and never withhold love. Even when they don’t feel like it. Because they’ve made a decision … a decision that is not based on feelings.”
“And how the hell do they do that?”
Again, I laughed before I continued. “They know that no matter what, when you truly love someone, and have emotional maturity … you never leave the position of TREKy talk or TREKy communication.”
“No matter the angst, anger, frustration, or distress of the moment, they never speak to one another without:
“Champions know that because they’ve made a decision to love their partner, every communication deserves that kind of regard and emotional maturity.”
“Well, now that we know I’m not a Champion because I can rip her a new one anytime she says something I don’t like… What am I supposed to do?”
I’m sure he expected a lecture, but instead, I nodded with understanding, and said, “The struggle is real, my friend. It’s real!” Not only is it real, but if you’ve run this pattern for years, it’s just your natural instinct now.”
“Well, it’s hers too!”
I had to laugh and say, “That was in true 5-year-old temper tantrum tone!” He could laugh at himself.
I acknowledged that it was likely her pattern too.
But patterns can be broken.
Patterns often NEED to be broken.
Patterns must be replaced with healthy patterns.
“And what on earth is a healthy pattern? And how can you do that?”
I really appreciated his curiosity and openness to something new. That’s half the battle. Many people prefer to explain and defend what they are doing (which clearly is not working) than to open themselves to a new way that brings great healing.
The secret of a Champion is this:
- Step back
- Remember when you fell in love
- Remember how you spoke to her/him
- Remember how you felt
- Remember how you treated him/her
- You had made a decision at that point to love.
With that in mind, here’s what you do instead of running your old pattern:
- Think of five things you are grateful for about your partner/spouse even if you have to think back a number of years
- Think of five things you once admired about him/her even if you have to reflect way back into history
- Tell yourself you are mature enough to make a decision to love like you did back then
- Whether you feel like it or not
- Refuse to fall into old patterns
- Decide you will have zero tolerance for yourself speaking to him/her with anything other than TREKy talk
- Get accountability
“Accountability? Ha!” He moaned in disgust.
“Yes! Accountability! People without accountability never become their best selves! It just doesn’t happen!”
He half-nodded, but clearly was uncomfortable with the concept.
“Find another husband, who would do well to do the same in his marriage. Gamify it if you need to… Like the one who has the least non-TREKy moments for the week (according to your wives) has to give the other $20. Do something to be accountable.”
“Accountability is not sitting around talking about how bad your week was. It is not letting one another off the hook. It is challenging one another. Iron sharpens iron (meaning you challenge one another to be their best). No excuses!
The truth is, we all have moments when we do not feel loving, tender thoughts for our spouse. That’s 100% normal.
However, popular media has shown us that it’s OK to “speak your mind” and not “sugarcoat” anything. You can speak the:
“Maintain that while addressing problems and issues.”
“Emotional maturity says love is a decision. Emotional immaturity says I love when I feel like it. That my friend, is a recipe for disaster.”
As difficult as it is, you can change your patterns. You can change the way you speak to one another. If you speak the truth with respect, empathy, and kindness … those warm, fuzzy feelings that we like to call love will come alive again. I asked my client if he would be willing to give that a try?
He nodded affirmatively, but not without sarcasm: “First of all, she’s going to think that I’m a man from Mars! And secondly, why does she not have to do that same thing?”
“I hope she will do just that. But whether she does or not, you lead the way. When she comments about you being a man from Mars, why don’t you share with her what I’ve shared with you, and ask her to join you?”
Will you be emotionally mature enough to step into real love? To be patient, kind, setting your reticular activating system (RAS) to always thinking the best and expecting the best from your partner? And give them your best?
I can assure you of this… Whether it be an intimate relationship, relationships in the workplace, relationships with your children, or adult children… Be emotionally mature enough to take the lead, and demonstrate real love. That’s a decision.
Warm feelings will accompany it! I’m certain about that!
2. LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING.
I wrote about this recently in a blog. I actually gave the link to a song by Vince Gill with such powerful lyrics. You can listen to it by clicking: (https://bit.ly/LveChangesEverything)
The lyrics of the song say:
Turns a poor boy into a king
Rock a baby on a front porch swing
And the church bells ring and ring
Love changes, love changes everything
Makes you put the whiskey down
Dries the tears of a lonely clown
Spend all your money on your honey Downtown
As the jukebox sings
Love changes everything
Makes you drive, you drive all night
Say, “I’m sorry” when you’ve had a fight
All you wanna do is make it right
You’ll do anything (Oh, anything)
It was gonna be just me and you
Life don’t work out like you want it to
You always said the only way to make it through
Is to believe
So, I believe
Love changes, love changes everything
Love can break your heart and heal your soul
Warm the wonder years if you’re young or old
When you start to fall, back’s against the wall
Makes you fly, fly, fly with a broken wing
Love changes everything
Because at least 70% of my Champions had a statement very similar to this, I wrote them all back and said… “Can you give me some specific examples of what love changed (everything) when you began your journey as a Champion?
Here is the list of the top 10 responses of what love changed:
- My selfishness.
- My pride.
- My views of my spouse.
- My gratitude toward my spouse.
- The way I address my spouse.
- Beginning to make consistent, solid investments in my marriage.
- How I treated my partner on a daily basis.
