When I was a kid, I remember exchanging cards with classmates on Valentines Day. Everyone was your valentine! Later, when I fell in love and got married, I felt pressure like other guys to use this occasion to express my heartfelt love and devotion. I remember the painstaking process choosing the perfect Hallmark card. Then there was flowers, chocolate, and dinner at a nice restaurant. Valentines Day can add to the pressure some couples already feel about their relationship. Couples living hectic lives mistakenly hope this day will magically jumpstart dormant romance. This “quick fix” attempt may last a few days, but there is a better approach. Cultivating like-minded love. The concept of like-minded love comes from my spiritual values. To set the table, let me share a passage that shapes my view on how to cultivate like-minded love with my wife, Marian.
Philippians 2:1-5 NIV If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.The love identified in this passage is unconditional. It’s a love given freely. A choice to love not based on conditions—“If you do this…or meet my expectations…then I will give you my love.” Unconditional love is within the nature of God. It has no pre-conditions. This love is consistent even when we feel we don’t deserve it because of our actions. Unconditional love sees our blemishes but looks deeper within and finds intrinsic goodness trapped by shame. According to the passage, the effect of unconditional love is transformation. Self-worth blossoms. The recipient is petitioned to express unconditional love to others.
How to Cultivate Like-minded LoveBefore I begin, let me clarify. The ideas I share come from my Christian orientation. Spirituality plays a powerful role in how I cultivate like-minded love in my marriage.
Allow God’s unconditional love into your lifeYou cannot give to your mate what you haven’t experienced yourself. God’s unconditional love forgives our failings. His love is tender and compassionate. With God’s unconditional love, you can love others. I encourage you to explore your spirituality. Embrace unconditional love, grace, and tenderness—all elements of a personal relationship.
Approach your relationship with like-minded loveGive from your spiritual experience. Work on expressing unconditional love. Your spouse has faults just like you do. Your spouse also has goodness you can admire too! Expressing grace when imperfections surface is benevolent. A critical and judgmental attitude is unloving. Unconditional love toward a spouse is more likely to foster an openness to grow.
Develop an attitude of humility toward each otherNotice a warning in the passage against “selfish ambition and vain conceit”. This power-up disposition contradicts unconditional love. Like-minded love says “consider others better than yourself”. What happens when both spouses take a power-down position? You have mutual care. Pride and fear are two major forces I observe that keep couples bound in polarized negativity. Conflict is expressed as a “he vs she” problem. “He never…” “She always…” Humility breaks the negative tension and conveys and openness to your partner. Conflict is understood as a “me and we” problem. “We don’t communicate respectfully.” “You’re right, I can do a better job not interrupting you.” “Thanks for admitting this, and I know I can be harsh with my words. I’ll work on being softer.”
Focus on the interests of your mate without losing interest in your ownRelationships become stale when couples lack things to do together. The complaint is: “We don’t like the same things, so we do our own thing.” I’m not a fan of dressage, but I go once a year with Marian to watch competition. She’s not a huge sports fan but will on occasion join me at a sports bar to watch a game. Interests are not just activities. You can spend time talking:
- About a book your spouse is reading
- Or a hobby your spouse is working on
- What’s going on in your spouse’s social life with friends
- Listening to work challenges or aspirations
- Talking about personal or spiritual development