When Love is More Than a Feeling

By Amy Bittner

“For this reason, a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

The feeling of love isn’t everything in a relationship.

My dad and I have a fantastic relationship. I can’t count the number of nights we’ve stayed up late talking to each other, solving each other’s problems and wondering about the world. Some of my friends had a hard time with their fathers. They didn’t understand how my dad and I could be such good friends. But that didn’t bother me; I knew I was lucky. What did bother me was wondering how I could ever find a man I loved and respected more than my father. I knew that in order to marry someone, I’d need to be able to say, in all honesty, that I loved and respected him more than (or at least as much as) my own father. The bar was pretty damn high. 

When I first met my husband, I had no idea he was going to be that man. He was a total punk. Skateboard hair, red beanie, baggy sweatpants, and yet there was something different about him. After a couple of weeks of casual friendship, I started to ponder the idea of him as more than just a friend as I got to know his thoughtful and humorous self, not just his skateboard exterior. But I kept going back to that question – could I love and respect this man more than my dad?

Josh and I had a roller coaster of a relationship. We didn’t officially start dating for over a year and a half after we met, but during that time, I was watching closely, looking for the signs I needed. I ended up finding them not only in how he loved me, but predominantly in how he sacrificed for me, putting me first in all things as he humbled himself to show respect for me. I think many of us put too much stress on the “love” part of relationships. We search for physical attractiveness, a spark, something to make us intrinsically know that this is the person for us. While love and attraction are crucial for a relationship, they aren’t everything. You need so many things to make relationships, and specifically, marriage, work. 

I think one of the key elements is respect. 

Think of the people you truly admire. You might not think of them as “your type,” or “cute,” but I bet they have a quality that draws you to them. It’s something you can’t quite put your finger on, but it can usually be summed up in that one word – respect. And that one word is the foundation of a powerful relationship. As I looked for the signs I needed in this man named Josh, I found them in the little things: the way he’d jump up to help with the dishes after dinner when other guys would stroll off to hang out; the way he’d talk and laugh with my parents and my siblings, getting to know our whole family and not just me; the way he prayed for our relationship, trusting in God’s plan for us; especially the way that he never gave up on me. Being supported and loved by this man who I respected and who I knew respected me, opened my heart to the great potential of what a relationship could be.

Fast forward four years of long-distance dating, late-night drives across the country, and lots of prayers and laughter to find us here– newlyweds with our first baby on the way. Now we’re learning how to sacrifice for each other in a much deeper way than when we were just dating. Marriage really does unite you more deeply in every possible way, something I logically knew would happen, but didn’t really expect to be so strong. We are learning to treasure each other as we’re exposed to every detail about each other, the cute, funny, annoying, sacrificial, beautiful, everything. 

It’s not always pretty. It’s definitely not perfect. Add in my eight-months-pregnant emotions, and you’ve got a crazy mix of something! Because let’s be real, I’m not super lovable these days. I’m exhausted from the pregnancy, crabby about my job, just want to sleep, and can be anxious and fearful as I face the swiftly approaching task of motherhood. Yet in these exhausted, emotional moments, we are learning to put the things that don’t matter aside and focus on the ones that do.

People say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but I don’t think it has to be. There are a lot of difficulties for sure, but the thing that I’ve learned is that with a deep love for each other and the ability to sacrifice for another, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. I remember being in high school and reading that it’s not a man’s looks, money, or car that matters. Beauty and money come and go, and they aren’t going to help you when it’s 3am and the baby is screaming. When he says “I love you,” he means more than just he feels for me. He shows how much he loves you when he gets up with you, helps you, gets you whatever you need, tells you he loves you, supports you, and believes in you. While we haven’t reached postpartum yet, I can already see those qualities in my husband as he wakes up in the middle of the night to hold my hair back over the toilet, rubs my swollen feet, takes on my household chores, and does everything he can to let me know that he loves me and is there for me. This is love. This is respect. When looking at marriage, ask yourself one question – Who can you (with all honesty) love and respect? “Until death do us part” is not a light promise. Who can you give yourself to in this sacramental covenant?

It all comes down to having the humility to put someone else first, respecting and loving them through your actions. Recognize need before it is expressed. Do little things to show your love. Find out what makes your spouse smile and laugh, and do it often. Get interested in one of their passions. Remember to keep things as positive as possible when going through a hard time.

Life is a love song, after all, so sing it with all the joy you can.