I asked Joe Paprocki, Loyola Press editor/blogger and one of our bestselling authors, to talk a bit about love. First, he made an important distinction between “new” love and “renewed” love:
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work. As the newness of an intimate relationship wears off, we need to develop habits that renew that love. As my wife and I approach our 30th wedding anniversary, I can say without a doubt that our love has remained alive and vibrant because of the many habits we have developed to renew our love.
Perhaps our most important habit has been date night. Each week, when possible, my wife and I look forward to the weekend, not just to be lazy or to catch up on chores, but to go out on a date, either dinner or dancing, and sometimes both! We approach these dates with the same excitement we had as teenagers many moons ago, taking special care to get dressed up for each other. It would be very easy to just toss on some jeans and a T-shirt and get some fast food (and believe me, there’s a place for that too!) but there is something flattering about that special someone in your life showing outwardly how she or he feels about you inwardly. Of course, expressing sincere and frequent appreciation for that extra special effort is yet another expression of the effort itself!
Joe also points out that true love goes way beyond keeping the romance alive:
If there is one thing I have learned about true love, it is that it is selfless. True love cares about the good of the other more than about the good of oneself. That’s a hard lesson to learn, because we all have many needs, and we count on that special someone in our lives to fulfill those needs.
As my wife and I look back on 30 years of marriage, we are increasingly grateful for the gift of each other’s love, wondering what we have done to deserve it. When each of us lives within this sense of gratitude, not thinking that anything is owed to us, our relationship flourishes. When we put our own needs aside and focus on the needs of each other, our love grows.
But when we become absorbed in our own needs, the relationship struggles. Occasionally, we need to lovingly jolt one another out of self-absorption, and that is both a gift we can offer one another as well as a responsibility we owe each other. Selfless love is the kind of love that God has shown to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. When we love one another selflessly in a marriage, the experience is divine!