Have you ever seen The Fiddler on the Roof? There is a scene in the movie that has really been making me think a lot lately.
Pondering the announcement by their daughter that she is in love, the husband and wife get into a discussion about their arranged marriage. The husband begins to ask “Do you love me?” The wife asks “After 25 years, why talk about love right now?” She goes into a list of all she has done with and for him and then questions herself “Do I love you?”
I think my favorite part is where she says “Do I love you? I’m your wife!” and he responds with “Yes, but do you love me?” After determining that they do in fact love one another, they end the scene with “It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after 25 years it’s nice to know.”
I have found myself pondering this scene for many reasons lately. The first is the idea of arranged marriages and “learning” to love your spouse. As a child I never understood how arranged marriages could work. How could they ever be happy? Didn’t one need to fall in love and get all goosebumpy for a marriage to work? As an adult with 6 kids, I’m liking arranged marriages more and more.
But it’s not so much the idea of someone else choosing your spouse for you that has recently been intriguing me. It is the idea of choosing to love the one to whom you are married. Perhaps you are thinking, “shouldn’t you already love the one to whom you are married?” Perhaps. However, with the rate of divorce as it is, perhaps we need to redefine this idea of loving your spouse.
I know that there are married people who either don’t love their spouse or, like the wife in this movie, question whether or not they do love their spouse. If that is you, take heart. There is hope. If you don’t love your spouse, or don’t know if you do, here is a simple plan to help you. Ready? Okay. Love your spouse.
See? Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
What? Not good enough? Okay, how about this. You have likely heard “love is a verb not a feeling” blah, blah, blah. Well the good news is it can be both.
You know those crazy people that actually like exercise? Why do they like it? Because at some time, they forced themselves to get up and do it. They forced the mechanics, made themselves run, walk, zumba, whatever. And on the days they were tired, they got up and exercised anyway. Soon, they discovered that they actually felt better after they exercised. They began to see that on days when they didn’t exercise they felt yucky. At some point the mechanical act of forcing the behaviour of exercising rolled into an actual emotional and attitudinal change toward exercise.
Love is like that. Force yourself act in loving ways. Each day think of one thing that would be nice for your spouse and do that one thing. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering. You may be surprised to find what small things it actually will take to show your spouse that you love him or her.
Early in our marriage, if I didn’t have to work, I stayed in bed while my husband got up for work. He went to work and ate instant oatmeal at his desk. He ate PB & J at his desk for lunch, and if he was really lucky got to take me out for dinner. At some time I decided it would be nice to fix him breakfast. Now I get up (something I hate) and make breakfast for my husband. I pack his lunch, make his coffee and (usually, barring nasty weather) walk him to his car. If he’s really lucky, he still gets to take me out for dinner. This little thing has changed our marriage. It shows love to him while allowing us a little alone time.
I don’t tell you this to brag. On the contrary, I’m a miserable failure in dozens of other ways, but the fact that I make him a priority sort of hides some of my faults. He doesn’t go out of his way to find things I’m doing wrong. The mechanical discipline of getting up to show love to my husband by making breakfast and lunch has become an emotional connection for us.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to ask my spouse in 25 years “Do you love me?” I definitely don’t want him to ever have to ask me “Do you love me?”