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  • Becca Whitham

If That's Not Love, What Is?

One of the first things a new author creates is a "tag line." It's a catchy phrase that supposed to sum up who you are, what you write, and why you write in five words or less. I chose, "Love. History." My runner up was "TRUE Love."


Right now, Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen appear to be headed for divorce. They are arguably two of the most beautiful and successful people in the world. Most people, when asked, will tell you that looks and money aren't everything. But, when pressed, they can't tell you what is everything. It does very little good to know what TRUE love isn't. We need to understand what it is.


So let me tell you a story...


A few weeks ago, I was in St. Louis for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. Standing in line to buy a Chai tea latte, I met a young woman, perhaps in her early twenties. She was tall, brunette, and lovely. Next to her was a young man. He was rocking back and forth and, when he began to get agitated, she took his hand and stroked it while talking to him with calm, soothing words.


Impressed, I struck up a conversation with her. She was in town for a friend's wedding and caring for the bride's brother to give the family a break while they prepared for the big day. That, my friends, is TRUE love. Why? Because she'd taken the time and made the effort to learn what her friend's brother needed. And she'd clearly done it multiple times given the way he trusted her and responded to her gentle guidance.


Did you catch that? She'd learned what he needed and used her knowledge over and over.


Someday I'm going to write a book I've mentally titled Love Lies. How to identify and overcome them on your path to TRUE love. One of those lies is that love comes naturally when you're with the right person. Some of it does. Very few of us choose to be in romantic relationships where our partner has no clue what brings joy to our hearts. But some of it has to be taught. That means you alternately need to both teach and learn.


I came into our marriage thinking that, if he really loved me, he would "just know." That reading my mind was the test of true love. It took twenty years and many tears before someone told me, "Subtle hints don't work. Obvious hints don't work. Hints of any kind... Do. Not. Work." By that time I was willing to give it a try because the just knowing thing was a bust. I was in a near panic the first time I spoke my needs out loud. That might sound ridiculous to you, but here's why: If I made him read my mind, there was a chance his lack of love was ignorance. But if I spoke my need aloud and he still didn't fulfill it, then that... that would crush me.


It's been almost another twenty since I started teaching my husband how to love me. I've also learned how to love him. I look back and laugh at how worried my younger self was to express what I needed. And do you want to know the kicker? It's almost like he can read my mind now. It just took twenty years of training.


Some of you might have an opposite story. Maybe you did express your needs and have been ignored. Oh friend...how devastating! I wish I was a counselor with the exact right answer to fix things. I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a hug. But I can do neither. I can write stories where characters learn and practice TRUE love. I can encourage you to keep doing what you know is right. Let's face it, you can't change anyone but you. So if you aren't getting the reaction you want from your partner, perhaps it's time to change the reaction you're giving.


Keep learning, keep teaching, and above all keep going back to the One who always gives TRUE love.




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