No Easy Way To Love   6 comments

I was a 45-year-old bachelor when I started dating Kimberly, and my friends, assuming I was girl-dumb, insisted I romance her with flowers, fancy chocolates, and fru-fru gifts…  take her to see a chick-flick…  say “I love you.”  I smiled and nodded to placate their eagerness, but I knew they were wrong.  For starters, Berly prefers cheap chocolate and is ambivalent about gifts.  They might have known “women,” but I knew Berly.  The problem with our romance pop-culture, and much of the marriage enrichment industry, even many Christian seminars and books, are the notions that all women are alike, that men cannot understand them, and therefore that husbands should simply learn some basic rules for marriage maintenance.  Men regularly come home from a weekend retreat with a checklist to follow: kiss your wife goodbye when you leave for work, tell her you love her, have a weekly date night, and for goodness sake drop the toilet seat after peeing.  And those are the better men, the ones who are really trying.

It’s a deep sadness that our most intimate relationships are held together with stock routines because we’re convinced we can’t understand each other.  The gender gap might as well be an intergalactic separation, after all, women are from Venus and men are from Mars… and we’re apparently lost in space.  It’s certainly a nice gesture to take a quiz on our five love languages and task oneself (say) with giving three daily encouragements to a spouse, but how much does that help in understanding one another deeply and thoroughly, which is what the relationship truly needs.  It is almost as though we’ve given up on real relationship (vulnerable sharing, open listening, trusting, understanding, accepting, valuing, empathizing) and reduced love to what we do for one another.

Mutual understanding between the sexes is not easy or quick.  It takes a lot of time and energy, not to mention fear and pain, and perhaps for that reason our culture has largely abandoned the effort as hopeless.  “It has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried” (as Chesterton said of true Christianity). But nice words and kind behavior can never substitute for the gritty, real work of heart connection.  The first is comfortable and functional, like a pair of old shoes, the last is revolutionary.

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Posted February 23, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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6 responses to “No Easy Way To Love

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  1. Love your story! So glad you trusted your instincts and didn’t listen to well-meaning friends! (I think I’ve seen that plot more than a few times in sit-coms and movies. =)).

    Again, your wife shines through.

    Thank you for your insights. You nailed it.

  2. Really like this Kent. Well said and so true. Romance truly is caring about the whole person, good, bad and ugly.

    • Glad you liked the post! I don’t know if the word “romance” can be redeemed to carry such a big load, but certainly true love involves caring for the whole person… and it ain’t easy!

  3. Your right Kent, we have mechanized love rather than receive it from the Father and “spill” it onto the brothers and sisters around us.
    Thank God that He does not love on us all the same way but individually reaches our hearts in such a personal and creative ways. My wife does not
    each chocolates, grieves flowers because they will die and is not a cheesy gift person. But she loves quality time and intimate words of character
    affirmation. Are we as men that dumb in that we rely only on romantic gestures that someone else has told us worked for his wife?

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Allan. I am personally wired for in-depth, honest communication, and yet I still found my wife very difficult to understand because she came from such a different perspective than I. It took me years (literally) of very careful listening and probing before I could understand some of the more fundamental differences between us. So I understand why others give up. I wish our culture encouraged the kind of respectful, honest, in-depth dialogue that would bring us the intimacy we crave, but in my experience Americans focus more on task-oriented success, even regarding relationships.

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