Finding my way, sharing my finds

I Dare You: 6 Ways “The Love Dare” Changed My Relationship

422Do you know what it means to truly love someone unconditionally? To think of their needs before your own?  To not only tolerate your significant other’s flaws but accept them as being exactly how they should be in that moment?

I can’t say that I always have.

I’m more comfortable with putting conditions on my love.  I’ll love you if you do this for me. I’ll accept you if you’re this specific type of person all of the time. I’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to me. I’ll show my commitment to you only after you’ve proven yourself to me.

Relationships have always been a bit of a contingency plan for me.  Maybe that’s why they’ve all had a rather quick expiration date – right around the 8 month mark.  After that point, the infatuation phase has mostly worn off and the relationship is no longer “fun.”

Typically, I’ve bailed at the first sign of actual commitment or intimacy – you know, that phase that becomes more prominent once the superficial “You’re hot!” “You’re exciting!” “Let’s make out!” part wears off.

Actually, I never really had a desire to experience anything past the infatuation phase. I just thought it was more alluring to stay in a perpetual attraction-courtship-infatuation-clean break-repeat cycle.

But during my sister’s wedding in 2011, the pastor said something that made me think that I may have had it all wrong over the years.

He said that we like someone because, we love someone despite.

617And yet, this whole time, I’d been saying “I love you because” and “I’ll love you so long as you don’t do this or aren’t like that.” I had it all backward.

Of course, that didn’t really change my behavior. Of course it wouldn’t. Change takes time and at this point, I had been approaching dating like a selfish child at Christmas for nine years. It was all about what I could get out of it, how the other person could prove his love to me, how I could steal more and more happiness from the relationship.

But my attitudes toward love did start changing, first gradually, then suddenly. I started seeking to comfort rather than to be comforted, to understand rather than be understood, to love than to be loved. (St. Francis of Assisi obviously was ahead of the curve on this revelation)

Then, in February, I read an article about a man named Nate Bagley who had traveled the world seeking the best love advice from long-term couples.  The best piece of advice he heard? “Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.”

I looked at my current relationship and wondered if I had fully committed to loving him without inhibition, without contingency, without fear.

And that’s when I decided to accept a challenge my sister had given me several years earlier: Complete The Love Dare.

Although my sister told me about this book several years ago, I had never been in a relationship that made completing the challenge seem worthwhile.

But my current relationship is different. Yes, we are two flawed people living in an imperfect world, but we get each other. We make sense together.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I felt like our souls already knew each other the day we met. And although I usually rush relationships because an inevitable expiration date always looms in the back of my mind, I haven’t felt the need to rush this relationship. I know we have all the time in the world, that we’re free to sit back and enjoy the journey, letting our relationship grow organically.

Add to that my own personal growth and my recent declaration of Christ as my Lord and Savior through Baptism and you have prime conditions for me discovering for the first time how to truly love someone unconditionally, the way Christ loved me.

Beware, All Who Read “The Love Dare”

No, seriously: There’s a warning at the beginning of the book:

Receive this as a warning. This forty day journey cannot be taken lightly.

It is a challenging and often difficult process, but an incredibly fulfilling one.  To take this dare requires a resolute mind and a steadfast determination.

It is not meant to be sampled or briefly tested and those who quit early will forfeit the greatest benefits. If you will commit to a day at a time for forty days, the results could change your life and your marriage.

Consider it a dare, from others who have done it before you.

Who the Love Dare is Intended For

027The Love Dare is a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives to understand and practice unconditional love. Regardless of whether the marriage is on the rocks or in great condition, it’s an opportunity to delve deeper into what unconditional love really is.

Yes, I understand I’m not married.

But I honestly don’t think that matters. I think this Christian-based book can benefit anyone in a long-term, committed relationship who wants to better understand how to love rather than to be loved.

Because I feel like in our culture, it’s all about what you can take away from a relationship. And this book teaches how to first think of what you can bring to the relationship.

So on April 4, I Started This 40 Day Challenge

The idea is that you take this dare in secret, unbeknownst to your significant other.  After all, I wasn’t looking for a pat on the back.  I was just trying to learn how to be a better partner, how to put his needs above mine.

