“Love, true love” as the priest in the Princess Bride proclaimed in the marriage (mawwege) ceremony. Many of us want that. There is something in us, to varying degrees that longs for that deeper connection with another. As a Christian, the reality of love can be even more piercing as we are illumed with understanding that the source of love is God. Not only does he give us the picture of what it means to love but also gives us the ability to do so.
Being in love can be a wonderful feeling. But it can also be deceiving. The real stuff of love is in the giving of it. Debra Fileta over at Relevant Magazine exhorts the readers with this article, Does Marriage Have to be Hard? concerning two things: 1) that floaty, fluttery feeling of being in love is not a sure foundation on which to base real love and 2) marriage takes commitment and the intentional choice to love. She writes;
That’s the thing I learned about the “feeling” of love—it was never meant to stand alone. It was never intended to be used as a noun: an object, a thing, a feeling, an idea. To do so is to do the concept of love a grave injustice. To do so is to reject the very definition of how God has asked us to love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The most dangerous part about the myth of falling in love is that it is based on a definition that has no sense of predictability or control. It offers no guarantees. If you can fall into it, you can surely fall out of it. It’s no wonder our country’s divorce rate hovers around 50 percent, with divorce among Christians tagging right along.
The truth is, love was never just intended to be, it was intended to do. DC Talk had it right when they wrote the song “Love Is a Verb” (or rather, “luv”). That’s the truth.
Frankly, it’s the hardest verb you will ever do. It’s a verb that requires a selflessness and altruism beyond any other experience on earth. It’s a verb that is not always felt but must always be chosen. It is a commitment to do what is right, even though the one standing before you may be entirely undeserving.
Fileta traced the tale of a young couple who ended up in tearful and frustrated in her office just after 9 months of marriage. They had to make the transition from a reliance of being in love and actually doing it. The result? Their mutual commitment to love even when they didn’t feel like eventually transformed into something more meaningful and rewarding.
Well that sounds like good stuff, doesn’t it? Make the commitment and reap the reward. Naturally, other commenters chimed in echoing the same thing – yes marriage does take work. However, one comment raised to the top for me. It was real and honest and disheartening… and it hit close to home. What happens when the other person does not want to love? It’s one thing to put your heart and soul into a relationship and know that the other person is making the same commitment, even though there may be tension. But this lady’s reality is probably more common than we think. The easiest solution might be to go separate ways. But as Christians, there should be a natural reluctance to do so.
Even worse, when there is dysfunction involved that really hinders real love from happening. Steve over at Liberty for Captives talks about co-dependency. Though it is in the context of spiritual abuse, the characteristics are the same for relationships. I’ve had some of these tendencies for years though it wasn’t until after I was widowed 8 years ago ago that I gained clarity, perspective and the need to do something about it. But not before enduring years of poor choices and self-subjection to devaluation. It takes a changed perspective to love properly and not give dangerously.
The reality is not everyone who has marital strife is because they just aren’t loving enough. One-sided relationships are hard and exhausting. Throw in relational dysfunction or even emotional abuse and it give a whole new dimension to what should be a rewarding relationship. Yes, we are commended to love even our enemies. But when the one you’re with seems like an enemy that really takes a toll on a person.
I get that we can’t rely on that “being in love” feeling and real commitment takes work. But that does presuppose that both parties want it or care. When love doesn’t work mutually, it can be downright painful, frustrating and defeating. One person carrying the load by themselves may sink under the weight of it all. I can only hope that sensitivity, support and wise counsel are given liberally to the one whom this is true.