Updated: May 20
I would like to share my thoughts on something many people do daily. Yet, despite their frequent interactions with it, they still don't fully understand and embrace. The matter I would like to discuss is powerful enough to cause brilliant people to make bad decisions. It creates bonds between individuals and motivation toward a goal. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am talking about love.
Love is perhaps the most basic and necessary emotion we need as humans. We learn to expect it as early as infancy from our caregivers' snuggles to development as adolescents when looking for a mate. Then if blessed with children and grandchildren, love transforms into the role of caregiving. I would guess that nothing said until this point is a surprise to anyone. Something I would like to explore is the unknown side of love and the motivations behind it.
Love is often an automatic response to a situation. The birth of a newborn baby causes a rush of emotions, with love being at center stage. But what is the driving force behind this? Well, think about it. This beautiful person you just created is going to require your sacrifice. You are going to be sleep-deprived, changing diapers, maybe even forgoing your ambitions. Worse yet, no appreciation or understanding for all the effort. But you suck it up and march onward because you understand, instinctively, that parenting requires sacrifice.
In the scenario above, I presented a situation that would illustrate sacrificial love; nothing demonstrates this like parenting an infant. Nobody challenges the necessity of catering to an infant, nor should they. Let's pause to think of the logic behind it. Without parents' caring actions, babies would fail to survive, and the human species would disappear. You see, love is the catalyst for sacrifice; it provides the emotion/motivation necessary to act selflessly. A key to happiness is to practice sacrificial love not just in parenting, but in all aspects of life.
People especially struggle to live selflessly in marriage. It is too easy to see your needs not being met and withdrawal your love or act out as a partner. Suppose you feel that your spouse has not been holding up their end of duties around the house. It can be enticing to lash out at them or stop doing something that you believe they are taking for granted. Often this leads to a dispute; if not, it just creates a negative pattern of communication. Alternatively, we should seek to discuss our feelings with our partners and offer to understand.
I am by no means condoning a lack of accountability. Individuals react better to people trying to work with them; rather than against them. Our partners find it much easier to treat us unkindly when we are acting out against them. Furthermore, one should never approach a relationship seeking to have their needs met. This idea is selfish, and in principle, will always lead to failure. We should instead practice sacrificial love, like that of a parent to their infant. By doing this, we can better understand and fulfill our partner's needs. Say to yourself, my husband may have been abrasive this morning, but he deserves my kindness. Men, you can say my wife never shows respect for all I do for the family, but I shouldn't expect praise, it's my duty.
We cannot view being servants as a form of disrespect. It should be an understanding that as partners in marriage, we are accountable to one another in all ways. Society has created a sharp line of individualism that many have carried into marriage. Feminism has no place in a healthy marriage, just as a man cannot place all childcare and house duties on his wife. Neither one of those ideas promotes a selfless form of love necessary for a healthy relationship.
Don't let the destructive ideology of our modern society ruin the true definition of love. Love does not cause you to seek out others to boost your self-confidence or to provide emotional reassurances. It can not make you feel satisfied at all times without ceasing. Alternately, love gives you the ability to support others when it otherwise would be difficult. Love gives you the ability to care about someone more than yourself. Still, you must put forth the effort to act on this idea, just as you make yourself roll out of bed to feed your newborn at 2 in the morning.