We love, because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19
I have a confession. I'm a Bachelor addict. You know, the ABC reality show where they set one man up with 25 potential matches? Yes, I keep up with it.
Honestly, this show was cathartic for me during my crazy dating days. It reminded me that perhaps I wasn't the only one struggling with romantic love. And it also provided plenty of object lessons on what not to do in the quest for a spouse.
Sadly, in spite of the show's goal to offer eligible bachelors a chance at lasting love, very few couples make it to the altar. You can blame the elaborate set or the pressure created by the roses, but I think the reason the couples have little success is because the show is founded on commonly held, yet flawed, beliefs about love.
Like so many of us out here in the real world, the contestants on the Bachelor usually equate love to the giddy, mushy, feelings of infatuation. Time and again, the Bachelors express the fairy tale notion that they want to find someone who "completes them" or makes them feel happy. They spend hours interviewing and wooing these women -- then agonizing over eliminations at the famous rose ceremonies -- in their efforts to find the one woman who will make them happy forever.
But what happens after the final rose when these giddy feelings of personal "completeness" fade? When flaws and hardships overwhelm their early romance? This is when so-called "love" fades for most couples. And we just can't figure out what went wrong.
In his book love & responsibility, Fr. Wojtyla (later known as Pope John Paul II) explains these perplexing relationship failures. He explains that this notion that we're supposed to find someone to "complete us" is off course. You see, when we date a person with the primary goal of experiencing pleasure - or a sense of "fulfillment" - we're actually using that person. Sure, we may like the person. But we're still using them as a means to our end, our pleasure. And using a person is the opposite of loving them.
Not only does using a person fail to nurture true love, but Fr. Wojtyla insists that the "pleasure approach" is impractical because it is very difficult to predict who will bring us the maximum amount of personal pleasure long-term (I think the Bachelors would agree here!). Thus begins the cycle of serial monogamy as we hop from one high to the next.
So how do we find true love if we can't just look for the person who gives us the biggest high? It's not that we shouldn't enjoy our mates. Quite the contrary. But we need to start off on a different foot. Fr. Wojtyla shares that true love finds its beginnings when two human beings make a free will commitment to a good, the greatest good being God. He writes, "Love... is conditioned by the common attitude of people towards the same good, which they choose as their aim, and to which they subordinate themselves."
Why does this work? In joining another for good, the focus becomes less, "What can you do for me?" (which is self-centered) to "What can we do together to serve God?"
Are you frustrated with your spouse? Do you feel like he or she is not doing enough to make you happy? Pray about ways to resolve your feelings of discontent. If you are both believers, pray about ways you can serve God as a couple.
Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com’s Family Editor, embraced faith in Christ at an unlikely phase in her life: as a skeptical undergraduate at Virginia Tech. She now enjoys putting her VT English degree to use at the Salem Web Network by observing and reflecting on cultural trends, marriage, family life, and the human condition through the lens of Christianity. When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband, Corey.
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