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I Want You to Show Me

A lucky few grow up able to see what love is and how their parents love each other, growing better at it every year. But most of us don't. We go into marriage with something like the Foreigner song lyric lurking in our heads: "I wanna know what love is; I want you to show me."

We meet a good man or woman, discover love, and marry. At first, we're fine. We feel so loved. We give love freely. Some of our attempts miss their target, but most are well-received. We feel confident this could last a lifetime.

And then we get angry or hurt or frightened, and we're not sure. We return to the old questions. How can I get more love? Is there something I should be doing to get him (or her) to love me? There are lots of books, lots of magazine articles, lots of friends with advice. Some will even assure us it's normal to feel abandoned at times. We just have to "work at it."

Usually, though, "working at it" doesn't help, because the problem is not how we love them. It's not even how they love us. It's how much love we are able to receive and how much we block out. Unless we are offered no love at all, which is seldom the case, we can have plenty of love if we know how to let it in. And once we feel loved, most of us do a pretty good job of loving back.

So what we need to know is how to let love flow in, how to avoid shutting love out.

When we're alarmed by something they do, we can Assume Love and check to see if perhaps we're unnecessarily alarmed and just being loved in an unfamiliar way.

If we feel something's missing, we can Expect Love and let go of expecting it will come in a particular package. Rather than divorce and meet our own needs, we can meet our own needs and stick around to see what other surprising forms love will take.

When we disagree, we can seek to Find Third Alternatives instead of defending our initial idea of how to get what we want. We can get what we want AND give what they want. The this-or-that choices we see at first glance are seldom all we can choose among, and defending this (or that) shuts out love.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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