Disney movies, chick flicks and romance novels have led us to believe that true love doesn’t require much work. You simply have to be in the right place at the right time, look attractive, smile nice and big, and everything will fall into place as if it were meant to be.
Yet the reality of romantic relationships proves that actually this isn’t anywhere close to what happens in the day to day interactions with the one you love. Who we look to as a source for relationship advice can play a large role in what the goals, dreams and reality of our relationship looks like.
It Can’t Always Feel Like the First Time
We’re not called to relationships that are the mirrored images of Hallmark movies or the latest season of “The Bachelor.” Instead, we’re called to relationships focused on becoming saints. If Heaven is the goal, who better to ask for relationship advice than the saints themselves?
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and distinguished theologian, once said, “To love is to will the good of the other.” Fellow Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Avila, was thinking along the same lines when she said, “The most important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”
If you’re looking for a way to improve your relationship, start to will the good of the person you love. Love isn’t wanting the good of the other, but willing it. Even though ‘willing’ and ‘wanting’ is a subtle word change, willing the good of someone else makes an incredible difference in the outcome.
Relationships Aren’t Born; They’re Made
After all, wanting someone’s good doesn’t necessarily require action. You can want someone’s good and be caught in what Teresa of Avila calls ‘thinking too much.’ For example, just because I want to order in Thai food, does not mean that I’m actually going to get up out of my chair, get into my car and drive down to the nearest take out place.
Simply because I wanted an ‘A’ in my senior history class, wanting the grade did not result in an automatic good grade going on my transcript. And if wanting your wedding day to get here sooner actually did something, we all probably would have been married a long time ago.
The word ‘want’ means to crave, to feel the need or desire for something, or to fall short by a specific sum. It’s not necessarily an action word—it doesn’t require you to do anything but stay sedentary and wish for something better. So when it comes to loving another person, wanting someone’s good may not get us very far.
On the other hand, willing someone’s good requires action. Willing and loving are action words- and love is a decision that moves you. This is what Saint Teresa of Avila is talking about when she mentions being stirred to love. Stirring things causes them move, it brings things into action.
Reaching Out Gives Clarity and Self-Awareness
So what exactly does it mean to really will the other’s good? This week has been a continual opportunity to love and will the good of the other in our relationship.
Joseph and I have both had rough weeks at work, and it feels like we’re constantly running from appointment to event to commitment. Gone are the leisurely summer days of getting off from work and being able to have long conversations before heading to bed for the night.
What would happen if I simply wanted Joseph’s good this week? Sure, I want him to do well at work and I want him to not feel over-stressed. That sounds great. But that wanting does not require me to do anything about it.
Maybe I’ll think about him throughout the day, wonder how his classes are going and eventually, when he comes home for the night, I can mention how he’s been on my mind. Yet willing his good calls me to action, despite the fact that we’re an hour away and living crazy lives right now. Willing his good requires action and communication.
And when those communication methods don’t work as well as expected, willing the other’s good means intentionally asking each other for ways to improve communication throughout the busy time of life.
It Takes Patience and Hard Work
Willing the good means a morning phone call to make sure each of us were able to get up and start tackling the work load of the day together. Willing the good means constant prayer for each other – not just a passing ‘I’ll pray for you,’ but intentionally remembering each other throughout the day and offering the other’s frustrations and struggles up to the Blessed Mother.
Willing his good is sitting in adoration, bringing the challenges of the week to the feet of Christ, uniting them with His suffering, and surrounding Joseph in prayer – which is sometimes the only thing that we can do for each other, but it is also the most important thing we can do for each other.
If you want to see a radical difference in your love life, begin by delving into a love that moves you, a love that calls you into action.
It’s not easy; in fact, willing the good of the other as other is one of the most challenging things you can do. After all, the greater your capacity for a love that moves you, the greater your capacity for suffering.
Yet our love for each other is to reflect the love that Christ showed His Church when He lay splayed open on the cross. His love required action, and we’re called to that kind of love—Ephesians 5 has some great things to say on that subject.
So today, challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and begin to truly love others in your life—will their good.