Finding A Love That Challenges You

Some how this storm quietly slipped through the cracks of our door. Once a quiet and peaceful home has suddenly become a place of turmoil as arguments between us became more frequent. A few months ago we were vehemently professing our love for each other. Now, all I could feel is nothing but distance between us.

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All I ever wanted was a fairy-tale kind of love. Yes, you know what I am talking about. I wanted to meet the man of my dreams who I would live the rest of my life with, happily ever after. I wanted a love where I didn't have to complete a thought because he can so easily finish my sentences. A love where I could feel so easily understood without having the need to explain myself. A love that just came easy, an effortless kind of love.

But after quite a few relationships I am beginning to learn the truth about love. That sometimes it can be a messy, frustrating, and challenging thing. Which has got me thinking, what if love is meant to challenge you? And is going through strife in a relationship necessarily a bad thing?

Being raised up with a Christian view of marriage the one thing I could always appreciate is being taught that love is supposed to refine you.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
— Proverbs 27:17

 

That is how love is supposed to work, right? Two people, working together to refine each other.

We all want a love without all the challenges, but challenges provide us with opportunities for growth. And the truth is sometimes you have to labor through love in order to reap the benefits. At least, that’s what love has been like for me. Love never came easy, even in my best relationships. It was always something I had to work hard at in order to maintain. I have always experienced a love that needed upkeep in order to flourish.

Love needs to be cultivated in order to grow.

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It’s easy to give up and walk away just when you have come to a difficult point in a relationship. However, if you want to reap the benefits of love you have to put in the work.

Doing the work that love requires can be hard. It may even bring about fear of change. Well, for me it did. My mind was tainted with the idea that a man should love me exactly the way I was when he met me because if he loved me I shouldn’t have to change. Right? Except, I have come to realize what I perceived as a demand to change was actually an indication of where I needed to experience growth.

The Challenging Work Love Requires

  • The Ability To Express Empathy. Sometimes we can become so focused on how we feel and our need for our partner to validate our emotions we fail to acknowledge his/her emotions. To be honest there are some issues that I can care less about, but I am forced to carefully consider them because it matters to him. There are also moments when I am so caught up defending how I feel I forget to consider his point of view in the situation. And you know what I have noticed, even in the midst of an argument just taking a moment to express empathy helps to shift the energy between us towards a positive direction. In relationships, how often do you take a moment to consider your partners feelings?
  • The Ability To Communicate Effectively.  We all have our own unique way of communicating our thoughts and feelings to the world. I was born into a family of boisterous, fast-paced talkers. My high tones were often mistaken as being a bit too harsh. Needless to say, when I needed to get a point across I left little room for my partner to speak. Yes, this was who I was for a very long time. Until I learned to listen intently, not to make assumptions about how my partner is feeling, and to effectively express how I feel. What is your natural style of communication? How has it influenced your ability to communicate effectively?
  • Constant Self-examination. Being in a relationship demands consistent self-reflection and introspection in order for it to function. At least that’s how I see it. There were many times I’ve had to take a look at parts of my character I wasn’t willing to face. Then, I had to do some readjustment and realignment within myself in order to make the relationship work. Why? Because I love him and I value his presence in my life. So, I did what wasn’t always the easiest thing for me to do. It’s always easy to point out the flaws in others, but what aspects of your own character has been getting in your own way?

I know this all seems obvious, but if we are keeping it real. They are not always the easiest things to do.  Especially, in moments when you have to let go of your own selfish wants or needs.

Remember what love is….

 Love is patient and kind
 Love does not envy or boast
 It is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful
 It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 
 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
 Love never ends.

You can find that in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.

This leads me to my last point. Be careful of what you are cultivating.

If you find yourself with someone who is unwilling to take on his or her share of the work then maybe it is time to reconsider staying in that relationship. When the weight of the relationship has been unevenly balanced with the burden of the work on my shoulders I knew it was time to leave.

As for this relationship, I chose to stay and not walk away. If he is willing to put in the effort to make this love prosper, then I have to put in my share of the work too. Even, with all the challenges it brings.