It's been a while since I wrote a post just about the Love Dare. I've had a lot of things I want to share about the Love Dare forming in my mind, but I either haven't had time, or I've had other little things come up that I felt were more important on certain days. Today, I am writing about the Love Dare! I've done some reflection and introspection in my personal journals, but I'm excited to finally think and reflect in more depth, and I'm especially excited to share my learning and findings thus far with y'all!
I'm on day 32 of the Dare. If you look back at the date that I started, you will notice that it has been more than 40 days. The reason is because the Love Dare is hefty. I've had days where I physically could not do it. Some days were because of time issues--I didn't have time to study it out and make a real, dedicated effort to living the Dare. More than those types of days, however, were days that my wife-of-an-addict mind just couldn't muster up the love to attack the dare for the day. Some days, I felt like a failure because of that. I felt like a failure as a wife and as a lover because I couldn't gather enough love to do simple things like forgive, not be negative, fight fair, and the likes. Some days I felt like a failure because I forgot about the dare for the day, so I would have to re-do it the next day. It's been a tough road to walk. But it's also been an amazingly beautiful road.
If you remember (or if you are new to this blog and haven't read my original Love Dare post), I started the Love Dare as what I feel was personal revelation, an answer to a prayer, about how to make "Restitution and Reconciliation" for the wrongs I have committed in our relationship. Even though I'm on step 9 and have made light-years of progress in my WoPA recovery, I still wrong him. That was evident as I went through my inventory, confession, humbling, and seeking forgiveness steps. I'm not perfect. I do things that bring us both down. Sometimes I'm really impatient, which is sometimes very damaging in our relationship. My worst attribute, though, is my selfishness. I've become very selfish as I've basically come to expect him to cater to my every need because of his selfishness. Over times, I've created expectations for him to make up for what he has done. I realized it's really not fair to him. Maybe if he had physically cheated on me rather than lustfully cheating on me, or maybe if he was not in working recovery, I would feel justified in my selfishness and make him my slave (does anyone else feel like doing that? maybe it's just me). However, he has done neither of those things. He is an addict in working recovery. He is my best friend. I chose him. It's been a rough road, but I chose to stay with him. And, through some soul-searching and recognizing those choices I've made and the choices I have in front of me, I realized that I really needed to step up my game.
Even though our move out of Utah has been really amazing for both of our recoveries and our relationship and healing as a couple, we still have trials and hard things that take a toll on our marriage relationship. We are living with my parents, which has an impact on our relationship. We are having problems getting pregnant, which is a huge trial that has an impact on our emotional and physical relationships. I have physical health issues, which is another big trial that carries emotional baggage. And then there is the addiction. Sometimes, I find myself closing off from everyone around me. I feel like alone will somehow make me safe (but, I have been clinging more to God and Christ through it all, so that's good). Despite our growth, I found myself withdrawing from everyone around me, while feeling depressed that I wasn't feeling any love from anyone. The worst part was when I thought to myself, "I don't know if I love Jack anymore."
When I got to step 9, the relationship I felt like needed the most healing was my relationship with Jack. I had been very selfish. I had done and said lots of things he didn't deserve. And I also knew that my loss-of-love feelings were more because of me than him. So, he became my target for restitution and reconciliation. I didn't know where to begin. The things I needed to work on were things I had already been working on as character weaknesses in the previous steps. I felt at such a loss as to where to turn for this.
The answer to my prayers was to do the Love Dare, and it was the perfect answer for me.
Hard days in the dare are to be expected when you are trying to increase the love for someone who has hurt you so badly. When I was faced with my first really hard day, I had to turn it over to God and ask for His strength to keep on going. He has given me that strength every time I've asked for it (or given me the feeling of peace that it's okay to just not do the dare for the day and try to do it tomorrow instead). At first, the whole thing was really exciting and I felt a dramatic increase of happiness in myself and my relationship with Jack. But then things started feeling old and tired because I felt like I was making all this effort and he wasn't, and it just wasn't fair. Those were kind of hard feelings to sort through, and it really helped when I got to the dare day about unconditional love.
One day that was really hard was asking him three things that make him irritated with me, without being defensive, and trying to work on making those things better. I didn't enjoy hearing that things irritate him about me (even though I knew there would be things, and the things were exactly what I predicted he would say)! I want to be the perfect spouse and let him be the irritating one! It helped me see that I do need to care about his feelings and do what I can to make things better for us.
The Dare has taught me a lot. I learned a lot about myself, such as why I get irritable. People usually get irritable for two reasons: stress and selfishness. When I thought about it, I realized that, yes, those are the main reasons I get irritable. I made a list of stressors, and that helped me recognize and get over the things that irritated me that day (the dare that day was to react to tough circumstances in loving ways rather than irritable ways).
I learned to cherish him and delight in our relationship more.
I learned that it's okay if he wins or I don't get my way all the time.
We set rules for "fighting fair." Sometimes we forget those rules, but they have been helpful.
I learned to honor him and treat our relationship as more holy.
I've learned to pray for him and us more.
I've learned to choose to love.
I've learned to be more forgiving and patient.
I've learned to live by encouragement, rather than expectations. And I've learned that where Jack doesn't meet my expectations, God can make up the difference.
I've learned to sacrifice more.
I've learned that my motivation to love comes from God and that I really can only love if I have His love in my heart.
I've learned to cleave to Jack more.
I've learned and understood the holiness of sexual needs and intimacy in marriage. I've learned to balance that aspect of our marriage better.
In reflecting back on the whole thing so far, I realized that the spiritual aspect is the part I actually have down pretty well. Of course, I'm learning new things and gaining new perspectives. But, what I struggled with most were the beginning steps: things like not being negative and going out of my way to be kind and do simple acts of kindness to show love and appreciation. Maybe the more recent dares have been easier because they are building off one another, but I do keep finding that it's those little simple things that I don't do very well and need to improve on. Those little things are what help soften both of our hearts.
One thing that has been amazing is the softening of both of our hearts. He has seen and recognized what I'm doing. It's making him more joyful, and over time, he has started acting and speaking with more love too. We have much better communication. We are both more humble and patient with one another. We both listen to each other better. And we both want to be around each other more. The Love Dare has done exactly what I needed: increased our love.
Another thing that has been amazing is how I have seen parallels between the Love Dare and what I've learned through the 12 steps and other things I have studied to increase my healing and relationship with Christ The things I've strengthened are the character weaknesses I've been working on. It's just been a new perspective and fresh learning.
I know that this wouldn't work for everyone. I definitely couldn't have done this a year ago because of where I was in my recovery. It would have been way too hard. It was really good for me right now, though. The Lord knew it was what I needed. I'm grateful for my relationship with Him and the ability we have to receive revelation for ourselves.