I am going to get a little bit personal for today’s blog post, but I think that this topic lends itself so beautifully to showing love. In September of 2015, we were still adjusting to our new life: moving from St. Louis to Indy and going from two to four kids and then, just for the fun of it, adding one more to the mix. If you don’t know our backstory, you can learn a little more here.
Our lives changed so quickly, and many of you know what that feels like. I was becoming a version of myself I didn’t recognize (or like), and if I learned anything from losing my sister I knew that life was too short to not be the BEST version of me. I have always been a loving, compassionate, thoughtful person and wife, and I started finding myself nagging, bickering and trying to prove a point constantly. Though I knew it was likely due to lack of sleep and the hustle and bustle of having 5 kids and working from home, I knew that something needed to change or that I needed to change SOMETHING. I was praying a lot and looking for answers and low and behold I spoke to my aunt one morning and she told me that she was doing something called “the love dare.” She told me enough about it to intrigue me, and so I did some research. I learned that “the love dare” is more or less a 40 day dedication to strengthening your relationship by simply practicing unconditional love. Accepting the dare meant no negativity toward my husband, period. I decided that I loved him, myself and my family too much not to give it a go, and so I committed myself to it.
The first day was the hardest. I remember it so clearly. I woke up knowing that I was going to dedicate myself to being loving, patient, understanding and kind: no negativity toward my husband whatsoever. The PDF guide instructed me to do the following: The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.
Easier said than done my friends! The day didn’t start out great. We were in a downward spiral of pointing out each other’s flaws, but since I couldn’t be defensive, his condescending tone hurt me so much worse than before. It was a Tuesday. He came down to the kitchen and I was frustrated having been up several times nursing and then up before him to feed the rest of my kids breakfast before school. But I knew that I had to push those feelings and my pride aside for the sake of our happiness. Instead of our usual “good morning sunshine routine” we were accustomed to back in the good old days, he immediately commented on my poor choices of lunch contents for our oldest. What I WANTED TO SAY was… well, I can’t put that in this blog. But you know it was something like… “Well then. Why don’t YOU wake up 20 minutes earlier so you can get down here and help me with 5 kids OR pack his lunch your stupid SELF you mean monster!” 🙂 Instead, I bit my tongue. I fought the urge to lash out, looked down at Connor’s lunch and very kindly said, “You know what. You’re right. But we don’t have any bananas and that’s the only fruit he likes. I will be sure to pick some up today.” He looked at me suspcisiouly, wondering what my motive was. But all I could do was smile even though I felt like buckling to the floor and sobbing.
This went on all week. He started softening a little bit, but those first few days made it even more clear to me just how mean we had decided to be to one another. You have to bare in mind that I am married to a truly WONDERFUL man. Part of why I fell in love with him was because he is simply a nice person. I felt like grief and change had temporarily stripped us of our best qualities, so I remained strong and each day I went above and beyond the “dare” for the day and tried the practices on my kids as well.
That Saturday evening my mom took me to see a play, and it was my first night “out” since our baby was born in August. That day’s dare was as follows: Ask your spouse to tell you three things that cause him or her to be uncomfortable or irritated with you. You must do so without attacking him or her or justifying your behavior. This is from their perspective only. When I got home that evening he was already in bed, so I changed into my comfies and went to give him a giant hug and kiss. I eased into a conversation and asked him to tell me three things that caused him to be uncomfortable and irritated with me. I told him I PROMISED to simply listen, because I just wanted to be the woman he married and more. He looked at me, confused, and thought a minute. I could tell he was hesitant, and the way we had been treating each other as of late, I didn’t blame him. But I asked again and he told me 3 things. I thanked him, and told him I would work really hard to work on those things, my heart aching. All 3 of the things he expressed were things I NEVER wanted to be or do. I knew in my heart that he wasn’t the only one who was irritated with those behaviors. I will never forget what he said next. Out of nowhere he asked me… “Colleen. Are you like, having an affair or something?” I jolted up, stunned. “What?! No. Of course not. Never. I would never do that to you. I love you.” And he very cautiously said something like “it’s just that this last week…. you have been so… nice to me.”
You could guess that this triggered some seriously pitiful and remorseful emotions. My husband was alarmed because I was being NICE. This made it that much more important for me to continue the dare, without him knowing, and I did. By the end of the 40 days, it was like he was doing the dare too, even though he knew NOTHING about it. My positive way of handling things and my unconditional love was more contagious. Our marriage grew stronger. I thanked God (and my aunt!) for giving me the strength to take this dare. And from time to time, when life gets hectic, I look at the PDF and do it for a few days, to get myself and our love back on track.
I know that “the love dare” is intended for relationships, but I can’t help but think about a version that applies to every day life. “People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed. Throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. (THANKS, Frozen!). Every day we have a chance to make or break someone’s day or their spirits. In a world where we get to make our own choices about who we are and the mark we will leave behind, it is a puzzle to me why we would want to be anything but kind. THROW A LITTLE LOVE!
“Throw a little love” Adult tee – Mama Said Tees
This man deserves the best of me. We all owe it to ourselves to love and be loved!