It’s true. I’m not “in love” with my wife. Of course, the key to sharing this thought is to space it far enough from my “Eulogy for Sally” blog entry; otherwise, the police tend to refer to this as motive. [As an aside, one of my favorite comments that I received after someone heard about the stuff that my wife has to put up with as part of the joy of living with me was “Sally’s going to get a big ass crown when she gets to heaven.”]
I’m just sick and tired of people who have no idea of what love is and what marriage is about. A friend of mine had his wife leave him because he no longer met her needs. That’s bullshit. [For those offended by a pastor saying that, replace the offending word with the Greek word “scubalon”. Then feel free to get offended at the New Testament since Paul uses it more often than you might think]. To leave a perfectly fine marriage, especially one with kids involved, seems like lunacy to me. It may have had its problems, but they were fixable ones. Plus what marriage doesn’t have problems?
I lay this mentality right at the metaphorical feet of the altar to one of the most destructive notions to ever attach itself to our culture. The ideal of romantic love. This notion of “romance” paints an unrealistic picture of love and relationships. On the positive side, romance, this thrill of falling “in love”, has its advantages. It blinds us to the faults of a person. After all, you’re talking about a person who’ll eventually get comfortable enough to go to the bathroom in front of you. Who’ll leave their dirty drawers all over the house. The things that you once found so endearing while you were falling “in love” will work your last nerve.
A friend of mine went so far as to call romance novels women’s pornography. He reasoned that since one of the things that pornography does is reduce women to sexual objects, romance is analogous in its objectification love. They reduce men to fantasy objects, providing their readers something that they don’t have or aren’t getting at home. In the bedroom. As part of their fulfillment.
I can’t afford to burden someone with the job of meeting my needs, emotional or otherwise. For that, I’d have to have a harem of wives and then be stuck with the following conundrum: if I can’t please one woman, what makes me think I can please a bunch?
The way I figure it, I can’t sustain the passions of romance forever, in me nor my wife, nor would I want to. It’s hot and shallow, like a brush fire, exciting and enticing, but not long term. To paraphrase the great philosopher, Chris Rock, romance won’t raise your kids, romance won’t cook for you, and romance won’t take care of you when you’re sick.
You know what? Marriage is tough. I realize this and I’ve only been at it for five years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound like I’m looking down my nose at those who end up divorced either. Sally and I almost called it quits after six months. Sure, there’s the honeymoon phase of things, but eventually you have to talk to each other. Eventually you find out that you’re both people, with quirks and failings. Eventually you have to get to the hard work of learning to live with a person just as screwed up as you. Luckily for us, we both loved Christ, re-learned what it meant to love each other, and (re-)learned the hard lessons of what it means to forgive one another.
The “she’s not meeting my needs” is the selfish brand of “love” that our culture perpetuates. That is romance in a nutshell. Love is something deeper that (should) ask different questions: am I meeting her needs? Am I being used as an instrument to bless her? That’s the sacrificial love that’s not popular, nor easily depicted, in media. I’ve had to talk to so many singles that have little idea of what it means to be married, who do think it little more than something to meet their needs. I end up wishing them luck, then tell them that the first thing that I usually hear out of married couples is that their spouse no longer meets their needs, that marriage is not what they imagined, not what they expected, and is far from fulfilling them.
“Many experts and singles agree it’s more socially acceptable to be divorced than single and never married” I’ve had friends and family that have had these “starter marriages”. Singles are waiting longer and longer before getting married. I hear some pastors rail against this, overlooking the fact that this generation has seen their parents regard for the institution. And as much as I’ve heard pastors make ridiculous statements on this, the sad truth is that the statistics for Christians who get divorced are higher than “the world’s”. So either something’s not right, or something in their faith is not getting translated into their lives. I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing wrong with the institution of marriage; there’s just something wrong with people. So no, I’m not “in love” with my wife. There are some days that I don’t like her much. But I’m damn sure glad that I love her and that she loves me. I continue to pray that I can be a blessing to her.
Small though my blessings may be.