Marriage And Love
I write this firstly as a letter to my sweet, beloved wife, to express to her my thoughts on the matter of marriage and love, and to reassure her of how seriously I take these things. Secondly I write this as an open letter to the world at large, in order to perhaps shed some perspective on this important matter in a time of great controversy and endless heart break.
First I want to quote C. S. Lewis, a philosopher and theologian I greatly admire. In his book,Mere Christianity, he expresses a view on marriage and love that falls close to my own in a lot of ways. Quoting part of his chapter about marriage, he says…
Those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy. The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.
And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry. But what, it may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound, social reasons; to provide a home for their children, to protect the woman (who has probably sacrificed or damaged her own career by getting married) from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her. But there is also another reason of which I am very sure…
No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centeredness. But, as I said before, “the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.” Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last, but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
As I said, this is quite close in many regards to how I feel regarding the subject. However, I would add a few thoughts. I view this “being in love” Lewis talks about as the same thing as that quieter love Lewis talks about. Rather than losing one and settling with the other, it simply has a “newness” or “freshness” to it. It’s something different, something we haven’t quite had before. It’s a change from our former condition, or at the least a change of circumstances. But that underlying love never has to disappear. It can and should be worked at and continually fortified and strengthened, even though that “newness” will wear off. Over time, and with a focus on further improving that emotional connection and developing greater unity, that love will cement itself in place, though it will inevitably feel quieter and gentler.
Marriage is a big step in life, and ought to be taken quite seriously. I have always supported the concept of becoming friends first, and developing those initial romantic feelings and connections later. After all, your eventual spouse should be your strongest and closest friend through the rest of your life. If you can become true, loving, caring, connected friends, I believe any little conflicts can be resolved through the development of a relationship and even through the further development that happens throughout the rest of your married lives. You don’t fully unify right off. It seems there will unavoidably be differences, small conflicts, and things that bug each of you about the other. Over time you learn those things about your partner, and you learn things about yourself. You work on understanding one another, compromising, and working through things together. But a small conflict is never cause to abandon love or destroy a marriage. As a very inspired man, Thomas S. Monson, once said: “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” We simply don’t have to let a small difference grow to destroy the beautiful love we start a marriage or relationship with. When a thing or a conflict becomes more important to us than that person that should be of utmost importance to us, we begin to build a wedge that pushes our partner away and can destroy our relationship entirely if we let it. People are far more important than things or small conflicts. We have to keep our perspective in check and focus on those things that are truly important.
Honesty is a key part of this love and marriage, as C. S. Lewis so keenly points out. Both with ourselves and with our spouse, honesty is a fundamental building block of a strong relationship. When we are married, at least in the Christian sense, we make promises to be true and faithful to the person we are uniting ourselves with. We covenant before God, our family, our friends, our spouse, and ourselves to love, cherish, care for, and remain strictly and singly faithful in all ways to our companion for the rest of our lives. Not just for a few weeks or years, not until the next person comes along, not until we decide we’re “bored” or have a fight, but for the rest of mortality. To give up on that love is a sad and dishonest thing to do.
Now, there are cases where I wouldn’t blame a person, and perhaps may support them for choosing to end their marriage. If a spouse commits infidelity and is unwilling to correct their extreme wrongdoing and mold their characters into more honest and completely faithful ones, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the wronged spouse to separate themselves. In cases of extreme violence and abuse, where the guilty spouse is unwilling to correct their behavior, I also feel supportive of severance. But in the overwhelming majority of divorce cases I feel marriage is taken far too lightly and leaving is gone to as an easy cop-out, when that mocks the very foundation of what marriage is, or at least what it ought to be.
One of the most important things some people don’t realize is that marriage is not founded on sex. Sure, intercourse is an amazing and wonderful tool given for the dual purposes of creating life and strengthening emotional connection and unity. It promotes happiness and healthiness. But when it becomes our fixation, or when we substitute unadulterated lust for love, our relationship and happiness starts to decay. Lust is the great nemesis of true, lasting love. When we found a relationship on lust, and fail to establish or maintain that true, beautiful, selfless love, we are setting ourselves up for misery and failure.
I feel very strongly that differences can about always be resolved in marriage. I believe full-heartedly in our ability to change, if we let ourselves. If there happens to be some habits or details that are preventing our marriage from being all that it can be (even if it’s a difference of “love language” or some other mannerism or trait), I believe the willing couple can work together to overcome any struggle, however great or small. Communication, humility, and commitment are key. If you don’t understand your spouses love language, talk about it, learn it, and use it. Be willing to change and become better and more unified, even if that means extra effort, learning new things, or adjusting something for the better. If your spouse can improve, don’t be afraid to bring it up. Sometimes communication can be the whole difference between a happy, loving, unified marriage, and a decaying, divorce-bound marriage. It can be hard at times, but marriage is meant to come with it’s struggles. Pushing through hardship as a couple can bring you closer together.
Marriage and real love can be the most wonderful thing in the world. They take a lot of hard work and dedication, but they can bring some of the greatest happiness to be found in this mortal life. The blessings that it brings far exceed any sacrifice or struggle required to find it and build it into all that it is capable of being. Marriage doesn’t have to lose it’s love. If you realize something is lacking, fight to bring it back or fix it. Fight to become one, in that biblical sense of connection and unity. Fix whatever may be causing the disturbance, but don’t use a loss of love or boredom as an excuse to abandon your promises and discredit yourself as an honest person.
I haven’t been entirely comprehensive, but I feel strongly about what I have talked about. There is a lot to marriage. It’s no simple matter, and it takes one heck of a lot of work. But it’s the same with anything that’s worth doing in life. Though things may get hard at times, that’s no excuse to give up. If anything, that’s cause to put more effort and time into it and make it all that it can be.
To my beautiful, amazing, beloved wife, do know that I plan to exemplify these principles throughout our marriage. I full-heartedly believe in them, though I may not be perfect in everything I’ve discussed yet. Marriage to me is a promise to fight for us for the rest of mortality. The view I have on love and marriage means that I will never leave you because things get hard. It means that I will always fight to live the commitments I made on our wedding day. When I said “I do”, I meant it. My love for you will never expire. It will never pivot on some silly quarrel or difference to be figured out. Our marriage, as far as I am concerned, is permanent. It will never, no matter what hardships may come, be something to give up on. We may yet have things to learn about each other, or compromises to find, but the beauty of it is that with each of those things, we can become even closer to one another. They don’t have to drive us apart. I won’t let them. We can and will love each other unceasingly. And beyond that, I plan for our love and companionship to last throughout all eternity.