Finding my way, sharing my finds
Do 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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:
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.
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 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.