The easiest way to feel unloved is to expect the wrong things. You live in a time and place when you can marry for love. You don’t need a helpmeet to survive. You don’t need to bolster your family’s political position or status through marriage. You can choose to marry or not, and you can choose the person you marry.
So what should you expect when you marry for love? Love.
Love comes in so many forms — a strong shoulder to lean on in hard times, a hug, a kiss, help with your chores, sentimental gifts, practical gifts, encouraging words, flattering words, physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, a cup of hot cocoa on a cold night, someone to hike the Grand Canyon with, a date for your high school reunion, a steady income.
Look for love, and you’ll find lots of signs of it. Receive them warmly, and most spouses keep adding more, whatever they can give. Some couldn’t come up with a sentimental gift if there were a $50,000 prize for it, but they’ll clean the gutters because it will keep you dry. Some are never going to hike a canyon they can see on TV, but they’ll get you through the worst flu and put love poems on your breakfast tray. Some can’t stand to be hugged, but they’ll slog through the worst work day to make sure you have a home to live in and food on the table.
When we expect sentimental gifts, a hiking companion, or hugs and we don’t get them, it’s easy to feel we’ve been let down. It’s easy to scold or whine or nag in an attempt to fix what we see as a problem. But when we expect, it’s not easy to see the signs of love. We can’t receive them warmly while we’re busy feeling hurt. We create a situation where there’s no point showing us love, unless it’s in the form we expect.
Of course, we feel justified expecting these things. We know other husbands or wives get them all the time. Our visions of married life long before we married were filled with what we now expect. We’ve thought about them, and they seem like something anyone ought to be able to give. And it’s only fair we get them, because we’ve given them, or something even more valuable, to the person we expect them from. We convince ourselves what we’re looking for is not a sign of love, it’s the sign of love.
But it’s not. And the more we focus on it, the more we miss all the other signs. And so, one by one, the other signs stop, because it looks for all the world like we don’t care about them. We can’t tell the difference between someone who loves us and someone who doesn’t when we’re expecting a particular sign. We blind ourselves to love.
The fix is easy. Expect love.