Each day’s chapter title told me what love is and what love isn’t:

  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love is not selfish
  • Love is not rude
  • Love lets the other win
  • Love promotes intimacy
  • Love seeks to understand

423Each chapter pulled from scripture to demonstrate God’s intentions for unconditional love and how it’s shown.  And at the end of each chapter, there was a dare for the day.

One day, my dare was to call my boyfriend sometime during the day with no other agenda except to see how he was doing. Another day, it was to go an entire day without saying anything negative to him.  One day it was to do one expected gesture as an act of kindness.

There was journal space at the end of each chapter to write down what happened that day and what I experienced.

The next 40 days were an incredible journey and really gave me new appreciation for what it means to love someone unconditionally.

I definitely recommend it to anyone in a long-term relationship. No, scratch that. I challenge you to complete the Love Dare. You won’t be the same when you’re finished.

I won’t spoil some of the surprises you’ll encounter if you accept my challenge but I would like to share with you 6 of the many gems I took away from reading this incredible book.

Six Lessons That Changed The Way I Look at Love

  • Love is not rude. There are three guiding principles for showing respect and practicing etiquette in your relationship:
    • Guard the Golden Rule by treating your significant other the way you would want to be treated
    • Avoid double standards by being as considerate to your significant other as you would be to strangers or coworkers
    • Honor requests by considering what your significant other has already asked you to do or no do.
  • Love believes the best. There are two competing rooms in our minds.  One is the Appreciation Room, where all of our positive and encouraging thoughts about our significant other are written on the walls.  The other is the Depreciation Room, where all of the things that bother and irritate us about our significant other are written on the walls. The book is blunt: The Depreciation Room will kill a relationship. Thankfully, we can choose which room we spend our time in.  As the book says “Love knows about the Depreciation Room and does not live in denial that it exists. But love chooses not to live there. You must decide to stop running ot this room and lingering there after every frustrating event in your relationship. It does you no good and drains the joy out of your marriage.”
  • Love is unconditional. The book describes a sort of love called agape, which is a Greek word for unconditional love.  It is different from other types of love, including phileo (friendship) and eros (sexual love).  As the book notes, “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional.  The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”
  • Love fights fair. The book suggested that couples decide on certain “we” boundaries and “me” boundaries when it comes to fighting.  “We” Boundaries may include calling a “time out” if conflicts escalate to a damaging level, not bringing up old/unrelated items from the past and never fighting in public.  “Me” Boundaries may include listening first before speaking, dealing with my own issues up-front and speaking gently and keeping my voice down.
  • Love takes delight. The book says that we should not just follow our heart, we should lead it.  A complementary phrase is, “Feelings aren’t fact.” In other words, we’re not to let our feelings and emotions do the driving, we’re to take the wheel and tell them where we’re going.  The book notes, “If you pick at your mate more than you praise them, it’s because you’ve allowed your heart to be selfish.  You’ve led yourself into criticism.” Instead, we are to delight in our significant other, enjoying who they are and who God has created them to be.
  • Love is Jesus Christ. It really is impossible to love someone unconditionally without having a relationship with the only person who ever truly DID love unconditionally: Jesus Christ. Here’s an excerpt from the book.
    • “He was willing to love you even though you didn’t deserve it, even when you didn’t love back.  He was able to see all your flaws and imperfections and still choose to love you.  His love made the greatest sacrifice to meet your greatest need. As a result, you are able (by His grace) to walk in the fullness and blessing of His love.”  

And that means that you’re able to share that same love with your significant other, but only through communing with Jesus Christ first.

And that’s just the beginning.

796From that juncture, the book takes you on an even deeper journey toward discovering how to love another person in the unconditional way that Christ loved us.

And during those 40 days, I saw my relationship – but more importantly, me within that relationship – be transformed.

I thought we had a wonderful relationship on Day 1 but nothing prepared me for the depth of love I held for our relationship at the end of those 40 days. My commitment to him was solidified, my resolve to forgive past grievances and move forward by delighting in who he is as an individual was stronger than ever and my appreciation for Christ and His Love for me reached new heights.

