Reflections on love
I’m not a monk because I have something against love, or marriage. It’s a great thing to be in love, or get married. For a marriage, you’ve got to know what you’re getting yourself into, and although love is spontaneous and not planned like a marriage – you’ve still got to know what you’re getting yourself into!
I’ve heard lots of things about “How to spice up your marriage…” and “How to rekindle the extinguished fire..” and all that sort of stuff. I think it is as unrealistic as it can get. There are different phases that one goes through in their loving dealings with someone, and it is almost unintelligent to try and hold on to a phase that has passed.
In the initial stages of a relationship, there is affection, passion, longing, anxiety, jealousy, desire, to name but a few emotions. We all know this stuff. Now the reality is this:
Let’s say boy likes girl. He goes through all the lovey-dovey stuff in his head and creates a new girl who looks exactly like the one he loves, but has all the qualities that he wants in her (regardless of whether she actually does or not). This is the girl he loves, not the real one. When he gets married, he slowly realises that the real girl is different to the one he imagined. Oops. But it’s not a problem. Everyone goes through this. However, the sooner he gets over his phantasmagoria and accepts reality, the better it is for a marriage.
A marriage requires commitment, steadiness, selflessness, intelligence, sacrifice, to name but a few qualities. We all know this stuff too. Except that they’re different from the ones he had when he was in love.
So some things do slow down a little bit. You’ve gone past that phase and entered a new one. So just accept it. You don’t have to have sex four times a day to be happy. Or text each other 8 million times.
Now, before I quote a passage by C.S. Lewis here, I’m going to do my monk thing and tell you that what’s not going to make you happy is this – be married, have lots of sex, babies, money, house, holidays, job. Not that you didn’t know it already, but someone’s got to say it! Every phase of our life is meant to help us get closer and deeper to the reality that we’re spiritual beings and crave spiritual love. Only this understanding will make us experience a spiritual reality that will make us happy. Now here’s C.S. Lewis for you:
Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling.
Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go.
And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?
But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
Let me know what you think!