The Work of Love

Anne Griffiths
February 14, 2024

By Anne Griffiths

“Unconditional love is not so much about how we receive and endure each other, as it is about the deep vow to never, under any condition, stop bringing the flawed truth of who we are to each other.”
—Mark Nepo

“You should get over into the right lane.” I was in the middle of telling my husband a story when he directed me into the other lane. Caught by surprise, I changed lanes—but I asked him why he’d said that. He started explaining that the left lane was a turn lane but didn’t have an arrow, so they had to yield to oncoming traffic.

We were on a road I drive every day. I was familiar with the intersection, and I know all about yielding. I stared at him, feeling frustrated.

“I know that you’re genuinely trying to help, and when you tell me how to drive I get frustrated. You have a pattern of telling me how to drive. I know you don’t mean to undercut my abilities. I’m going to point it out when it happens so you know what I’m talking about.”

He apologized. We talked it out. When we clear the air about a little thing, it doesn’t have a chance to grow into a big thing. We’re building trust for when the big things inevitably pop up.

My husband and I both went into therapy when we started dating. We wanted to show up as the most thoughtful, most loving versions of ourselves. We’d both been in relationships before, and preemptively dealing with our baggage was a beautiful shining moment of realizing that neither of us was as much of a mess as we’d been previously, and that we were both firmly committed to growing and learning.

That slow work sneaks up on us. We both have days when we’re not our best, or say something that unintentionally hurts the other. There are days I feel “right” and put on my armor to “win” the argument. But scorekeeping is about who hurts whom more. In the long-term, no one wins.

At the end of the day, I get to love this smart, funny, thoughtful man who loves me to the moon and back. He is my favorite person: the one who holds me when I cry, and accepts me in ways that still astonish me. We are partners, and every time we talk through it that beautiful bond grows.

When you can say “ouch” and the other one listens and responds, there are no words to capture that love and peace.

Prayer

Oh, Great Universe, world of unknown wonder, when we feel an unwelcome comment, an action that makes our blood pressure rise, that long frustration that comes to us as steadily and predictably as the tides, may we have the love and fortitude to breathe deeply, pause, and know that thoughtful disruptions can be the most loving tool we possess.

Editor's note: This reflection was published with the blessing of Anne's husband, Bob.