I first met my wife in high school. I was a senior, she was a junior, and we were seven lockers apart. We met. We talked… a LOT. We fell in love.
That phrase is actually a pretty good descriptor of what often happens when a guy and a girl first start dating. There’s a strange mix of chemicals in the brain that give us a sense of euphoria. It’s a drug, and the high lasts, according to researchers, eighteen months or so.
During that first period of any serious romantic relationship where both parties share mutual feelings of being in love with each other, there are lots of notes and phone calls and dates spent just driving and talking and staring at each other a lot. Our friends make fun of us as they watch our personalities and preferences bend a bit to impress and woo our potential life mate.
We fall. It’s almost (though not entirely) uncontrollable. Some call it infatuation, but it’s not entirely a bad thing. It’s how God made you.
God wants you to fall in love with the person you’ll wind up spending the rest of your life with. But he also wants your love to grow into something solid and timeless – something more steady and reliable than mere human emotion.
In time, the notes and phone calls usually get shorter. If infatuation – that euphoric chemical high or brain has been enjoying – is our only foundation, the “love” will start to fade (and to clarify, it isn’t really love if it fades).
Without love, we revert to our self-occupied single mentality. Sometimes there’s a painful tearing away and a sense of loss over the time invested into a relationship that didn’t make it. Sometimes, we forge ahead out of a sense of commitment or an avoidance of conflict.
Sometimes people stay married, but not truly in love anymore for years or decades without ever progressing and maturing to something deeper, better, and more unshakeable than those initial emotional highs. We’ll still say we’re in love, but when conflict and tension and suffering come, it gets harder and harder to hang in there and make it work.
I believe marriage is a divine growth opportunity. It’s our chance to grow deeper and to develop virtues that outlast any season of infatuation. What started as a couple falling in love can become a couple rooted in love.
How do you get there? How do you go deeper and develop something more lasting and solid than mere emotion? Paul said it best…
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
– Ephesians 4:2 NIV
The apostle urged every believer to develop certain personal attributes all designed to take us deeper than the thrill of a season. He equipped us with virtues to last a lifetime. And he pointed out that the only real way to cultivate these character qualities is to do so in love.