Thursday, June 03, 2010

Book Club: Remember Love

This month we are reviewing The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin in the Lessons of Love Virtual Book Club. Today's topic is Chapter 2: Remember Love.

Since the purpose of this book club is to learn all about love, I was particularly interested in how this chapter might tie together happiness and love. Can you have one without the other?

Gretchen wrote mostly of "married love." I was married for 19 years and I recognized many of the things she described... the familiar place we reach with our spouse where we start to take them for granted. Gretchen's goals for the month included

  • Quit nagging.

  • Don't expect praise or appreciation.

  • Fight right.

  • No dumping.

  • Give proofs of love.

Most of her examples were stories about her relationship with her husband, Jamie. She also shared a story of planning a birthday party for her mother-in-law, but even in that story, the relationship she continued to explore was that with her husband. She talked a lot of wanting a "gold star" of recognition and was particularly pleased when Jamie surprised her with a necklace to thank her for all her efforts in planning his mother's party.

Giving and getting love from a spouse is a luxury that I don't have right now. That lack of intimacy has been one of the most difficult things to accept of my single status. The quest to find love was the biggest reason for my own experiment, documented in The Laptop Dancer Diaries - A Mostly True Story About Looking for Love Again.

It's funny how the ups and downs we have with love exist, whether we are single or married, but in such different ways. When we are single, a new relationship can bring the thrills of early love. We have the fantasies and tingles. But we also have insecurities. And those of us that are divorced have "baggage." Many of us had had our hearts broken so deeply or so often that we are very cautious about loving again. Still we try. We go through the motions of chit-chat and dating, wishing we could skip over that and just move to that familiar mature love of marriage.

But our married friends have their problems with love, too. There are compromises that must be made. There are annoyances that are inevitable when you live with someone. I know there are many people who feel very lonely in their marriages. I would prefer to be single than to be in a bad marriage. Of course, the chapter also reminded me of many of the joys of marriage. Finding creative and fun ways to show your love, giving each other strokes, having a partner who you can share your day with.

For the first few years following my divorce, I felt that I could only be fully happy if I were married again. Without a husband, I felt unloved and incomplete. I somehow needed a spouse to prove to myself that I was loveable. If it wasn't a "spouse," I needed at least to be in a relationship. If I didn't have some sort of boyfriend or partner, it felt like I didn't have love.

But I have learned that there are so many people in the world that will accept my love and will give me some back in return. I have parents, kids, siblings and friends who I can show "proofs of love" as Gretchen calls them. In many ways, being single has allowed me to expand my friendships and connections and find and share love with so many more people than I'd be able to if I were married. It's different from the married love that she describes, but it's love.

This article from Psychology Today says that some people are happier than others, but marriage does not seem to be a factor. That is my experience as well. There were times in my marriage when I was happy and times when I was not, just as there have been times since my divorce that I was happy and times I was not. Overall, it probably all averages out to about the same.

I feel love is a huge part of happiness. They are intertwined. As a single Mom, my goals related to love would be different from Gretchen's, but I still would focus very much on love in my own Happiness Project. Perhaps my goals might be:

  • Remember birthdays and holidays, putting extra effort into personal gifts for loved ones

  • Share emotional intimacy with my close friends by dinners, walks, phone calls, etc

  • Be open to accepting new people into my life, always looking for something to love about them

  • Don't be afraid to show love to friends, even when you aren't interested in romance

Whatever our relationship status, we all need to give and receive love. What are your personal love goals that will bring you more happiness?

1 comment:

Kevin said...

One thing I notice when the subject of love comes up is how loving and being loved are often mixed together. In fact, while I was dating I was often very surprised by the way someone my say that they wanted to 'fall in love' but would then start listing their expectations in regards to how they would be loved in return. Sadly...they never listed expectations for themselves regarding how they would love another.

My goals for love derive from this experience. I am not fulfilled or validated in any way from being loved...blessed I am sure, but my value comes from the loving I can extend. Love is not a zero sum game...the more I love the more I am capable of loving. My love should not come with expectations of returned love or returned behaviors that benefit me. Love is not a business deal. It is in the loving itself that I will be fulfilled.