Take “The Love Dare” When Work or Unemployment Strains Your Marriage
When I was unemployed and obsessed with finding work, I was so focused on finding work my marriage and relationships suffered. When I returned to work, in a job I really enjoyed, my natural bent to overachieve took over. Once again my marriage took a back seat. I can get so focused on my “projects” as I like to call them the pursuit drives a wedge between my wife and me. I want to share a “project” I assigned to myself recently that helped me address this problem. I took “The Love Dare.”
My wife and I saw the movie “Fireproof.” It tells the story of a fireman in a failing marriage. Before calling in the lawyers, his father begs him to try “The Love Dare.” (This is a book you can purchase.) It had saved the father’s marriage so he offers the solution to his son. The son reluctantly takes the advice, if only to please his father, and begins taking on the 40 dares spelled out in the book. At first his wife is suspicious of his motives, but she slowly comes around. As expected his work pays off and the move ends with a Hollywood style happy ending.
My wife of 24 years and I have a good marriage, but not having selected a Lenten sacrifice, I decided to get me a copy of the book. The book presents 40 dares to be completed in 40 days. Each dare consists of simple three-page lesson discussing a different aspect or quality of love. Each takes about 10 minutes to complete and asks or, better yet, dares you to take action and demonstrate that aspect of love to your spouse.
Some of the challenges are very specific asking you to demonstrate kindness or patience. Others have you consider if you are loving your spouse unconditionally or if you are jealous. I hadn’t thought about love this way and it certainly made clear I was falling short. It challenged me to review how I demonstrate love to my wife versus how I should be. And my learnings convinced me to make some changes.
With my wife’s permission, I am publishing a letter I wrote her as a part of taking the “The Love Dare.” I thought it was the best way to describe what I learned and hope it will help you consider if “The Love Dare” is for you.
I am writing to express my resolve to love you. I’m doing this now because of all I have learned following the 40 lessons in the Love Dare book. It forced me to review all aspects and qualities of love and forced me to honestly review how I have been (or have not been) loving you.
To date, I give myself a “D” grade, but only because you know as an instructor I’m a lenient grader. The trend of how I fall short becomes clear when I reflect on how I have been responding to you. I can remember my gut reaction as recently as two months ago when you and one of our girls were in yet another argument. I would think to myself, “Why can’t she take the higher road in the name of peace.” I remember when you demanded the kids do some chore or another how the bickering just grinded me.
When you opened up to me to share your concerns about how the kids, someone at work or at church treated you disrespectfully or unfairly, I thinking was, “Why don’t you toughen up and let it go.” Go figure why more than once you told me, “You need to check yourself because you are angry at me.”
One of the Love Dare lessons drove this message home. It says,
“Where you’re irritable, the heart of the problem is primarily a problem of the heart.”
And that same section follows with,
“Some people are like lemons; when life squeezes them, they pour out a sour response. Some are more like peaches: when the pressure is on, the result is still sweet.”
I have often been the lemon when I should have been a peach. I frequently give you a sour response when I could have been more than sweet. I have to admit the root of my problem was not you. It was me.
Another lesson in the book talked about having a mental Appreciation Room. That’s where I spend time focusing on your positive qualities. It’s where I could be reviewing how your persistence got us sending Mónica and soon Gabby to Spring Hill College. As we both know, it has paid off with Mónica finding her way and blossoming successfully into adulthood. I’m sure we will see the same with Gabby. The Appreciation Room is where I can be appreciating your staying up with Sofia’s grades even if it takes time away from us and leads to more arguing with her. It’s where I can appreciate the care you take to prepare meals for us even when you have a late shift. You take the time so we can enjoy a good dinner even if you’re working late. The Appreciation Room is also where I can remember how much I enjoy dinner somewhere quiet just the two of us and cherishing memories of time with my best friend.
That same lesson talks about the mental Depreciation Room where I have spent way too much time picking you apart. It became clear how easy it is to internally gripe about all the ways you fall short of my expectations. And what is the point of all this – to reinforce resentments so I have a better case to make against you the next time we argue. (Boy is that’s stupid!)
As I continued, I covered the lesson where it says, “Love forgives.” It forgets past wrongs. Interestingly enough, I had to recognize that I was holding a grudge for your plain not thinking like me. My way sure sounds like the best way to me and I was holding your different way of being against you. I’ve been holding against you that you are so passionate guiding our girls in the right direction and intolerant under all circumstances when they fall short. That just annoyed me. It certainly brings tension at home and surely it disturbs the peace. It is also a key ingredient for molding our three girls into the strong, moral thinking women they have become.
And instead of encouraging you, coaching you, and supporting you like I do my students or the out of work people I counsel, I’ve been trying to change you. I’ve criticized you in front of the girls only encouraging their sassiness and making things so much harder on you. Worse yet, this and all these mistaken ways of mine have stood in the way of my expressing the heartfelt love I do have for you and all you mean in my life.
I really like the person you have become. I am so proud to walk hand-in-hand with you as my partner for life. Going at this life without you would be so difficult. Though this may sound corny, you really do complete me with so many qualities I completely lack.
This became most clear to me when I read the lesson saying love is enduring. It stands up to all challenges and no matter what the circumstances. Love never fails. We’ve been through a lot together. It hasn’t been easy. As a matter of fact, it’s been so much harder than I ever expected it to be. But that love bonded us to each other so nothing could tear us apart. It was also God’s chosen way to chisel away at this arrogant overachiever to make him useful for all His purposes. Who would have thought He would have pulled the “fall in love with the spunky Cubanita girl with the penetrating eyes trick” back in 1978 to do it. I never had a chance.
Very soon, we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I look forward to that milestone, but even more so to the next 25 years, should we be so lucky. We are so much wiser than the 15 and 14 year olds that started this relationship. We have so much more to offer each other and those around us.
So I’m putting in for another 25 years. Let’s agree to continue together on this adventure. Let’s chase after those dreams you’ve accumulated over the years. Let’s include some of my crazy ones too and let’s go after “our” dreams together. I expect the next 25 years to be better than the first.
I love you. God bless you.
Please share your thoughts with me and other readers so we learn from each other and all improve our marriages.