First of all, allow me to apologize for the long hiatus. I occasionally get my feet tangled up spiritually and my writing discipline is the first thing to fall apart. I think my head is back together now, and I know my heart is so, pressing on. I just have a few more posts on marriage and then we will be off to another subject.
Now remember, I am talking specifically about a Christian viewpoint on marriage so I will still be building on that ethical system. I believe that it is a good system, even the best, and that anyone should be able to approximate these concepts even if they are not yet inclined towards a life in Christ.
There is a single base ethic in Christianity and therefore, a single base ethic in Christian marriage. It is love.
The problem is about how we define love. I don’t mean ‘in love’ in the classic sense. If you enter into marriage thinking that the giddy ‘in love’ thing will carry you, you are most likely mistaken. I know very few people who have managed to make that initial stage of googly eyes and dewy, honey-dipped sweetness last for longer than a few years. The fact is that what we think of as being ‘in love’ is largely about fascination, hormones and emotions. It’s generally selfish (about how I feel) and temporary. Uh oh, I hear some of you romantics getting edgy. Calm down, I’m a romantic myself. For most people, however, that kind of love is not enough by itself to sustain us through the tribulations of a lifetime together. When a husband or wife looks at their partner of 10 plus years and says, “I don’t love you, anymore” we shake our heads in disbelief. But what’s happened is that the wrong kind of love was the basis of their relationship, and it faded, because it does.
Look, one of the greatest disconnects in my marriage is what Karin and I call the Gomez-Herman factor. When we were kids we both watched our share of old sitcoms from the sixities. There were two that were similar yet distinctly different from each other. The Addams Family, and The Munsters. Now I am an Addams man and my wife loved the Munsters. You may think this is nothing but consider the effect on our viewpoints of marriage. I like Gomez and Morticia. I dig the way Morticia just says a word and Gomez is in full pursuit. I love the highly romantic theatrical quality of it. Karin, on the other hand, loves the more down to earth relationship of Herman and Lily. She likes the domestic bliss that they live in and the simple ways they keep love alive. She really like the way Lily adores Herman just the way he is, and protects him, and finds him so funny. Okay, do you see the problem? I come in from a day at work and see my beautiful wife in the kitchen and I’m thinking, “Cara Mia!”
She sees me coming home and is thinking….
But that’s okay because in the end that’s not what makes a marriage. The house paint is not the home. And, because it’s house paint, it can be applied as necessary! Romance is awesome, but it’s false and that’s good because it can be reproduced as necessary. Love is real and must be chosen every day.
See, the Bible makes it clear that love is about sacrifice and putting the other person first. Marriage, as we have already ascertained, only works really well when you place your spouse ahead of yourself in your heart and mind. If you’re looking to marry, you should find someone you want to give yourself for.
This kind of love, that we choose to think and act upon rather than fall into, is the divine, unconditional love that the Greeks called Agape. It is the basic ethic of Christianity. It tells us to speak the truth in love. It is presupposed by the Golden Rule. It turns the other cheek and walks the extra mile. It is different in every situation, not because it is a situational ethic, but because it is an ethic that adapts and holds an answer for every situation. It is the summation of the Word of God and the heart of the Gospel. The first thing you must do to make your marriage work is to choose to love your partner with a real and unconditional love.
3 thoughts on “Marriage, Making it Work: The Basic Building Block”
Question…. is it possible to love someone to that extent before you are married? Or @ least to know for sure before life test your relationship? Or is this the kind of love that grows deeper each time you chose?
Well, that kind of love is not limited to marriage so I would have to say yes. However, intimacy brings more and more choices in a deep relationship like marriage so I think that it would grow deeper every time you choose to love anyway, or forgive, or compromise, or ‘get over it,’ or come back and try again.
The only thing I am not factoring in is how hard our hearts can get when we’ve been hurt a great many times; or when we choose to love and love and the other party chooses to take and take. Then I am reminded of William Butler Yeats poem, Easter 1916 where he writes, “Too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart.” Then it’s up to God to miraculously enfold us in His love so we can choose to love again.
I think we are always tested in our love, D, in and out of marriage, because we think we understand it and it is so central to our lives. The Spirit really wants us to get it right.
Thanks. I love you.