We often feel love, particularly when we are at the outset of a romantic relationship. The struggles of married life, however, move this feeling much deeper, rooting our love in choice, intentional gift, desire that perseveres. Love becomes credible when it becomes this love of choice. But even as adults we remain children. We still want the feeling. We want to know we're loved. That we make a difference. We want to be swept off our feet by someone. We want to know we're special. There's nothing wrong with all that. Feeling is a wonderful vehicle that moves us toward the ultimate gift we give another, the choice to give to them, to put them first, to put your relationship with them first, to sacrifice for their good. And this, in the end, yields another feeling: one of satisfaction, of deep gratitude, of joy at being capable to relinquish your own self-importance for the good of both of you, for the good of the other, to please the other.
Love becomes believable when it becomes choice. This is Christian love: "No greater love has anyone than this, to lay down one's life for a friend." It is a love Jesus showed us. It is a love that numberless parents show each other and their children moment by moment, day by day.
Where do we get the flexibility to let ourselves go in love, to let go of the demands of our expectations to yield to the wonder of what emerges when we give? Here's a little exercise that might help you:
1) Bring to mind a situation where you don't want to give in to another.
2) Feel the reverberation of this situation on all levels of your being: thoughts, emotions, physical feeling.
3) Accept the negative ways you are feeling. Over time you will be able to notice some softening.
4) As a specific feeling begins to emerge more strongly, allow yourself to be aware of it gently for a few moments.
5) Ask yourself when you felt that way as a child. Allow yourself to be aware of it gently for a few moments.
6) Connect in your imagination to some mystery of Jesus' life, an image like his birth, the scourging, the crucifixion, his resurrection, the way he healed, taught, defended people.
7) Reflect on your situation in relation to the mystery of Jesus' life. See how he dealt with other people.
8) Ask Jesus for the grace to be with people as he.
9) Pray imaginatively by putting yourself back in the situation you are dealing with along with Jesus. Speak to your spouse and to Jesus. Listen. Learn. Love. Choose. Give.