How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

I borrowed a quote from a familiar poem for the title of this article. As we approach Valentine’s Day thoughts of love fill the air. When I think about what love should be like I think of a familiar text from the Bible as well. It was years before I discovered it, but once I did I read and reread it to remind myself of what is truly expected of us.

I Corinthians 13:4 7

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

There is more to this portion of scripture, but I think this is sufficient for you to get the idea. This scripture was read at the weddings of both of our children. Someone from the groom’s family read it at my daughter’s wedding. I was fortunate to be able to read it at my son’s wedding. What a good starting point it provides, but unless the significant parties adhere to this philosophy the marriage is doomed.

Young love focuses on the here and now. It is exciting and exhilarating. When the bride and groom stand before family and friends they make promises to each other. How many young couples really take their vows to heart? How many couples intend to stay married as “long as we both shall live”?

Today’s version of love and marriage is tainted by Hollywood. Hollywood has always presented a stilted version of love, but it has gotten worse in the last twenty-five years. Marriage partners not only fail to keep their vows, they make them with no regard for what the Bible says. The stars jump in and out of marriage as easy as you and I change our clothes.

As I put this together I consulted various sources. One was a book of quotes called the Treasury of Women’s Quotations by Carolyn Warner. There are so many wonderful quotes about love in this book that I got lost in the reading of them. Although I do not know who some of the women even are, I was intrigued by their thoughts. The book does provide a short notation of each author’s background and age.

My title quote by Emily Dickinson is just the beginning of her entry. Another author Louisa May Alcott wrote, “Love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the end so easy.”

If you really look around you, you see love in many forms. Not all love is romantic love. There is love between the new mother and father and their offspring. New parents look with pride on their newest addition. It does not seem to matter whether it is number one or number six. The arrival of a new baby is exciting.

There is the love of a well-seasoned couple who have spent years together. They can practically finish each other sentences without even thinking about it. I marvel at the love I see at my volunteer stations. Even those who are compromised themselves look out for their ailing partner. They put their best foot forward to make the partner as relaxed as possible. Mature love is a wonder to behold.

Young couples need to find a mentor couple to discuss problems with. They need to see the love that has lasted through the years, not because the couple does not argue, but because they have argued and survived the challenge.

On a television show that I watched recently I saw a couple that had been married for sixty years cooking together. They attributed their wedded bliss to always trying to please the other one. She cooked the things that he liked to eat and he cleaned up after her and shopped.

The division of labor is more important than ever today. With so many women working outside of the home the whole family has to learn to pitch in to make the household run smoothly. A woman cannot do it all. She needs a great deal of help.

As to how you show your love there is not one right way either. Some men give gifts. Some men say I love you. Some men kiss their wives on their way into the house and out of it. Some men do none of these things, yet love their spouses a great deal. Some men believe that providing for the family is paramount. They are the doers. They work to show their love.

Women are the same way. They all show love differently. Couples need to figure out how each one shows love and learn to deal with it. If they are looking for the mushy Hollywood style of love, they are unlikely to find it. Real love is caring for each other in very mundane ways. Real love is being there when a spouse is bummed out about work or family. Real love is just as the Bible describes it. It is patient and kind. It does not keep a record of wrongs. It is about putting the other person first.

I’ve heard it said that marriage is not a fifty/fifty proposition. It is both partners giving 100 percent. I think that sums it up quite neatly. You only get out of a marriage what you put into it.

Now, whatever your style to show love, do it abundantly this Valentine’s Day. If you are not a gift giver that is fine. Express your love in another way. If you are not a cook do not try to woo your spouse with your cooking prowess. The most important thing is to show your love in some way. My sister-in-law always received roses for her birthday. I would have thought my husband wanted to get rid of me if he sent me roses since I am allergic to them.

Know your partner and kill them with kindness during this season of love, but do not let it end in a day. Make loving your spouse a priority every day of the year.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at