(psssst: I have to tell you that this post is sponsored by Netflix. But don’t let that make you click away. The post is mostly about Love. And that’s fun-ish to read about, right?) Well, Valentine’s Day is long over, and if I’ve understood social media correctly then you’ve all be loving each other very well every day since, right? Because so many people “don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day” because they “don’t need a holiday telling them to love someone” and because they love their spouse “every day of the year” (as if all of us Valentine’s Day celebrants don’t?). And of course, that’s lovely. We should all attempt to love with our whole hearts every single day of the year (just think about how our world would look then).
Except, I really don’t believe anyone has exhausted all their love. I just don’t. What does that even mean? What would it look like?
I’m a fan of Valentine’s Day not because I need the reminder to love my spouse and my kids and my world, but because I like the extra suggestion to do it better – to do it differently.
I mean, come on, ladies! Raise your hand if you feel like you could be appreciated a little more in your family! Right? And even as I make that statement all about me, I’m failing to really love in the truest form: selflessly. I’m making it about me. (To be fair, I turned 31 on Valentine’s Day so it can be about me a little bit.)
You see, our love can always be greater. Our efforts towards loving can always be better. Because love, in its truest form, is self-sacrificing. I’m sorry, but it is. So often I think we mistake “love” with how it feels to be loved. When we say “I love you” to a spouse, we shouldn’t mean “Thank you for loving me – I’ve been feeling it a lot lately.” We should mean “I am choosing to love you despite how I feel, despite how you make me feel some days, despite your flaws and my flaws and this system of a flawed world we live in. I choose to choose you. I choose to give myself to you. I choose to share all of this with you. I choose to love you.”
I have been reading Ann Voskamp’s new book The Broken Way (affiliate link) lately (OH MY GOSH – SO GOOD!) and she has made so much clear in my mind about what it means to truly love. “Love is a willingness to suffer” (131), she writes. And that sounds so upsetting for our self-protective minds to hear, that one sentence pulled out of context from a brilliant book. But, if you’ve been loving someone for long enough, you’ll know it is true. “The real romantics know that stretch marks are beauty marks and that different shaped women fit into the different shapes of men’s souls and that real romance is really sacrifice.” (109) Loving our family enough to make room for children, that is sacrifice. Loving our babies enough to make room in our bodies for almost 10 months, that is sacrifice. Donating our bodies and our sleep for their well-being, that is sacrifice.
By loving – being open and vulnerable with someone – we always risk. Even that is a sacrifice. Even when that feels easy, it is giving of ourselves. Because we don’t know if or when someone is going to be reckless with that love we’ve given. We expect our hearts will always be safe with this person we have chosen and who has chosen us, but we know we will, eventually, be hurt by giving our love away, in small ways or big ways. We risk that, always, because it is better to live with love than to live without it.
I think the ideal vision of a relationship is to have both people loving in full sacrifice so that both people are blessed by that love in the same way. But it rarely works like that. And so, we become rigid and bitter and pull back on those acts of love (because love is a verb but we confuse it with a feeling) and we wait to be loved or to feel loved, which we sometimes think is the same thing. And this is why Valentine’s Day is a day we should embrace, and then continue to follow up and remember every day after: Love more. Love better. Love by giving of yourself, your time, your heart. Even when it doesn’t feel convenient. Even when it doesn’t feel like it is being reciprocated.
Today is the first day of Lent, and that’s another time that people decide to do something self-sacrificing. I’ve noticed that many people, regardless of their faith, decide to take something out of their life or do something extra in their life during this time, often as a chance to become some kind of a better person. But do you realize that’s an act of self-sacrifice too? (And that’s kind of the point). If we can tie self-sacrificial giving something up into self-sacrificial love, could we make our marriages and relationships better, as if Lent were a whole string of Valentine’s Days?
So, here’s a suggestion. Apparently, 46% of global Netflix viewers skip ahead and watch their favourite shows without their viewing partner, even when they have agreed to watch the show together. Dan and I watch very few shows together now. We usually have one Netflix show on the go together and one current, non-Netflix show. The truth is, we haven’t been able to maintain more than that. We either get too far behind on a show and forget about it, or we forget that we were watching it with the other person and one of us (Dan) watches the rest of the show alone. I guess I do this with reality shows when Dan hasn’t watched it with me in long enough. So we’re both culprits.
So maybe, for Lent, let’s all give up sneaking around doing something we’re supposed to be doing with our spouse and embrace more time together loving, even if it feels inconvenient at times.
And if you really want to skip ahead and watch that show without your streaming partner, maybe try a new show that you can watch on your own time. Like one of these binge-worthy watches:
This post was inspired by Netflix. I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and as such, I have been compensated for this post with a complimentary Netflix subscription and a few other perks. I’m honoured to have been a StreamTeam member for the last four years. The stories and opinions are all my own.