The frustrated woman stammered out her complaint, “After 10 years of marriage, Dr. Laura, I don’t think I love my husband anymore, I just don’t feel it. What should I do?”
The radio call-in host replied with her trademark no-nonsense approach, “You don’t feel like you love him? Well, act as if you do anyway.”
At first pass, this advice may seem ineffective and simplistic. What good is acting as if you love someone when you just don’t feel it? On closer examination though it makes sense. Dr. Laura Schlessinger expounds on this idea in the very first chapter of her book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.
“The notion of love as a gift, as a verb, as an attitude, as a commitment, is a revelation to some. Unfortunately, love is usually looked at as a feeling that comes over you and makes you happy; and of course, if you’re happy, then you behave nicely. Somehow, the notion is out there that you’re entitled to behave badly if you don’t feel that lovin’ feeling. More than that, if you don’t feel that lovin’ feeling, you’re entitled to get it somehow, somewhere, with someone else who’s available. This sense of entitlement comes from a culture that has elevated feelings over obligation, responsibility and commitment.” (p. 4)
When faced with the “I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” scenario, Dr. Laura advocates ACTING as if it’s so regardless. You choose a loving behavior despite your feelings. So you put on your lipstick before he comes home, you greet him with a hug and a kiss when he walks through the front door, you make eye contact and ask him about HIS day. Love is an ACTIVE verb, and you ACT as if it’s so.
And the result? Dr. Laura reports it’s not uncommon for this approach to lead to a change in your feelings too. When you act loving, your partner responds positively, and soon you may actually ignite that ‘lovin’ feeling once again.
Same Coin ~ Different Side
Years before I had ever heard of Dr. Laura, I coined my own phrase for a similar philosophy: “It’s not so much what you FEEL, it’s what you do with your feelings that’s important.” This was how I described it to a friend who told me she was upset that her new husband had commented on the attractiveness of another woman. “He’s not supposed to be attracted to anyone but ME,” she lamented. The fact that he was attracted to someone else simply didn’t matter I told her (and frankly, I thought she was nuts if she believed a wedding ring turned off that radar). What really mattered was what he did with his feelings. What were his actions?
But I’m only human!
Many times we beat up ourselves (and others) for our feelings ~ we judge them as “good” and “bad,” and then we’ll extend that same judgment to the individual. But feelings are neither; they are simply “what is.” Face it, you can’t help what you feel, but you absolutely have a choice in how you are going to act. As humans, we have free choice.
Which brings to me to another favorite Dr. Laura-ism …
Attempting to explain their own bad behavior, callers will sometimes offer up, “But I’m only human!” Dr. Laura is quick to respond. Humans, she’ll argue, are the one “animal” that has the ability to override “natural instincts” and choose a different course of action. Unlike other animals, we CAN refrain from acting on our feelings, we can choose the high road.
THIS is what it means to be “only human.” Just act as if it’s so.