Love Matters, Control Messes

love isn't easy

The purpose of this Conscious Lover’s Blog is to encourage and challenge engaged and married couples to create something thriving and alive… an “US”. Hopefully when we get married, we not only make a commitment for life, we also commit to bring life to that commitment.

Dave and I refer to that as ‘Keeping the WOW in our VOW”. This has been our passion for 35 years.

My professional labels are marriage and family therapist, author, and teacher. Under that label is reality. I am a child of God cleverly disguised as a woman, a wife, a friend among other titles. August 7, 2015 will be our 44th wedding anniversary. If you care to add the four years that we dated, we have been learning how to do relationship together for 48 years. That is mind-boggling to me. Where has the time gone?

It’s not just about us anymore!

Along the way we had two babies, a son and a daughter and now there are seven grandchildren. Those are the people we get to do life with and what a joy and privilege that is.  We have faced cancer, the death of all four of our parents, numerous joys, and multiple sorrows. Through it all we have created a shared history, which is precious beyond belief.

During the month of August I decided to share four of the most challenging lessons we have had to learn during our forty-eight year journey. I have to confess that choosing only four was incredibly hard. Surely you can relate to that! Regardless of one’s profession, we all stumble through life learning how to embrace its lessons and learn from its challenges.

Lesson # 1

Love and Control are incompatible!

Fear lies underneath all our efforts to control. By the time we choose a LifeMate, each of us has no doubt experienced hurt in previous relationships.

If we have a belly button, we have issues of control.

Our control may rear its head through intimidation and bullying, or it may demonstrate itself through withholding and retreating. Regardless, it is still control! The crazy thing is that control is so much easier to see in our mate than in our self.

When I fantasized about getting married, I created quite a fantasy. Dave was there to love me, adore me, meet my needs and even do his best to give me my wants. Never did it enter my young, naïve brain that he might let me down, challenge me, disagree with me, correct me, hurt me, or heaven help us, attempt to control me. 

scary close

Letting go of control is terrifying!

Donald Miller writes from the male perspective about this fear in his book, Scary Close, 2014.

“I don’t know why loving a woman is scarier than climbing a mountain or sailing an ocean, but it is. A mountain can hurt your body and an ocean can drown you, but in the end you’re still a man.

A woman, though, can rob you of your manhood and reduce you to a boy at the drop of a word. It’s no wonder we all try to control each other…

But love doesn’t control, and I suppose that’s why it’s the ultimate risk. In the end, we have to hope the person we’re giving our heart to, won’t break it, and be willing to forgive them when they do, even as they will forgive us.

Real love stories don’t have dictators they have participants. Love is an ever-changing, complicated, choose-your-own adventure narrative that offers the world, but guarantees nothing. When you climb a mountain or sail an ocean, you’re rewarded for staying in control.

Perhaps that’s another reason true intimacy is so frightening. It’s the one thing we all want, and must give up control to get.” (Page 97,98)

Like Donald, I had to accept that my control was fueled by fear and it was antithetical to love. Love could only happen in the context of freedom. If I wanted intimacy I would have to abandon my control tactics. Dave was not created by God to be my revised standard version. That would be a complete perversion of love.

Even God refuses to control. How in the world could I make control my agenda? I didn’t want to look into my husband’s eyes and see fear or dread, I wanted to see love and tenderness.

Why had I opted for control? Well it felt good to feel secure and in control. I felt superior. I could avoid vulnerability. I also didn’t want to be controlled, but that’s another blog.

I had to learn self-control and abandon other control if I was going to love.

Self-control meant that I had to face my anti-love tendencies.

In fact I had to change my focus. Dave’s choices were his to deal with. I had to face my own choices, my actions and my reactions. I had to grieve the reality that there were things I could not change. I just had to learn to accept these realities. When they reared their head, I was completely responsible for my reactions to them.

This has been a life long journey. It certainly didn’t magically happen over night. It is still a daily discipline.

Change did not happen in a vacuum.

I needed people in my life who were further ahead of me to challenge me and hold me accountable. I needed David to confront me when I was out of line. I needed God’s unconditional love to remind me that even though I’d made a mistake yet again, I wasn’t a mistake.

The result of my realization that love and control are incompatible is that I’ve participated in a love story with a man I deeply respect. A man I was incapable of seeing when I created my fantasy relationship with him forty-four years ago.

Have you released your spouse to be the person God meant them to be?

Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…

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