Love is not all you need
Why do the rates of divorce seem just as high in Christian marriages?
My mom wondered this out loud to me after our extended family went through another devastating divorce. She couldn't understand how two people who promised their lives to following after Christ and each other would give up.
There are several people so near and dear to my heart that have gone through times that are nothing short of devastating, and ultimately, has ruined their marriage. There are a number of life shattering reasons that lead to a divorce, and sometimes, it isn't black and white thing. But most of the time, it is.
We worship the feeling of love in our society.
99% of movies are centered on a love story. There are countless TV shows that climax when two characters fall into passionate love. We throw bridal showers and bachelorette parties and engagement parties and wedding parties. We either drool over Instagram pictures of couples deep in love or we throw our phones across the room in frustration because we don’t have that.
Our inner most yearnings are focused on chasing down the euphoric high of feeling in love. We crave the feeling of desiring and of being desired. That burning-fireworks-butterflies-tingling palms-lotsofemojisineverytext- type love. It takes a hold of us until we are prisoners, unable to stop dreaming about it. We run after it until it’s ours, and when it IS ours, we hold tight because we never want to let the feeling go.
But what happens when it does? When your stomach doesn’t ride a mile high roller coaster every time your spouse walks in the door?When those butterflies fly away?
Because the thing about butterflies is that they always fly away.
Marriage should never be founded on a feeling that is fluid. The euphoria of falling in love is the spark that set the fire, but a fire takes more than a spark to burn.
Just because you fall in love with someone, doesn’t mean that you should marry them. Because I promise you, there will be a time in your marriage (or two, or three, or four…) that you aren’t in love with them anymore. It may only be for a few hours, or it may last for a week. I don’t doubt that there are whole seasons that the feeling of “being in love” is hidden away, and maybe you won’t glimpse it at all for what seems like eternity.
And when that happens, your marriage will fall apart if you let it.
I was never afraid of divorce until I got married. It wasn’t the person I married (Cal’s name literally means devotion. Needless to say, he is the most committed person I’ve ever met), nor was it any circumstance that we faced saying “I do” that caused these feelings of fear to stir.
But making a covenant before God and our closest community makes you realize the weight of such a promise, and the lengths that Satan will try and take what is ours away from us. I highly doubt most people don’t head into marriage with the intent of divorce, and I truly believe that most couples don’t expect that level of devastation to hit their marriage.
And this is what makes me all the more weary.
It’s when we become slack or numb or indifferent or lukewarm in our marriages that the enemy has the chance to worm his way in.
I’m not advocating for fear to infest our marriages, nor am I implying that married couples don’t have a say in the matter. But I also know that the fight for a healthy marriage is a whole lot harder when the fire burns low.
The honest truth is this: love is NOT all we need. In fact, being in love is not even necessary to stay married. Obviously, we tend to marry the ones we are in love with, but sometimes that’s not the reason we stay married.
The root of falling in love is self-seeking. Why else do we love love? Because it makes us feel good. It’s not wrong to enjoy feeling good, but it should never be the end goal. It’s this expectation that gives Satan a foothold into our marriages.
On the other side of the coin, the root of all Love, in a biblical sense, is selflessness. And at the very foundation of selflessness, commitment is found. The decision to persevere through the storm, especially when the wind threatens to dismantle you doesn’t feel good. Selflessness rarely does. But it does allow us to weather the storm. And usually after the storm, the sun starts to peek out from the clouds, and it is then that we are may be given a flicker of hope in the form of a spark.
Perseverance holds love on her back. Without the resolution to stay committed, the euphoric feeling of being in love crumbles as soon as your husband stinks up the bedroom one one too many times (I cried one time because Cal wouldn’t stop dropping stink bombs. That’s real life for ya) or as soon as your wife forgets to flush the toilet when Aunt Flo is visiting.
And when life hits you hard in the gut, from miscarriage or infidelity or struggles with pornography or family death or any other heart shattering events, the feeling of love often flees when our hearts bleed.
When love seemingly vanishes, we are left to sit in the discomfort of continuing to put the other first.
Don’t misread, now. Cal and I are very much in love. Just not all the time. We got married because we fell in love (also because Cal is secretly hilarious and deeply loves Jesus). We are staying married because for better or for worse, we are not swerving from the road we’re on. It’s not as pretty as it sounds, and it’s definitely not as romantic as words may make it out to be. It’s getting up every. single. morning and deciding to keep on keepin’ on. No matter the sin one of us may struggle with. No matter the questions that can creep into our minds after a fight. No matter if we feel tempted with attraction to another. No matter if we are too tired to have sex because the baby hasn’t stopped crying for 6 months. No matter if our hearts try to lie their way out of the promise. No matter if we stop feelin’ it.
Falling in love isn’t a choice. Staying in love is.