You’d Think a Girl With Love in Her Name Would be a Little Better at This… Four Principles of Learning to Love the People You Love

When David and I were engaged, I remember telling him one time that he was my “diamond in the rough.”  I loved him and thought he was wonderful, but love did not blind me.  I could see he had a few weaknesses, a few rough edges that needed chiseling down and buffing out.  And I knew I was just the girl for the job.  After all, I’m a “fixer” kind of person.  If there is a problem, I will find a solution.  If something isn’t the way I want it, I will find a way to make it right.  With Dave I knew I had high quality, grade A material to work with, so I was certain that with enough effort and perseverance on my part, I’d soon transform him into the perfect man.

Back when we were young and in love. Now we're just old and in love.
Back when we were young and in love. Now we’re just old and in love.

As the first years of our marriage passed by, I worked hard to let him know I loved him, but not without also letting him know where he was lacking.  Sometimes I made subtle hints; at other times I applied pressure.  Eventually, it was as if I forgot the man I married was a diamond, and instead believed he was a piece of coal who needed my fierce pressure to transform him.

Though we never stopped loving or liking each other, over time, I came to recognize that the man I’d chosen as my best friend was hurt — and I was the one who had hurt him.  All of my pushing and pressure had not created a diamond because a diamond was already there.  Instead, I had chipped away at him, sending a subtle message that I didn’t have faith in him; that I believed he was a “bad” person; that my love came with strings attached.

It took me years in our relationship to really recognize some of the damage I was doing, and honestly today I’m still figuring out how to show him the unconditional love that he deserves; I think I’m doing better, but I can’t say I’m prefect.

However, I’ve learned a few things along the way I want to share because I think they are helpful, not just for marriage, but for any relationship with someone you love — child, parent, sibling, best friend, etc.  For some crazy reason it’s often the people we care about the most who we treat the hardest, but these are four principles that have helped me show more love and less harshness to those I love.

Unconditional Love is the Greatest Gift We Can Give . First off, the greatest gift we can give a person is to love them unconditionally, no strings attached, for who they are — imperfections, mistakes, and all.  It’s the kind of love our Heavenly Father offers us, and it’s the kind of love he wants us to learn for all of his children. Love is

During the first years of my marriage, I remember one instance in particular when I was very upset with David.  I wanted him to do something, something that was good, but he wasn’t interested.  I talked to my mom about it, and she pointed out that even though what I wanted was good, maybe at that point in time it was more important for David to feel my unconditional love.  That advice stuck with me and comes to mind often when someone I love is making choices I don’t agree with.  It’s like the “good, better, best” way of thinking.  Even though it’s good to encourage those around us to make good choices, ultimately the best choice is for us to continue to show them love and compassion no matter what they choose.

Loving Someone does not Equate to Agreeing with Them. I think that sometimes we feel like it’s our job to pressure our loved ones to make good choices, and that if we stop applying that pressure, we are somehow supporting or enabling them. This is not true. To love someone and to treat them respectfully does not equate to condoning their choices.  It’s OK to let people know if you don’t agree with them.  However, this should always be done kindly and with the clear message that you will continue to love them no matter what they choose.  We were sent to this world with free agency; our Heavenly Father loves and respects us enough to allow us to exercise our free will without it becoming a barrier between us and his love.  We should follow his example in our own relationships.  So go ahead and share your opinion if you think it’s needed, but then follow the Lord’s example of stepping back to allow your loved ones to make their own choice, without fear of losing your love.

PerfectionQuit Thinking You Know What the Other Person is Thinking or Feeling. No matter how well we think we know someone, we never truly know everything. So many times we jump to conclusions because a person reacts differently than we think they should or because we THINK we know what they are thinking.  Many times there is much below the surface of a person that they can’t articulate or share.

For example, my husband is very reticent with his feelings and has a hard time expressing them.  I’ve had to learn not to jump to conclusions when he chooses to be silent, and I’ve learned that silence doesn’t always mean what I think it means.  I’ve also learned to listen very carefully when he does expresses himself, because if he is trying to articulate a feeling, then it must be really important to him.  From him I’ve learned to give people the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word.  It’s the way I would want others to treat me, so I should extend the same kindness to them.

Love is the Greatest Healer, and Anger is the Greatest Barrier to a Relationship. Finally, over and over again in life I’ve found that kindness and love soften a person’s heart so much more than anger and chastisement. Most of the time the people we love know us well enough to realize when we don’t approve of their choices; they often don’t need our lectures and long discourses. Lectures will seldom “fix” someone; in fact, when we treat people as if they need to be fixed, they simply build up walls and barriers that keep us out.  It’s love and kindness that open hearts, drawing people in and encouraging them by example to be better people.

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We are not here to fix the people we love; if that were the case it would be a losing battle because none of us can really fix anyone — it is their choice to fix themselves.  Instead, we are here to recognize diamonds in the rough and to apply all the love and encouragement needed to help those diamonds shine and sparkle.  As the old saying goes, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” and in my case it’s definitely true.  My diamond in the rough is my best friend, and as I’ve learned to see him through my Heavenly Father’s eyes, he’s proving to be a lot more diamond and a lot less rough.

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