Tag Archives: agape love

Lifetime Marriage: A Reasonable Expectation or Crazy Talk?

1-1203879082HMCpAmong never-marrieds aged 20 to 30 who were surveyed recently, 87% said “I want a marriage that will last a lifetime.” Many in Gen Y have seen their parents divorce and hope to avoid that path. Unfortunately a desire to have a lasting marriage doesn’t mean they have the skills to achieve it, especially as conflict and adversity enter their lives.

A 1995 Monitoring the Future survey of teens found most planned to get married and felt marriage was important, but they were pessimistic about their ability to maintain a lifelong marriage and saw few positive examples of marriage.

This brings us back to the subject of agape or unconditional love  (discussed in a previous post). Many people of faith refer to this type of marriage as a “covenant marriage” and view marriage as a sacred vow rather than a hopeful agreement based on positive life occurrences. Is a lifetime marriage a crazy ideal that few people can hope for, or is it reasonable that two normal, committed people can achieve?

Advocates for a permanent marriage say it is based on commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice, and putting the other person’s needs above their own. This may seem like a way to set yourself up to be taken advantage of. After all, if you could get your way, wouldn’t you do less work and make special requests all day long? (Perhaps there are some spouses who would, but that rolls into the topic of setting expectations and knowing your partner well before marriage. Yes, many people need a better screening process for potential mates.)

For the happily married couples I have interviewed, the opposite tends to occur. Many of them have learned a secret, what I call the “paradox of giving.” The more one person chooses to give, the more the other person desires to please his or her spouse, creating a cycle of giving. Instead of keeping track and waiting to get something back every time they give, they just do their best at being giving, loving people, and their spouse does the same. They’re not perfect, but they make a daily effort.

Everyone has heard the phrase “it is in giving that we receive,” but few live it out.  The immature couple focused on their individual needs and wants never experiences this paradox and never finds anyone who can meet every desire and expectation they have. The mature couple at least has a willingness to try to please one other. The result, at least for many I have met, is that they both end up feeling very satisfied and happy in their relationship.

Lonely or sad people are often told to reach out to help someone else in need as a way to boost their spirits. Most of us feel good when we help someone else, especially as a secret or a surprise. Apply a little of this feel-good medicine to your marriage. Do something nice without the other person even knowing. If you can’t think of something nice to do, ask, “How can I help you today?” Start the giving cycle. Don’t wait for the good to be returned.

So what do you think–is a lifetime married to the same person reasonable or does it sound like crazy talk?

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Is Love a Decision or a Feeling?

What does the word “love” evoke in your mind? Is it your love affair with cheesecake or warm chocolate pudding? Or an image of you and your sweetie having an afternoon picnic? When you were a child, you probably loved your teddy bear or your parents. As you grow older, your understanding of love should grow and evolve, just like your understanding of everything else. Too often, we have a shallow understanding of love, concluding as long as two people make each other happy, that’s love.

Love has lots of definitions. The most common are 1) a deep feeling of affection or attachment, 2) sexual affection or 3) a strong liking or predilection for something.

I would suggest that none of these definitions encompasses what mature love involves. In my interviews with long-time married couples, their view of love is not the fly-by-night romantic view. You might be surprised to learn the romance and affection is still there even for older couples, but there is something much more, something that happened along the way to make the love richer and more permanent.

What these mature couples have developed is a view that love is an action—a decision—not a feeling. The fact that they have been married a long time doesn’t mean they didn’t face serious obstacles. What it means is that they found a way through the obstacles. They didn’t always feel loving toward one another, but they decided to love anyway. One couple who faced tremendous difficulties including a marital affair early in their marriage, talked about how this decision to love one another changed their perspective. They found that if they led with loving actions, their feelings soon followed. In other words, after they started acting lovingly, they felt more in love. They transformed their entire marriage more than 30 years ago to an extraordinarily loving one that continues today.

Anyone who has children knows that children don’t always act in ways that deserve love, but good parents decide to love them anyway. You can’t say you love your children while you neglect them. Similarly, you can’t say you love your spouse if you neglect him or her and refuse to act in a loving manner when your spouse doesn’t “deserve” it. For example, if your spouse is having a bad day, do you contribute to it, or do you provide encouragement? If you’re having an argument, do you sometimes choose to give in, or do you dig in your heels?

The bottom line is that you have to decide whom to love and how to love. Use your behavior and choices to lead your feelings, rather than allowing your daily feelings to determine your behavior. That’s mature love.

 

To love is to choose.–Joseph Roux