How to keep love alive?

We could not activate love by our own efforts

There are two options for the further development. Some people say that if love is not there any longer, why torture each other? So they break up. By doing so one can meet and part with many partners. The second option is for people who feel responsibility for each other. They say, "Ok, there is no love but there is a commitment, we’ll keep the marriage for the sake of our children." Sometimes people cannot stand it and divorce, but there are cases when spouses bear their cross grudgingly throughout a lifetime. I do respect such people, but it’s sad of course.

So there is something to think about what is better – to carry out the obligations and keep on suffering or to meet and part depending on the feelings that come and go. In the first case, people have their life established, they share money, they have kids together. You see, besides love people accumulate other links holding them together, so they prefer to keep it as it is because there are too many ties to break. But hatred keeps growing… The second option is also dubious because one can hop from place to place all life long and never settle down.

Such situation could be very sad and dismal, if it was not possible to work over love, to cultivate it. This is wrong to think about love as a feeling that is independent of our will, like the weather. Love does depend on our will and choice!

Love is given by God and God is love; the source of love is not within ourselves and we cannot activate love by our own efforts. Instead, understanding that God connected you with your partner and that you take some responsibility for him/her helps to stay together. Therefore, you can either put up with your spouse or you can fall in love with him/her. How can you do it?

First, it’s in your power to ask God to give you love, because He is the source of love. Second, you can do everything, which springs from love. As the Holy Fathers say, if you don’t have love in your heart, do the actions of love and you will learn how to love. It means that you should treat another person as if you were in love with him/her. It’ll not be hypocrisy because when we create the form and crave for God to fill it by the content, it can happen. There are some cases when spouses had no strong feelings for each other in the beginning; however, having gone through many difficulties they displayed great care for each other and gained the kind of love that was surprising even to themselves.

An interesting episode is described in the Evangelic story about Cana of Galilee, when God made wine of water; the master of the wedding ceremony said to the bridegroom that normally the good wine must be served first and the worse one - at the end, "but thou hast kept the good wine until now." I always tell to the young people that here God solved not only the problem of the lack of wine, but He gave us a wonderful symbol of what happens to love. In this story, wine is a symbol of love. It’s romantic and strong at the beginning; but when this wonderful and joyful (usually short) period is over, people drink the leftovers. And sometimes there is water that remained, not wine. God reminds us, that He can make wine of water again and this wine will be even of better quality than it was before.

Love is always a gift from God. Some actions decrease this gift and some increase. As Paul the Apostle says, "Quench not the Spirit." Spirit is also not ours. We can put it out, but also we can turn it to flame within our hearts.

If people got this gift of love even in a small degree and decided to build a family, it means they had feelings for each other and it’s up to them to make this gift growing stronger or to extinguish it.

If a man insults his wife and doesn’t care about her, if she in return cheats on him, this gift will not augment. Instead, partners will lose it. On the contrary, if both of them appreciate the value of love, if they wish to work over things to warm it up, then there is some hope they will succeed. But this is where the problem lies: many spouses don’t wish to put their efforts to keep love alive, they want to do nothing to keep it going.

It’s not an easy task indeed. In the books on psychology, you can find many useful recommendations of what spouses shouldn’t and should do to make their love stronger. One advice is obvious, that is try not to reproach each other, don’t say rude words…Unfortunately people ignore these simple rules, they just don’t want to work seriously, their love attitude is "let-it-be-the-way-it-is."

Family problems are often subjects of discussions with priests. Typically, one of the spouses comes and explains openly, with tears and bitterness, what is going on in their family. When I listen to such complains, I also start thinking, "My, her spouse is a villain!" So I say, "Tell your spouse to come here, I would like to talk to him as well." In a while, I get a chance to talk to another partner. And beforehand I have the certain opinion about that person. He didn’t even start talking yet and I already want to say something impartial to his address. Of course, I don’t do such thing and let him to speak out… During the explanation, I receive a totally different picture. I look at the situation with this person’s eyes and understand his point. He can explain some details that his wife did not tell me, he describes the situation from his point of view. Afterwards I see that each of them has his own truth, each of them is right in his own way. So, I meet with the first spouse once again…

When I was a young priest, I trusted and strongly supported the first side that came to me to talk. Today, when I am asked for help, I listen to the first spouse and sympathize. At the second meeting with him/her I say, "Let’s look at this situation from the different point of view, with the eyes of your spouse, let’s try to find where you are wrong.I believe everything you are talking about is true. Also, it could be a chance that your partner is not the only one to blame"…After such words I encounter the negative reaction. While the person is complaining and I am sympathizing, everything goes fine. But when I ask to examine and critically evaluate him/herself, he/she says, "Ok, let’s do it", but drifts apart right away. Such turn isn’t something people like to analyse willingly. Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes people are ready to do find a compromise but this is very difficult anyway.

Therefore, it is very important for spouses to understand each other and to assess the situation from one another’s point of view.

What else prevents to keep love alive? Inability to critically evaluate yourself, unwillingness to accept the partner the way he/she is. Married people always make high demands to each other, like, "You should be this and that way; if not, I don’t need you". Actually, the intention to help your spouse become a better person is natural. This is quite normal if, say, a man wants his wife to overcome her imperfections. On the other hand, he must understand how difficult it is and that it depends on his ability to improve himself as well.

Recently I had a conversation with one young man. I was under impression that he and his girlfriend had a good relationship. But he loves poetry and she doesn’t, she makes jokes on him. Well, it’s ok not to like poetry, but at least she could show some respect to this passion of his; sharing his interest would be the best way to let him know she appreciates and understands him. If not this, than at least she mustn’t hurt his feelings... This is very important. If someone you love has other interests than you do, put some effort into making those interests valuable for you too. If you can’t, at least try to respect them.

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Igor Gagarin, Archpriest

Igor Gagarin, Archpriest

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See also
Nothing should be higher than love (Writer Maxim Yakovlev)
Bear each other’s weak points (Painter Olga Motovilova-Komova)
Talk to each other! (Svetlana Shvetsova, psychologist)
Your spouse is the delight you pay no heed to (Irina Rakhimova, psychologist)
The Third person is needed in a family (Vladimir Gurbolikov, journalist)
I give in my habits (Andrew Klyashtorni, businessman)

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