Love is a Verb
Posted to Facebook Business page yesterday evening, Feb. 17, 2022:
“Reactive people make love a feeling. Proactive people make love a verb. Love is something you DO—the sacrifices you make, the giving of self. Love is a value that is actualized through loving action. Proactive people subordinate feelings to values. Love—the feeling—can be recaptured.” –Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
If I could instantly make my clients in couples therapy understand any one principle on a deep level, it would be this.
Love is primarily something you do. It is only something you primarily feel when you are dating and the first few years after. If you do not make the leap from love-as-feeling to love-as-action, your relationship will not be able to go the distance. Feelings wax and wane, come and go, as unstable and shifting as sinking sand, but you get to choose your behaviors every minute of every day. Your behaviors are the rock you can build your house of love upon.
So don’t wait until you feel like loving your partner. Don’t let your feelings lead. Choose to love your partner now, as they are, in this moment and each moment after that.
Do loving actions. Prioritize that person under your roof with you. Keep your promises. Be honest. Show them affection even if you’re not an affectionate person. Praise them even if you’re not a words person. Love them in the way that speaks most deeply to them, not in the way you think they should appreciate.
Practice warmth, gentleness, and kindness. Don’t criticize them. (It hasn’t worked so far and it never will.) Apologize when you are wrong, and it may well help to assume you are wrong a lot more often than you currently think.
Pour yourself out for this person you have committed your life to. Take joy in making their life easier. See if you can outdo yourself in love every day.
Look your partner deeply in the eyes tonight. This human being is counting on you to be there for them, and you are their best hope for happiness in this life. They need you to come through because they have committed their love only to one person, and if you don’t come through, they are abandoned. They are then burdened with care, with anxiety, with the pain of promised love that never grew beyond whims and feelings—like a tree that has grown tall but is without roots, and unstable, and destined to crash to the ground.
Love your partner selflessly, beginning now, and take no care for whether they love you in that way. Love them this way and the pain, disappointment, skepticism, and coldness your partner may feel now will melt away—not today or tomorrow, perhaps, but almost surely one day, and you will both have the love you have always needed, and be that needed source of love for your partner.
This is the opportunity that is standing right in front of you at this very moment. Don’t waste it sitting around hoping to merely feel something, as if you have purchased a lottery ticket and are waiting to see if you are one of the lucky few winners. Unlike the lottery, whether you win at love is not random chance but very deeply up to you. Of course not completely, but likely far more than you realize.
You have this extraordinary opportunity to create something! As you create something lasting and powerful and beautiful oh, the feelings that will surely follow! Of this I can assure you!
This does not mean all relationships can or should be saved. It does not mean if you are being abused you should accept that treatment and just try harder. It does not mean if you have been through divorce you should lash yourself with guilt, or that you could have saved the relationship all by yourself. It does not mean if your partner is evil you can change them. It just means many relationships could instantly begin to get better if only people understood the power of behaviors and choices over feelings.