When was the last time you read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”? I can’t tell you the last time I read it, but when I started thinking about what to write about with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the first line of this work came to mind. I’ve quoted the entire sonnet for you below.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love the to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
It’s an amazing read, isn’t it? And for many people dealing with divorce, it’s a painful read too.
So often we marry with the belief that our love is the ideal kind that Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes about. And divorce “proves” to us that our marriage must not have been based on love at all – at least that’s the conclusion I jumped to when I got divorced. It’s also a conclusion I’ve heard many of my clients jump to as well.
What I’ve learned over the years since my divorce is that my marriage was based on love to begin with, but that my marriage didn’t continue to grow in love and that’s why it ended in divorce.
Most people do marry for love. Odds are you and your former spouse did too.
So then why is reading this sonnet so painful to so many people going through divorce? I believe it’s because we forget what love is and assume that because we’re divorced or divorcing that we must not know what it is.
I believe that love is something that extends beyond the romantic type that is most often associated with Valentine’s Day. We’re surrounded by love every day. If instead of getting caught up in the chaos and confusion of divorce along with the daily grind of making a living and meeting our responsibilities we could focus for just a few minutes on the beauty all around we would experience love. Or maybe you can focus on yourself for just a few minutes, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to breathe slowly and deeply, you’ll experience love. Or maybe seeing the joy in your child’s face when they see you will remind you of the love you’re blessed with despite divorce.
I think that the key to experiencing love (I’m not talking about the romantic kind here) is being able to freely give it. But you know, I can get so caught up in daily living that I often forget to express the love I have for my friends and family. I know I’m not the only one who forgets. I know that sometimes it can be difficult to express love when you’re struggling with the repercussions of divorce, but I also know it’s vital to making it through divorce and moving on with your life. That’s why believe you can use this Valentine’s Day as a gentle reminder that we each have the opportunity to tell the people (and animals) we love how much we truly do love them. And the best part is that you’ll usually hear how much you’re loved in return.
Who will you say “I love you” to this Valentine’s Day?
Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:
Seriously, who is on your list of needing to get a Valentine from you? Yeah, it’s different than when we were in first grade and gave one to everyone in our class. It’s also different from when you were married and knew who you had to get a Valentine for. These days, you get to make your own list of those folks you love.
A Valentine isn’t necessarily a card. A Valentine can be a quick email saying “hi, I’m thinking about you”, a call, a text, a bouquet of roses, a conversation, a hug, a special event or, yes, even a card. It’s not so important how you tell someone you love them as it is that you simply tell them.
Have fun. I sure hope you have fun letting your friends and family know you love them. To me, that’s the beauty of Valentine’s Day – a whole day set aside to let others know you enjoy your relationship with them.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a private consultation with me.
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