During the worst year of our marriage, I stumbled into a secret for feeling love when it was missing-in-action. We’d just moved across the country from California to New York for my husband’s job, after suffering several miscarriages and the death of his dad. Then his company reneged on promises made because an unexpected merger. I found a job in Connecticut, so we moved again three months later. We were worn out and thought things would finally get better. It didn’t take long for me to discover I made a mistake. My fears about shady pharmaceutical company practices were confirmed when a marketing product manager lashed out at me, “I don't need you to tell me what's wrong with the cost-effectiveness of the product; I just need you to get me an article published anywhere that I can give to the reps who can sell anything.” At a product pre-launch meeting, one of those reps told me he preferred drugs that were a tough sell to ones that sold themselves because then he knew it was about him and the game, rather than the quality of the drug.

Worst of all, we argued like we had in our first year of marriage. We had little time for fun because of his commute and my long hours. We missed kayaking—our favorite form of restoration in California. On ‘good’ days Brian came home to find me listening to Chris Isaak’s Baja Sessions by candle light planning to make bean and cheese burritos for dinner. ‘Bad’ days consisted of me watching Law and Order reruns and sending him back out to fetch pizza or Chinese takeout. When it become clear that another merger would make Brian’s department obsolete, we hatched plans to move back to California.

Still we fought. One morning, still upset from an argument we’d had the night before, out of desperation I started listing his qualities I fell in love with. By #10 on the love list I’d forgiven him. By #20 I felt loving feelings blossom. By #101 I was head-over-heels in love again. I typed the list in a fancy font titling it 101 Reasons I Love You. I gave it to him as a gift that night during dinner. I cooked one of his favorites, chicken breast stuffed with cheese and bacon (what I’d made on our first Valentine’s Day together).

The experience taught me that love, the feeling, follows love, the verb. I discovered that little acts of love like baking him cookies or tucking a love note into his briefcase helped me continue feeling more loving towards him. Research has actually shown that when we do someone a favor we like that person more. It was contagious. He reciprocated without me needing to ask. We argued less. We bought kayaks for our cross-country drive, which morphed into a 4-week adventure. A couple years later, while celebrating our anniversary at a local Oakland jazz club, he made me cry and glow with his own 101 Reasons I Love You card.

All couples go through turbulent times. The secret to getting through them is to choose love. To remember that love isn’t just an emotion, it’s also a verb. Love, the verb, means to cherish—to show great affection for someone. You possess the power to increase your loving feelings.

Ask yourself, “What would love do?” Then do that. Write a love letter or love list. Create a playlist of your life together. (Re)create a magical date. Draw a bath. Give a massage. How will you show your beloved that you cherish him/her?

February 27, 2020 — Jacqueline Lee