'Tis the season to celebrate love and romance, but what if you're just not feelin' it? If you're reading Chicago Parent, chances are good that you're a veteran of more than a few sleepless nights. The cumulative effect of those sleepless nights-and the numerous and complex challenges and changes that came along with the children who inspired them-can make even the best of unions feel lukewarm and lackluster.
What to do?
Wine and roses-and maybe a little chocolate-might help, but a shift in your perspective might help even more.
Bear in mind that "love" is not a feeling. Infatuation, which is, certainly inspires some mighty fine moments. But it should not be mistaken for love, a sustained way of being in relationships with respect and care for another's well-being.
This is no small feat. Anyone can love their friends. The more important and far greater challenge, however, is to love-and be loving toward-everyone else we encounter, our spouse, other family members and even our co-workers, even when we're engaged in conflict.
Sure. That sounds swell. Doable, even. But why should we have to try so hard to conjure a loving relationship with our partners in the first place? Shouldn't "real love" that's "meant to be" be easy and unfettered? Shouldn't it just "work"?
Au contraire. In my humble opinion, love is work. I don't believe any love is "meant to be." What I do believe is that people who set their minds to it can experience a life of love together. It's the "set their minds to it" part that's often forgotten in the everyday busy-ness of ordinary life, but with it, I believe, love can exist and even blossom.
But really, why bother? I think the answer has something to do with that perennial question, that existential meaning-of-life thing. If we consider the possibility that perhaps the real reason we are here at all is to learn love and compassion for one another, then yeah, this love thing seems worth the effort.
The thing is, I believe that love is a choice. An act of will. An active verb. Love is operative when the real business of relating begins. Sometimes love is hard work. Sometimes sacrifice is involved. Sometimes-and here's the kicker-it requires accepting the limits of the circumstances we find ourselves in, grieving what isn't, and learning to allow ourselves and our relationships to blossom within the possibilities that do exist, however few they might seem in our darkest moments.
So not what we thought it was all about when we made those babies in the first place, right? And what about chemistry? Sure, chemistry is nice. It's more than nice. It can be remembered, and even re-cultivated, given the right ingredients. You know what they are, but don't fool yourself: whether you choose to stir them into the mix or not is another matter.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.