Just because we don't feel it, doesn't mean that love doesn't exist. Esther Bailey helps us to identify and grow the affection we all crave.
In respect to true love, people live in poverty, when a rich relationship is just a word or two away. Because too often love isn’t expressed in ways considered appropriate, people fail to accept it in the form in which it is offered.
A wife may say to her husband, “If you loved me, you’d spend more time at home instead of working so much at the office.”
Or a teenager may say to their father, “Dad, all you ever give me is money. That doesn’t actually show you love me.”
The motive for making such accusations is to put the negligent person to shame in the hope of causing a turnabout with a happily-ever-after result.
Instead of bringing family members together, however, these types of confrontation more often drive them apart. It is human nature to take the defensive when under attack.
To escape his wife’s condemnation, the husband may retreat to the office with even more regularity. A teenager’s lack of appreciation may cause dad to cut down on monetary expressions of love.
Some of the stipulated requirements to prove love are based on sound reasoning. Husbands and wives need to spend time together to develop an intimate relationship; money is a poor substitute for spending time with the children. Demanding the ideal though, will not bring it about.
Trying to weed out negative qualities through criticism will likely create a worse situation. On the other hand, nurturing any quality that might be interpreted as expressing love may improve the relationship. If properly cultivated, even a tiny seed of love may take root and eventually produce a harvest.
Here are some real-life examples that show how this works:
Carl and Nancy
Growing up with a devoted family man as a father, Nancy expected her husband, Carl, to be home every evening and weekend. During the early years of their marriage, Carl complied. After starting his own business though, he began to work long hours.
Upset by the interruption to family life, Nancy complained. “You’ve worked every night this week,” she said. “Don’t you think you should spend more time with me and the children?”
“I know, but I’m trying to build a better life for you and the children.”
Realising that criticism wouldn’t work, Nancy chose a different tactic. She would make her husband feel like a hero instead of a villain. On one of Carl’s rare nights home she said, “Honey, it’s been great to have you home all evening. You really made my day.”
Inspired by his sudden popularity at home, Carl began to readjust his schedule to make more family time.
Curt and Judy
When Curt had to take an extended medical leave from work, he assumed his wife, Judy, would give him her undivided attention. Although Judy took care of Curt’s basic needs, she didn’t offer him all the comfort he desired.
Her reaction stemmed from childhood experiences when her mother feigned illness to get her own way. Curt didn’t understand this and attributed her attitude to indifference toward him.
Neither confrontation nor sulking altered Judy’s behaviour, so Curt tried praising his wife instead.
“I really appreciate all the sacrifices you are making for me,” Curt said. “I know my illness has put extra work on you, but every meal you put on the table says you care.”
The compliment pleased Judy so much that she began to look for other ways to show her love and concern for Curt.
Sharon and Brad
The good relationship that Sharon enjoyed with her son ended when Brad entered his teens. The boy who had once been so outgoing turned into a closed-mouth stranger.
“You don’t appreciate one thing your father and I do for you,” Sharon said to Brad during a heated conversation.
“I don’t think you appreciate me either,” Brad said. “You know, I could be into drugs or out stealing cars but I’m not.”
The remark caused Sharon to re-evaluate her thinking. She had to admit that Brad was right.
“I’m sorry, son,” she said. “I have been overlooking your good points. You are a good boy, and I’m proud of you. We just need to reach a better understanding of each other.”
In an effort to live up to his reputation as a good son, Brad began to open up to his parents.
If love seems to be missing from a relationship, there is no need to despair. A closer look at the situation may reveal that love has been waiting all the time.
The next step is to accept and appreciate whatever form of love is offered. Before long, the relationship may blossom with love beyond anything imagined.
It’s important to quickly take advantage of any form of love that is waiting. In human terms, love that waits too long for fulfilment may well die.
Unfortunately, we also need to be aware that there is no guarantee that the most tactful response to a spark of human love will bring the desired result. Human reaction is unpredictable, but success is more likely for those who allow God’s love to flow through them.
The good news is, God’s love is available to everyone.
No-one need suffer from lack of love. God’s love can compensate for whatever is lacking in human love.
Christian attitudes combined with divine-directed actions help build loving relationships. If, however, the effort fails, God is waiting to heal the heartache.