I’m a firm believer that the healthiest relationships are comprised of three entities: The Couple and God. Because without God at the center of my life, I’m a selfish and self-centered lover, whose sole goal is to take away as much as possible from the relationship with little or no cost to me.

But when God is at the center of my life and I’ve made the choice to commit myself to a Godly man, that’s when I discover what true love really is.

Take the dare and see your relationship – and your life – transformed.

Be well.



6 comments on “I Dare You: 6 Ways “The Love Dare” Changed My Relationship

  1. tjothen
    August 1, 2014

    Amen, sister! 😛 Jimmy is lucky, and so are you.

    Pete and I did the Love Dare years ago and it was awesome. I have another book I want to go through now called “Rocking the Roles.” … Your blog inspired me to start on a series of blog entries myself on this same topic!

    • emeraldgazes
      August 2, 2014

      Too cool! You’ll have to tell me what it’s like to go through Rocking the Roles. And so glad you’re inspired! Looking forward to reading your blogs on the topic. I really admire you and Pete’s relationship. : )

  2. allie46
    August 25, 2016

    I’ve just come across this post and am really curious about how this works. I’ve been dating a guy for about 6 months – and all was fine for the first 3 months (better than fine – I thought ‘this is it – he’s the guy I’ve been waiting for’), but all of a sudden I had a panic attack of “not liking him enough” – even though we’ve known each other for a number of years prior (we went to school together) and I’d always had a thing for him. He’s so confused and is trying his best to love me and is always telling me he loves me – but I’ve become scared and now feel uncomfortable around him – I can’t understand why though. I find myself constantly on edge because I’m scared that I don’t love him and that I should end the relationship.
    Do you think this love dare could help? I’ve prayed and prayed about this and feel God is being silent, and I’m finding myself in tears everyday because I don’t know how I feel and I know I’m hurting him – but I don’t know how to fix it.
    Is it possible to be crazy about someone and have so much in common and all of a sudden, look at them and feel nothing?
    It’s making me depressed and upset 😦
    Any advice or tips would be of great help.

    • emeraldgazes
      August 26, 2016

      Hi Allie,

      Thank you so much for writing and for your honesty. I can completely relate to a lot of the experiences you talked about – including being worried I was not as in love with someone as they were with me and feeling on edge/scared around them as a result. And while I’m no love expert, I can share with you my experiences.

      I did this love dare because I was at a point in my relationship where I really wanted to dive into what I could do better on my end to fully love on this man as best as I could and as close to how God intended for me to as possible.

      During this time, I found that I learned all kinds of new things about how to love someone and it really helped me feel engaged again with the relationship – like there was a new spark. And it was valuable for me to push myself to love deeper than I’d ever loved anyone else.

      It did open my eyes to loving how Christ wanted us to love our partner. But at the same time, it’s worth noting that seven months after I wrote this blog, I did break up with this man. I think there was a purpose to everything we experienced and I’m grateful we were in each other’s lives but in the end, I couldn’t ignore God’s voice any longer that this wasn’t “The One” for me and that I had to let him go. That was really painful but ultimately it was for the best. At the same time, I think it took what it took to arrive at the point where I realized I needed to end the relationship – and that decision couldn’t have come a day earlier.

      Thus, I would just keep putting one foot in front of the other and participating in your relationship to the best of your ability while also seeking the voice/will of God all along the way. God will be a lamp at your feet and will guide you all along the way – and sooner or later, you’ll know which way God wants you to go if you keep doing the next right thing.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Erin O'Loughlin
    July 28, 2017

    I just found your blog and love your writing! I’m impressed with your insights, as well as your references! May you continue in your journey, it looks as though it will be a good one. I am looking forward to your sharing your thoughts!
    Be blessed!

    • emeraldgazes
      August 1, 2017

      Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I’m happy to hear you enjoy reading it! This blog has been such a blessing for me and it means a lot to be able to share my journey and insights with others. Be blessed as well!

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This entry was posted on August 1, 2014 by in Life Happens and tagged , , , , , , , .
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