Expect to Stay in Love

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 @ 2:42 PM

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  – I Corinthians 13:4-8

The statistics on marriage state that the average first time marriage in the US lasts about 8 years. Let’s think about that for a minute. Who would buy a house that was expected to last only 8 years? Or who would invest in a company that was expected to last only 8 years? As a culture, we seem to have higher expectations for houses and business than we do for important relationships like marriage. A major reason cited for this alarming statistic is “we fell out of love.”

One of the reasons people “fall out of love” is that they were not really ‘in love” in the first place. What they had was infatuation, which is very different than love but very easily confused. It’s like the difference between gold and pyrite, otherwise known as “fool’s gold.” Gold is very valuable and pyrite is not. With gold, you can make rings, necklaces and all sorts of other beautiful things. Our wedding bands are gold and have lasted 31 years and will outlast us. On the other hand, there is little value in pyrite. It looks like gold, shimmers like gold, but its not really gold. Just as pyrite is deceptive, so is infatuation. It looks like love and feels like love,but it’s not. Just as jewelry made with pirate won’t last, marriages built on infatuation do not endure.

Infatuation is that stage in a relationship where you think the other person is perfect, and you do not see their flaws. You feel wonderful just being around them and can’t wait to see them again. Thoughts of this person keep you up at night and make you feel happy all over. Infatuation causes the brain to be flooded with dopamine which creates the euphoric feelings of love. Many marriages do not last past the 8 year mark because they do not make the transition from infatuation to true love. This necessary transition takes maturity and hard work. Our marriage was initially based upon infatuation, and by the time the 8 year mark hit, we had a great deal of stress that did not exist when the infatuation began. We had careers, bills to pay, two kids and a mortgage. Infatuation cannot stand this type of pressure, but love can. In order for our relationship to go from infatuation to true love and thrive, we had to get lots of help and take a more spiritual approach.

Of course it’s fun to see infatuation when a couple is dating; we love to see couples who are very happy together. But we like it even more when they are truly in love.

Love, as you have discovered by now, is a confusing concept. What most people do not understand is that love is a feeling and also a choice. The English language has many strengths, but explaining love is not one of them. English limits us with one word to describe our affection for our favorite food and our spouse. The Greek language, on the other hand, has 4 different words for different types of love. A healthy marriage will haveeros, the physical attraction and sex, and phileo, which is friendship. But for a marriage to be healthy, vibrant and strong enough to endure the pressures of life, it must have agape, which is unconditional love.

So many marriages fail because the marriage is based upon the condition that they live up to each others expectations. Individually, they will focus on getting their own needs met rather than meeting the needs of their spouse. Agape love is not about performance and what the other person does for you; it is selfless and focuses on meeting and understanding your spouse’s needs. Agape love is the type of love God has for us; it is giving and sacrificial. Agape love is the type of love God calls us to have when He says to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no good future in a selfish type of love.

So, if you want to increase the quality of your marriage and the chances of it lasting “till death to us part,” you need to learn how to have agapelove. As God says in I Corinthians 13, “love never fails.”

If your marriage lacks this type of love, seek professional help from a counselor, your church, or one of the many good books on marriage. We would not be writing this if we did not learn the value of unconditional love. After 31 years, we have no regrets for the changes we made to get to this point and look forward to many more years together as our love continues to grow.

Monte Drenner, LMHC, CAP