If you asked 100 people what word they would most associate with Valentine’s Day, my guess is that 99 out of 100 would say, “Love” and that’s only if I were that hundredth person.
The word I propose that’s more important than love is “Cherish.” Why do I think so?
Because I believe we have more control over cherishing someone than in loving someone. That is, we can more easily choose to cherish a person than to love a person.
Love is an emotion that for the most part comes over us and then, painfully and all too often, leaves us. Love seems to choose us more than we choose it. This wild uncontrolled aspect of love is captured by terms such as “lovestruck” and images like cupid’s arrow striking its target the heart, and it accounts for such pop song titles as “Victim of love.”
Further, both the “winners” and “losers” of this self-imposed competition against others’ worth or against some ideal – whether self-imposed or imposed by “society” – are in danger of continued and even deepened self-absorption and self-evaluation.
To be blunt – this is a losing strategy. Really there are no winners here.
I’m certainly 100% for love. Who isn’t?! But I believe that cherishing is often more foundational than loving; that is, love follows and is sustained by acts of cherishing. Often we can’t choose to love or not to love. But we can choose to cherish or not to cherish.
When we first meet someone and feel a romantic and physical attraction toward that person, we are under a spell; we are lovestruck. Acts of cherishing may not be that important in that first phase of attraction. It almost doesn’t matter how our beloved acts; even foolish or thoughtless acts of that person may simply add to their uniqueness, their mystique.
But for anyone in a long-term sustained relationship, those initial intense feelings of love and lust dissipate. Recall the children’s song lyrics, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby carriage.” And, of course, then come the years of child rearing with its sleepless nights, chauffeuring days, and, eventually, the years of surly interactions with one’s teenagers.
What sustains a couple after those bright multi-colored pools of love begin to chill and turn murky?
To the rescue comes cherishing. Think of it as a habit of acting in a certain way backed up with a certain intention. Here are some dictionary definitions of “to cherish” to get your thoughts flowing: “to protect and care (for someone) lovingly.” And, “to keep or cultivate with care and affection.” And, “to treat with affection and tenderness.”
I think one reason “cherish” doesn’t get its due is because it has no noun form – I propose cherishment.
So, my advice to me and to you is, let’s remember to cherish our loved ones, that is, let’s put more acts of cherishment into our days on Valentine’s Day and every day.
Until next time,
“If you truly love someone, you will cherish what they despise most about themselves.”
– Deborah Harkness