With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what do you think of when you hear the word “love?” Is it romance and knights on white horses and living happily ever after?
Or, as the teapot in “Beauty and the Beast” put it, “Flowers and chocolates and promises you don’t intend to keep?”
There’s nothing wrong with red roses and passionate feelings, but our culture has lost sight of the bigger picture when it comes to love.
To regain some perspective, it’s wise for us to look to older couples who have walked the walk for a few decades.
Last weekend, Scott and I flew to California to join the celebration of his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Three years ago, we celebrated the same mile marker for my folks, too.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around six decades of married life, isn’t it? Sixty-plus years of “for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse; in sickness and in health.”
Makes you wonder how they did it.
That’s because we’ve lost our moorings when it comes to love. We have become a narcissistic, feelings-first culture. We are too ready to discard relationships if things don’t go our way.
We’ve become more idealistic about love than ever –yet also more cynical. That’s a bad combination.
In light of our faulty cultural paradigm, what can we learn from couples who said “I do” six decades ago — and then actually did it?
- Love includes feelings, but is not based on them. Over the long haul, feelings come and go. Affection rises and falls like waves on the beach. The experienced lover knows that feelings will return in time as you stick to your commitment.
- Love is a choice, not a magical state of being. While it’s true that there is a mysterious chemical attraction between lovers, wise lovers know this is just the icing on the cake — not the full meal deal.
- Love is about making a commitment and acting on it — again and again and again. It’s not rocket science. It’s not fairy dust. It’s simply a matter of staying in the trenches together.
- Love leads to personal happiness, but not by putting personal happiness first. Americans are all about the pursuit of happiness. The irony is, satisfaction and joy are byproducts of putting others first, while chasing your own happiness leads to discontentment and frustration.
- Love is based on trust; therefore, love is willing to take risks. You don’t go into marriage with a prenuptial agreement. You don’t hide money in a private account. You don’t entertain the notion that, if things don’t work out, you can always file for divorce. Nope. Real love means you go all in.
- Love is based on a greater reality. Scott and I learned the importance of faith in Christ from our parents. Their marriages are founded on something much bigger than the feelings and circumstances that originally drew them together. Faith in God, who ordained marriage in the first place, has grounded their love and kept it strong.
In A Loving Life, Paul Miller explains that authenticity does not mean acting on our feelings.
“In fact, true authenticity means I maintain a trust through thick and thin…When that happens, I am on my way to maturity, to becoming a seasoned pilgrim of love.”
I’m so grateful that our parents are among those seasoned pilgrims. I hope we build well on the example they’ve set, and pass on a legacy of love to our children and grandchildren.
Real love — the kind that isn’t just a feeling — lasts a lifetime.
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