Like most of us, I have long pondered the meaning of love. As a young woman, I equated love with the feelings I had when reading sad love poems or being involved in tragic romantic scenarios. Now I see love as an action rather than a feeling. The action of love is well-described in this Bible verse (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a).
The first two lines of this verse are featured at the end of Mary Lambert’s refrain in the Grammy winning song, Same Love, by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
I learned to define love as action from the book, The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck.
Genuine love implies commitment and exercise of wisdom…the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.
M. Scott Peck
In order to explore the more mature love that Peck describes, one must be able to delay gratification, accept responsibility for one’s actions, speak and act honestly, and keep things in balance. These are all things that we are challenged to learn to do during the early years of parenting and that can also inform our couple relationship.
The couple relationship is fragile during the early years of parenting because we have so little time for ourselves, much less for one another. Both partners are also changing so much and learning so much during this time, that the couple relationship—just like everything else—will inevitably have to change too.
Where love is, no room is too small.
How can we make room for our couple love once baby has come? Without putting too much pressure on yourselves, look for a time to check in with one another, possibly when the baby first goes down for sleep at night. Eventually find two hours a week to be together to talk. You don’t have to go out: make a special candlelit dinner at home. Have a picnic on the living room floor. Just have a cup of tea together. As the baby can tolerate it, go out for two hours together one time a week. These early months with a new baby are a time during which the ability to delay gratification will come in handy.
Love consists in this. That two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Do nice things for one another. Leave a loving note. Write something nice on the bathroom mirror. Offer to help out with an inconvenient task. Notice something that needs to be done before someone mentions it. Lean on one another. Pick up the slack for each other. Let yourself be helped. Here’s where accepting responsibility for one’s actions will go a long way.
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love.
We suffer for love. Real love is not always convenient and can’t be controlled. The early months of parenting are a time that we just have to suffer through and we must not criticize ourselves if we break down at times and feel that we’ve reached our limit. This is simply evidence that we have the courage to suffer for love. Here’s where speaking and acting honestly are essential in order to help ameliorate the suffering.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Through suffering the early months and years of parenting, we learn to take ourselves seriously. We see that our children are mirrors of ourselves and learn from our example. If we want to love them, and hope to guide them, then we have to change ourselves first. We always have to change ourselves first.
At the same time, we have to refrain from taking ourselves too seriously and continue to trust that things are as they should be. A healthy sense of humor can help keep things in balance. Humor is the universal antidote to any and all of our negative emotions.
When I’m feeling sorry for myself and am over-dramatic about my own suffering, I like to listen to Monty Python’s, Four Yorkshiremen. There is always someone worse off than we are, so it makes sense to count our blessings.
How do you keep your sense of humor as a parent and a partner?
What do you think love is?
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She founded Mothering.com in 1995 and was its editor-in chief until 2012. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of two.