LOVE. A word that can have many meanings and definitions attached to it. Love is a profound and emotional feeling that can be experienced in every person’s life. But what does love REALLY mean? Is it that feeling of deep affection that envelopes your whole being as you stare into someone’s eyes? Is it the act of caring so much about someone that you would give your entire life to always be around them? Is it the feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment that you have for a person?
While love can definitely mean all of these things, I believe that love has a much deeper and distinct meaning. This last weekend, Brittani and I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a Couples Retreat in Midway, Utah. At this conference, I started to ponder what love truly meant in my life. This topic of love can bring so many different opinions and conversations to the table, but there is one aspect of this word that I want to focus on. When I think of love, my mind immediately turns to the scriptures and the example of the love that our Savior, Jesus Christ has for each one of us.
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” Moroni 7: 47-48
There it is. Love, that pure and perfect love, is in fact charity. The love that our Savior, Jesus Christ, exemplified throughout His life shows us the way we should love within our marriages. Of course, we are not perfect and will fall short. However, that example is there for us and is a goal that we should continue to strive and reach for. To feel that incredible love, we must have charity. We need to continue to look for opportunities to serve our loved ones. I have learned in my marriage that the happiest moments that we share together are when we are serving and caring for each other to the best of our abilities. It takes work, it takes effort.
In verse 48, it says that this love (charity) is bestowed upon us. What does Mormon mean by this? I believe that it means that this love that we all want is a gift. It is a gift that is given to those who are true and faithful to Christ. So we all HAVE this gift within us, but it won’t manifest itself unless we act and put in the work. We can’t just expect our love for someone to always be there without any effort. We have to be constantly nourishing and enhancing it. I believe that love cannot rely only on attachment and attraction alone. Satan will work his way into your marriage if you are naïve enough to think that if you truly love your spouse, you will never lose that love.
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” Moroni 7: 45
Adversity and affliction can and will happen in your marriage if you aren’t cautious. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that most problems in love and marriage ultimately start with selfishness. How true is that! When I think back on any of the problems that Brittani and I have had throughout our marriage, pride and selfishness definitely play the part of the root of the problem. It can be so difficult to always be mindful of your spouses’ needs and avoiding the natural desire of letting everything be about you. But the plague of selfishness can destroy your love and you will “fall out of love”. There was a time in our marriage where I was very selfish and “puffed up”. Addiction afflicted my life and I let it haunt our marriage as well. My love for Brittani began to falter as I let Satan control my life. This was a very dark and scary time! But as I began to heal from my addiction and started to mend the wounds I had caused in our marriage, the love that I had felt for Brittani returned and it was more powerful than ever.
So how do you stay “in love”? At the Couples Retreat, we learned about seven basic needs that are very critical in healthy relationships. If these basic needs are fulfilled, I believe that you can have a strong and enduring love in your marriage.
Safety- We all have the need to feel safe within a relationship. Feeling safe means that we feel secure and stable, not worried about any potential harm. There are many different types of safety. When we think of safety, we first think of physical safety. This is definitely important, but there is also financial safety, emotional safety, social safety, and spiritual safety.
Appreciation- We all have the need to feel appreciated. If you don’t feel like you are appreciated, needed, and noticed in your marriage, then there is no place for your love to grow. Make sure you know how to show your spouse they are loved! Every person has different ways that they feel love (to find out more about your love language, visit http://www.5lovelanguages.com), so pay attention and make sure you know how your spouse feels like they are appreciated.
Trust- Every relationship is founded in trust. If you have done something in your marriage to cause your spouse to feel like they can’t trust you and you don’t take the steps to earn it back, this will erode away the love in your marriage until there is nothing left.
Dedication- Are you committed and devoted to your spouse? Is your marriage your number one priority in your life, or does work sometime take precedence? For love to grow in your marriage, you must both choose to dedicate and commit everything to your marriage! Don’t let anything get in the way of your love for each other. You are the most important thing in your spouse’s life! To build your love, make the choice to CHOOSE your spouse over anything else in your life.
Respect- This is key in any healthy relationship. Your spouse is a person of endless worth; treat them that way! Respect is treating your partner as a human being and not as an object. It is valuing your spouses’ opinions, decisions, and ideas. Disrespect in a marriage can be one of the fastest roads to destruction!
Encouragement- It is very important to support and empower your spouse. Your spouse needs to feel like someone is behind them on all of their decisions and dreams. Be your spouse’s cheerleader!
Validation- We all have the need to feel validated. In your marriage, both of you should feel like your individual thoughts and feelings are real, sound, justified, and valid in the eyes of one another. Validation doesn’t always have to mean that you agree with your spouse, but it means that you recognize each other’s viewpoints and see them as legitimate.
We may fall short every once in a while in one of these areas, but if we are aware of how we act toward our spouse and constantly work to fulfill your spouse’s needs, I promise that you will feel happiness and love in your marriage!
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves. That is Christ’s great atoning example for us, and it ought to be more evident in the kindness we show, the respect we give, and the selflessness and courtesy we employ in our personal relationships.”
Our Savior set the perfect example for us of how we are to love and serve each other. Wouldn’t there be more healthy and strong marriages in today’s society if everyone would do their best to follow Christ’s example? I have seen so much growth and strength in my own marriage as I have looked for opportunities to serve my wife.
In Moroni 7, verse 45 it says that charity “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”. This scripture speaks so loudly to me about how we must put forth the effort in our marriage to help our love grow. In his talk titled “How Do I Love Thee?”, Elder Holland teaches about this concept in verse 45.
“Once again that is ultimately a description of Christ’s love – He is the great example of one who bore and believed and hoped and endured. We are invited to do the same in our courtship and in our marriage to the best of our ability. Bear up and be strong. Be hopeful and believing. Some things in life we have little or no control over. These have to be endured. Some disappointments have to be lived with in love and in marriage. These are not things anyone wants in life, but sometimes they come. And when they come, we have to bear them; we have to believe; we have to hope for an end to such sorrows and difficulty; we have to endure until things come right in the end.”
How important I think this is! I am not an expert in marriage (at all!) but I have seen how enduring all the hardships that arise and keeping my faith and hope in Christ has truly blessed my life and my marriage. As we look to Christ as an example of a pure and perfect love, we can have hope that our marriages will experience this love. Love is so much more than attachment and attraction. It is a gift that we have been given by God. We are so blessed to be able to love on this earth. As each of you find the one person who gives you that giddy feeling, who makes you feel safe, who makes you feel charity – hold onto them and look to Christ together. And let us all bear, believe, hope, and endure!!