I was talking to a young student a few months ago about his relationship. He had recently started dating and the couple wanted me to set them up with Christians who could give them advice and hold them accountable.
We went for a walk and I started asking questions. I mentioned how the 'in-love' feelings are transitory. This made sense to him. He spoke of his previous relationship, where the feelings had worn off and left him with the conclusion that she was not 'the one'.
Gary Chapman explains that most people enter marriage by way of the in-love experience believe these feelings are the necessary foundation for good marriage. 'Unfortunatley, the eternality of the in-love experience is fiction, not fact.' The average lifespan for such feelings is two years.
When we are experiencing the 'in-love' euphoria we think that our beloved is perfect. Others see her faults but we won't listen. Although we are told marriage is tough we believe that our marriage will be different. The passion seems to have faded from other people's marriages but this will not happen to us. In Christian circles, those in the euphoric state sometimes spend their time telling you of the amazing way God brought them together.
However, when we come out of the euphoric state we begin to see our beloved warts and all. 'Those little traits that we overlooked when we were in love now become huge mountains.' Now the formally happy couple realise that marriage is both for better and for worse. 'They fall out of love, and at that point either they withdraw, separate, divorce, or they begin the hard work of learning to love each other without the euphoric in-love obsession.'
But this is not all bad news. In fact the in-love experience can be replaced with something better, "real love". This "real love" involves effort and discipline. It is more secure because it is not dependant on the passing euphoria and it is more noble because it is not dependant on obsession. Here we choose to love our spouse and have the joy of knowing that they choose to love us too.
When couples used to tell me that they love each other in a different way than they did on their wedding day I assumed that they no longer really loved each other. That is not necessarily the case. Real love is more satisfying and well worth the effort. It is also not devoid of feelings but these feelings are no longer obsessional and transient.
What about that young student I met? He should enjoy the 'in-love' phase but be realistic about it. He should make his decisions about marriage on more secure grounds than his feelings. He should seek to make rational choices concerning her. Then if they do marry they should be prepared for the joyous sacrifice of choosing to love one another.