February 11, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Marriage is LOVE, not just a piece of paper

Cynthia Dewes“Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage,” the song says. That’s my opinion, too.

Real love should lead to marriage, which is the Real Thing as opposed to shacking up, playing house or serial fornication.

Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity to consider the essence of love, especially as it occurs in marriage. It is indeed a many-splendored thing, as another song proclaims, and sometimes it can be sentimental, sweet, warm and all those other gooey adjectives we read on the greeting cards. But it’s so much more than that.

Maybe we should begin by saying what love is not. It’s not just the sweaty desire of lust, although married love involves an initial feeling of physical attraction, the proverbial gleam in the eye.

In that case, it’s the biological necessity which God has so cleverly imbued in men and women as pleasure in order to keep the human race going—which is one of the main reasons why a committed homosexual relationship is not a marriage. But I digress.

Wonderful as it is, physical passion in marriage can be limited eventually by age or health, and those who mistakenly marry only for that reason can be disappointed. Seriously disappointed—as in divorce. The expectation that marriage should last until death used to make lovers more careful in choosing their partners, but not always. After all, free will can lead to bad choices.

It seems to me that to love in a marriage takes considerable hard-headed thought before popping, or answering, the question. While still in the throes of early passion, we need to pause to consider the long-range predictors of success. Do we enjoy being with this person for long periods of time even if we’re not smooching? Do we share some interests, and can we tolerate the ones that we don’t? Do we share a sense of humor and find each other fun?

Can we imagine still having something to talk about when we have been together for 50 years? Most importantly, do we share the same values? Married love is certainly not for martyrs and masochists. It should feel good and make us happy more often than not. It should carry us through the hard times coming from outside, and through the times we are not in sync with each other about a child’s behavior or a career change or whatever.

Love will help us support each other when we are grieving, and encourage each other when we are doubtful. It enables us to really listen to what the other is saying in words, actions or body language, and to respond appropriately. It will make us present to each other always, alone or apart.

Love will help us persevere through our own or the other’s addictions and illnesses. It will deflect rage with calm, and divert suspicion with humor and grace. It will help us both to achieve our dreams, and to find the strength to do the right thing. Unlike the movie Love Story’s idea that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” love means having to say you’re sorry a lot. And meaning it.

Scripture says the married couple of two shall become one, and that’s exactly what married love is all about. We can learn how to love this way, which is the way God loves us, by ourselves or from our parents.

And while we’re at it, we will learn how to love well in every other way—as a parent, a child, a pastor, a friend.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Love!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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