As a young woman, I long pondered the meaning of love. Then, 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).
Love is an action
M. Scott Peck defines love as action in his book, The Road Less Traveled.
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.
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
- keep things in balance
The couple after baby
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. 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 once 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. Mother Teresa
Speak and act honestly
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 and why speaking and acting honestly are essential 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. Rumi
Keep things in balance
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.
How do you keep your sense of humor as a parent and a partner?
What do you think love is?
For a related article, see “The Postpartum Couple.”
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering magazine for over 30 years. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, Hollyhock and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please sign up for my free newsletter with the latest posts on parenting, activism, and healthy living.