Disney movies, chick flicks and romance novels have led us to believe that true love doesn't require much work. You simply have to be in the right place at the right time, look attractive, smile nice and big, and everything will fall into place as if it were meant to be. Yet the reality of romantic relationships prove that actually this isn't anywhere close to what happens in the day to day interactions with the one you love. Who we look to as a source for relationship advice can play a large role in what the goals, dreams and reality of our relationship looks like. We're are not called to relationships that are the mirrored images of Hallmark movies or the latest season of the Bachelorette. Instead, we're called to the relationship with the goal of becoming saints together. So we have to take some advice from the saints themselves.
To love is to will the good of the other. (Thomas Aquinas).
The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so, do that which best stirs you to love. (Teresa of Avila).
So, the one way you can actively start improving your relationship is to began to will the good of the other. Not to want the good of the other, but to will it. Yes, that subtle word change makes an incredible difference in the outcome.
Wanting someone's good doesn't necessarily require action. You can want someone's good and be caught in what Teresa of Avila calls 'thinking too much.' Just because I want to order in Thai food, does not mean that I'm actually going to get up out of my chair, get into my car and drive down to the nearest take out place. Simply because I want an 'A' in my senior history class does not result in an automatic good grade going on my transcript. And if wanting our wedding day to get here sooner actually did anything, I'd have been married a long time ago simply because of all the times I've wanted it to be here right now.
The word want means to crave, to feel the need or desire for something, or to fall short by a specific sum (the Thai Food was left wanting for spice, for example). It's not necessarily an action word - it doesn't require you to do anything but stay sedentary and wish for something better. So when it comes to loving another person, wanting someone's good may not get us very far.
On the other hand, willing someone's good requires action. To will and to love are action words- and love is a decision that moves you. This is what Teresa of Avila is talking about when she mentions being stirred to love. Stirring things causes them move, it brings things into action.
So what exactly does it mean to really will the other's good? This week has been a continual opportunity to love and will the good of the other in our relationship. Joseph and I have both had rough weeks at school, and it feels like we're constantly running from appointment to event to commitment. Gone are the leisurely summer days of getting off from work and being able to have long phone calls or even meet each other during the week.
What would happen if I simply wanted his good this week? Sure, I want him to do well in school and I want him to not feel over-stressed. That sounds great. But that wanting does not require me to do anything about it. Maybe I'll think about him throughout the day, wonder how his classes are going and eventually, when he reaches out to me, I can mention how he's been on my mind.
Yet willing his good calls me to action, despite the fact that we're an hour away and living crazy lives right now. Willing his good requires action and communication. And when those communication methods don't work as well as expected, willing the other's good means intentionally asking each other for ways to improve communication throughout the time apart.
Willing the good means a morning phone call to make sure each of us were able to get up and start tackling the work load of the day together. Willing the good means constant prayer for each other - not just a passing 'I'll pray for you,' but intentionally remembering each other throughout the day and offering the other's frustrations and struggles up to the Blessed Mother (that's what Marian Consecration is for, right?) Willing his good is sitting in adoration, bringing the challenges of the week to the feet of Christ, uniting them with His suffering, and surrounding Joseph in prayer - which is sometimes the only thing that we can do for each other, but it is also the most important thing we can do for each other.
If you want to see a radical difference in your love life, begin by delving into a love that moves you, a love that calls you into action. It is not easy, in fact, willing the good of the other as other is one of the most challenging things you can do. After all, the greater your capacity for a love that moves you, the greater your capacity for suffering. Yet our love for each other is to reflect the love that Christ showed His Church when he lay splayed open on the cross. His love required action, and we're called to that kind of love (Ephesians 5 have some great things to say on that subject).
So today, challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and begin to truly love others in your life - will their good.