I love (no pun intended) this quote from Henri Nouwen (a well known and respected Catholic theologian and spiritual director) about what love means: “Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety.” Obviously, I do not feel close to or intimate with his quote so my use of “love” is more about how much I like his quote. We use “love” to describe how we feel about so many different things, like “I love Coke,” etc. that the word loses its power when we use it to describe how we feel about the person we love. Mr. Nouwen is using this to describe how we should be with God when we say He loves us and we love him. It is also how we should be with our spouse and best friend.

He goes on to say: “But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness, and insecurity.” Again, Mr. Nouwen is speaking in reference to fearing God but the same holds true for our intimate relationships. We cannot love God or one another if “fear” is at work in our relationships. You probably do not think of the word “fear” in reference to your spouse unless you are in an abusive relationship. But when you apply the words “suspicion, distance, defensiveness, and insecurity” how well do they fit? Or the converse; is your marriage or love relationship a place of “intimacy, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety”?

The amazing thing is this, both in our relationship with God and with each other, that if we know someone loves us, if our answer is yes to love and no to fear, then we are able to tolerate seemingly unbearable stress. We may experience significant conflict with our spouse, parent or friend or go through excruciating challenges, but if we know that at the end of the day, they love us, desire us, want to be close to us, honest and open with us, and genuinely care about our welfare, then the relationship is secure and we are secure.

Are you saying yes to love and no to fear? If not, your relationship is in trouble and it will not stand up to the challenges and stress of life. The good news is it does not have to remain that way. Begin working to eliminate the causes of fear in your relationships and allow the power of love to work its magic.

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