At a very early age, we hear stories of love's magic. We read about a prince's true love's kiss that awakens a sleeping beauty, or the kiss of a princess that transforms an ordinary green tree frog into a handsome prince. We fall in love with someone across a crowded room, and suddenly our love takes on a life of its own. And we think that's the way true love is supposed to be.
True love is not magic
True love requires time, effort and care. We get to know others gradually. We get to know them over time. We come to trust them, as they prove themselves trustworthy. We do not instead seek to establish an immediate connection with someone, before getting to know him well. Falling in love is a process and not simply an immediate attraction. It's about cultivating real friendship. It's about fostering honesty and respect. It's about finding someone who stands by us when the chips are down.
Total immersion in another person is not sustainable over time
If our love story begins with immersion in another, and doesn't grow into something else, it will eventually end there. Real connection with another person is about both giving and getting love. True love is calm, and it is honest. It is sustainable, and it is committed. It is not dramatic. And while love may sometimes begin with immediate attraction to another person, it does not need to start there to grow into authentic intimacy. In fact, sometimes it's best if it doesn't.
Real love encourages connection with others outside the relationship
Real love enlarges both partners and encourages them to grow. Real love is about being part of a community of others where we learn to live cooperatively together. True love encourages connection with family and friends, it does not restrict those important relationships. Love is about abundance, it is not about scarcity. True lovers love each other, they don't own each other.
Love does not require us to sacrifice our own values
Real intimacy never, ever requires us to give up our values. Love is not lying about who we are to keep the peace. We don't change just to make someone else happy. We don't command or coerce those we love, and we don't accept that behavior from others in return.
We never, ever do anything that causes the one we love to experience guilt or discomfort in order to satisfy our own desires. We don't engage in behavior that makes it difficult for us to pray. We remind ourselves that love is not found in an act of instant gratification. Certainly an act of excitement that breaks up someone else's marriage is never evidence of real love.
Love means we understand that every relationship has limitations
There is no perfect you, and there is no perfect him. There is no perfect marriage. So we learn to love him for who he is, and not who we wish he would be. We stop trying to change her in a flawed attempt to manage our own inadequacies. We give him the right to tell us no. We meet her needs, and not just our own.
What we are seeking is real intimacy with another person. In order to get that, we have to take a risk: We have to be willing to let go of our own expectations of what we think our relationship with another person should be.
Understanding what real intimacy looks like
Real intimacy is a young father who gets up in the middle of the night to care for a teething baby so his wife can catch up on some much needed sleep. It's a wife who sits for hours on end in the hospital with her cancer-ridden husband and holds his head while he throws up after his chemotherapy treatments. Real intimacy is my grandfather, who moved into a care center with his fading, life-long companion because he refused to let her live there alone.
Living together in love
Real intimacy is not magic. It's not about living happily ever after. It's also not about putting someone else in charge of our own happiness. Being intimate with another person is not about being scared that you're not enough. Real intimacy finds its best expression in loving families, where we learn to live and grow together.