I thought that some of you might benefit from this article, regardless of your marital status. The story below is a good example of why "love" is an action word. True love requires genuinity and dedication, among others.
Newlywed trials: he thought, she thought
Richard: Last Christmas Eve I married the woman of my dreams. Gina is from Brazil and this is the second marriage for both of us. We hadn’t known each other long before we married. We met in the US before Gina had to go back to Brazil. After some time in opposite hemispheres, trying to stay in touch every way we could, she has returned to the US, to stay.
We are very much in love. Still, that hasn’t prevented us from having some adjustment issues. Differences in language, culture, the foods we eat—even the way we spend our time—present challenges.
I was used to living alone. Mornings were my favorite time to sit quietly and pray. Gina, always eager to begin a new day, would wake and immediately get out of bed. Worried about hurting her feelings, I didn’t tell her I wanted my solitary morning time, but kept this to myself. Gina, I later found out, had other concerns, especially a fear of rejection. But she kept her thoughts to herself, not wanting to hurt my feelings.
I went off by myself too.
One morning, I reached my limit of stress and reacted, telling her I needed time for myself. She looked at me with empty eyes and walked outside without a word.
During this worst attempt at adjustment in our marriage, I went off by myself too, and prayed. I asked God to show me what I needed to see to make our lives happier.
Gina: I felt very hurt. I had come full of love and longing for a tender, sweet and loving relationship. I was not able to understand why I could not get up with a kiss and share a first cup of coffee together. So, it made no sense at all what Rich was asking for.
The mornings in Brazil, during the years I lived with my family, were spent having breakfast and sharing that peaceful time together, before going to work. Pain, disappointment, rejection and resentment came to disrupt my thoughts. I had to breathe air. I needed help. I needed God to tell me what to do.
That day, when I went outside for a walk and prayed for understanding, I calmed down. All I could listen to, however, were my own feelings. I came back home and we talked about it, but I still felt hurt.
A wave of honest, sincere humility swept over me.
Richard: The helpful answer I got while praying was I needed more humility. I thought about this, but I didn’t see the connection. I mean, we both were walking on eggshells, trying not to upset the other—how much more humble can you get? But as I thought about this, I realized walking on eggshells wasn’t honest humility. I wanted to feel the freedom of a humility that comes from God.
I know Gina left behind everything—family, career and country, all she had ever known—just to be with me. Suddenly, a wave of honest, sincere humility swept over me like I had ever felt before. Problems that had been causing me so much stress came into a clearer perspective. When I reflected on all my wife had given up, just to be my wife, I was dumbfounded and filled with such joy, love and gratitude that I was speechless.
Gina: I prayed, but the next few days were as if I could not experience life as I know it. I was losing all my naturally joyful way of being. It was like my inner light had been suddenly shaded. My family came from the north of Italy to Brazil in the beginning of 1900 and we are very communicative, sensitive, although discreet, and have a great sense of humor. These, I believe, were the characteristics of my personality that in the first place attracted my husband. Then, in the worst moment, I heard Rich’s voice speaking to me! He said—
Be as you always have been.
Richard: Gina, I love you as you are! Never forget how much I love you. I have asked so much of you. You left everything. You have to speak another language. Please, do not change. Be as you always have been, even if you speak before I finish. I can’t stand your silence, sitting straight and waiting for me to finish all I have to say.
Gina: A wave of love swept over me. I remembered the vows we had made during the civil ceremony of our wedding, promising to respect the feelings of each other. That memory was what touched me to listen to God’s guidance and finally understand that Rich was not forbidding me to get up or to move early in the mornings. This would be insane. But the real understanding only came when I prayed, remembering that God is the source of all love. Then I was able to listen and feel all the love and affection Rich has for me.
I am trying to learn not to speak at the same time, as Italians do sometimes, just to show we are loving what the person says and also to give reassurance to the speaker. At this point, considering another cultural difference between us, a big smile comes to my lips, because what I was used to seeing as communication was first called by my husband “argument.” During our first attempt to talk about our differences, he would say, “Don’t argue with me!” Soon Rich understood that we were not arguing, but talking lovingly and sweetly to each other. This way we would not let any resentment shade our love for each other.
We are learning together.
Richard: Gina’s perspective and loving example have helped me to learn to voice my own feelings. Now I sit with her, as Italians and Brazilians do, and talk openly about what’s on my mind. We are learning together and using our diversity to grow in the most joyful way.
It is ironic how our fear kept us from communicating with each other in the way we needed to. Yet, when it mattered most, with patience for each other and listening to God’s direction, we were able to understand each other better, and resolve this problem. We stopped thinking selfishly, and began thinking selflessly. This was the humility we needed to express.