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I want to say a bit about love today. 

Valentine’s Day, despite all the images of romance, chocolates, and flowers, is a day of disappointment for many of us. 

It can be a disappointment for the relationship we are not in,

or it can be a disappointment for the relationship we *are* in. 

It is often acutely painful to acknowledge your dissatisfaction in romance. It's the love you don't receive, despite the good you do in your relationship that can really hurt. Valentine's Day is the kind of day that makes the gaps in love more noticeable (and genuinely difficult) when important others fail to live up to your ideals. 

The unspoken fantasy that we often carry is that marriage will, or at least SHOULD, make us happy. We hope that a spouse will live in genuine gratitude for who we are and that they will love us unconditionally. 

And so, when we wake up to the limitations in love, when we confront the gaps in connection (such as differences in desire, beliefs, or commitments), we can struggle to know what love even means when there seems to be far too little of it. 

Yet, in my experience, it is often in disillusionment, in the lonely invalidations of marriage, that we have the opportunity to learn what real love is. 

When understanding or reinforcement is not there for us, we can easily turn to cynicism and distance to manage our hurt feelings, OR we can use our fractured expectations to learn what it means to truly care for another. 

In the moments of disappointment, we have the chance to reach into our souls and genuinely care about the individual lying next to us--the one with a different history, different convictions, different hopes and different fears. The one who shows us where we are wrong. The one who *doesn't* give us what we want. 

In this invalidation and aloneness, we have the chance to find something more solid in ourselves. To care about them, not as an extension of ourselves, but as a unique and brilliant soul in their own right. 

If we let our ego reinforcement take a back seat, we have the chance to become a grown up and find the strength to truly love another human being. 

Real love asks us to rise above our self-justification and comfort. Real love asks us to grow beyond our self-deceptions and entitlement.  Real love asks us to transcend our egos and act with deeper honesty and courage. 

Truly caring for another, even when we are disappointed and uncertain, takes courage. 

But this is what faith is--the willingness to reach for what is Good even when we are afraid. This kind of courageous love makes our partner stronger, and it  will always make us stronger.

To love, irrespective of how it reflects on you, is a deep expression of Goodness. It is what Christ taught us is required to know peace and to know God.

So today, I invite you to know the one next to you, the one that you feel misunderstood by, and focus instead on your misunderstanding of them. Have the courage to know the invalidating parts of them, the parts you want to deny or judge away. And channel your capacity to know and love. 

This is real love. And real love not only makes your marriage stronger, it makes YOU stronger.  

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