Monday, August 8, 2016

12 Principles That Can Make or Break the Marriage Relationship: No. 1 – Love

Romance vs. Reality
I remember the preacher at my sister’s wedding saying some weird stuff about love. At the time, I remember thinking that he had completely stripped the romance from it. He actually said love was not a feel-good emotion.

Yes it is, I thought.

Then he said love wasn’t something you fall into or out of.

Yes you do, I thought.

This preacher was flying in the face of thousands of movies and television shows that had informed my views on the subject at the time. I had also had at least a dozen infatuations by then, so I knew stuff. I think I was 17. How could I know more about love than this old preacher? What was he talking about? Why was he doing a wedding of all things? He was horrible at it.

Then, I thought, oh, he must never have been in love. Just when I thought that, he said something that stuck with me ever since.

“Love is a decision,” he said.  

That still strikes me decades later. Love may be a short-lived emotion, but you can keep love by deciding on it. The decisive piece of love is what sustains the emotion when the feeling of it has drifted off. That’s important to understand if you ever think to undertake something like marriage.

​​Being a Brat

I got a clue about how this would work in our marriage very early on—when my husband proposed to me in the parking lot of Village Inn. He was always a hopeless romantic. I think he said something like, “Do you want to get married or something?”

Of course, I was swept off my feet with such a beautiful and grand romantic gesture. But I was also unsure of his thoughts. I had some small doubts. His effortless question on such a large decision appeared, well, effortless. Had he put any thought into this proposal? Also, those romantic movies were still playing in the back of my mind and I wanted to know how he felt. I wanted a glimpse of the depth of his passion. So I said, “I don’t know.” I also told him that is not really the way you’re supposed to propose.

Whenever I tell that story people usually turn on me and feel sorry for my husband. I come off as a brat. And he comes off as just a lumbering oaf. Doesn’t matter. Point is he kept asking and my answer went from “I don’t know,” to “maybe,” to “yes.” I’m sure this multiple proposal process meant that he wasn’t feeling it as much as he was deciding to love me.

I mean, to be fair, his second proposal was beautiful. He pulled the car over to the side of a mountain road and went out in the ditch and picked a handful of wildflowers; red-orange Indian paintbrush and some purple ones. He knelt down at the side of the car and went with the classic, “Will you marry me?”

I won’t tell you what I said that time. You’ll hate me. I hate me. Point is that his determination proved to me early on that he would stick.

Who knew that what turned out to sweep me off my feet wasn’t his grand gestures, or lack thereof, but the sheer stickiness of us and the determination and perseverance that kept him coming back to propose again and again, until I finally said yes the third time. I know. I’m a brat. And you would have married him the first time. I just wanted a ring. Beyonce’s words resonate with me, “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.”

Anyway, however rocky the proposal went, we eventually started our lifelong three-legged race. Sometimes we find our stride together and sometimes our rhythm is lost and we fall on our faces. What is it that binds us together at the ankles? It’s Velcro. I mean love.

It’s a feeling that comes in waves and seasons, and a decision that lasts for years and years. The love we share is important. It’s like a bond between old friends. It’s like pie at Village Inn. It’s a field of wildflowers. It’s a ring on my finger reminding me of eternity. All of those things together make up the stuff that brings emotion to our decision. They’re intertwined. We decided to love each other.

I like 1 Peter 4:8, which says, “Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

I like the idea that love takes maintenance. I like the idea that it covers over mistakes. I like that it’s above all.

We feel love for each other. We choose to love each other even when we don’t. Love surrounds us sometimes in a warm haze of sensation that makes my insides wobbly. But I also know that when the fog lifts, which it does a lot, the foundational decision is still there. It’s love.

Rebecca Barnes is the director of curriculum for Summit Kids Ministry at Flatirons. She’s been married to Ron Barnes almost 25 years and has three daughters. Her oldest daughter will be getting married this year, so she’s been thinking a lot about marriage lately.

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