- My use of alcohol (and other addictions).
- Being more present.
- Being more intentional with my partner and our marriage.
Truly, real love does change everything.
“Well, there’s the second problem! I don’t have any love, so I don’t change anything for her, or for me!”
I told him I appreciated him for being willing to tell the truth and take responsibility. But I reminded him that love is not something you feel …
It’s a decision.
A decision about what you will do to re-create love when it fades.
A decision to keep treating your partner with respect, empathy, and kindness… No matter what.
A decision to put yourself aside (other than self-care needs).
A decision to make sure your partner’s love tank is full.
A decision to make sure their needs are met.
A decision to make sure they are getting the very best of you
“Is it too late to have that kind of love?”
With an understanding smile, I responded with these gentle words: “It’s never too late to have that kind of love!”
I honestly believe I hear that question or one similar to it almost every day in my practice.
Popular media, movies, and pop psychology have led us down a dangerous path. A path that says … when things get hard … move on and start fresh with someone else.
My graduate school advisor, and mentor of many years, Dr. Pat Love speaks to this very pointedly: “The problem with that is… You can leave your partner, but you keep the problem! Everywhere you go, there you are! You will just go and repeat it in a different way in the next relationship.”
I’ve seen it time and again! But when you make the decision to love… Truly love… Love changes … everything!
Research supports that statement. It indicates that those who stay together and keep their love alive:
- Are healthier
- Are 70% less likely to have a cardiac event
- Live about 10 years longer than others
- Experience lower pain levels
- Have significantly more energy
- Experience less stress
- Manage stress better than others
- Have steady levels of dopamine
- Have healthier blood pressure levels
- The list goes on…
Love really does change everything! Not only does it come with all of those benefits, but further research indicates that deep love in a relationship builds character, and calls forth our very best. In addition, our growth (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) is accelerated to greater and higher levels.
Love truly changes everything.
3. LOVE CALMS AND RESOLVES FEAR, ANXIETY AND WORRY.
Fear of what?
- Being hurt
- Taking risks
- Stepping out of your comfort zone
- Missing out
- Being smothered
- What others think
- Something bad happening
- Being vulnerable
- Fear of anything!
“Hmmm… Well, we this proves we obviously don’t have any love. She’s always afraid I’m gonna leave her, and I’m afraid she’s going to cheat on me. I guess if we had love, we wouldn’t have any of those fears.”
“Most of us have early wounds that create fears. Unfortunately, they have nothing to do with our partners, but our partners often pay the price for them. When people have love, they are devoted to knowing about those wounds. They are devoted to being careful about activating them, and to do everything they possibly can to be a part of the healing of those wounds.”
I asked him, “Do you know where your fear of being cheated on comes from?” At first he acted like he had no idea, but I asked how he got cheated as a child…
With a quivering chin, his tone softened as he almost whispered, “Well …” I waited. “After my dad left us when I was just five, he took on the other woman’s kids like his own, and had nothing to do with us.”
Leaning toward the screen, I softly said, “You got cheated out of your dad. And you felt like he cheated on you by being the dad you wanted to the other kids. And now you are afraid your wife would do the same to you?”
“I didn’t get on here to get all choked up, but you’re probably right.”
I asked him if he knew where her abandonment wounds came from. With even more quivering in his chin, he shared: “Her mom and dad both ran off and left her. He was a drunk, and her mom was a drug addict. My wife was in the foster care system for a few years, and finally her grandmother was able to get her and raise her. But then, when she was 16, her grandmother died. And she’s been on her own ever since.”
I asked him, “Would you like to be a part of helping her heal from that?”
“I know the right answer, but I just don’t know what to do.”
“Are you aware that leaving her to go hunting and fishing every weekend, and being emotionally unavailable when you are home is abandonment for her?”
He looked as if I had slugged him in the gut
“Would you be willing to take one weekend off and spend time with her? And do some of the things she enjoys doing with her? And ask her to do things that you enjoy doing with you?”
“Her fears will heal… And yours will too!”
Love really does calm and resolve our fears. And with less fear, we are able to accomplish more, to do the great things that we want to do in this world.
In just a matter of a few weeks, following some simple guidelines, he popped into our Zoom session with some pretty moving stories.
“Why don’t they teach this stuff in school? I had no idea what love was supposed to be. I thought it was just something you feel till it’s gone… Then you move on.”
I told him that many people felt and believed the same way he did. but there was a better way.
“I guess I’ve been pretty selfish. It’s made a big difference for me to think of her first, to treat her with love and respect. She’s coming to life, and so am I!”
Love is powerful, but it is not a feeling.
Love is tender, but it is not weak.
Love is consistent, but it is not boring.
Love is being willing to say you’re sorry.
Love is doing whatever it takes.
Love is never giving up!
LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING! …
If you will allow yourself to give and receive a Champion kind of love!
We are in a holiday season.
Shopping is being done.
Gifts are being wrapped.
Cookies are being baked.
The greatest gift you can give this holiday season is love.
Love requires vulnerability.
Love requires courage.
Love requires some selflessness.
When given in that manner, it comes back 100 fold!
Pour out that kind of love and get some barrels for the overflowing love that will be coming back your way!
Open your heart and give the gift of love. The Champion kind of love!