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February 15, 2003
Column #1,120

Myths and True Meaning of Married Love

     Valentine's Day is a good time to consider both the myths and true meaning of married love. 

     Myth #1: The purpose of marriage is our personal happiness. However, if so, when there are inevitable disappointments, and crosses to bear, the conclusion must be, "Either marriage is not fulfilling its promise, or something is wrong with me."

     Dr. Glenn Knecht, of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, says, "No, the true goal of marriage is not happiness but oneness. Jesus taught, `So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.' Happiness is a by product. However, seeking oneness is costly. It involves sacrifice of the ego, so human pride is crushed until it has no life of its own anymore." 

     Myth #2: The goal of married life is to get my mate to submit to my way of thinking. Men have memorized, "Wives, submit to your husbands." But the preceding verse is "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." That is followed with three verses on the role of the wife, and nine verses on how men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

     Marriage is an exercise in learning to submit even when we don't feel like it. Knecht adds, "If your marriage is a tug of war, drop your end of the rope, so your spouse can win. Submission is the most demanding, most difficult and most important assignment in the school called marriage. It is a giving up of rights."

     Myth #3: Love is what holds a marriage together. True, we don't enter marriage without love. But once that step is taken, it is the vows that hold it together, "for better for worse, in sickness and in health..." Love may actually wax and wane and there are times it is absent altogether. The vows said on the wedding day are sacred promises, said by billions of people. All marriage is spent learning the meaning of those vows. 

     Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett was invited to a colleague's wedding. They did not exchange the traditional vows, but pledged to stay together "as long as love shall last." He sent them paper plates as his wedding gift!

     Myth #4: Love is a feeling. In fact, Scripture says love is a decision, not an emotion, but an act of the will." Read I Corinthians 13 which begins "Love is patient..." Are you naturally patient. I'm not. But with my wife, I really try to be patient because I love her.

     Myth #5: Only minor changes are needed to adjust to marriage and the other person. Actually, major reconstruction is needed. We are a fallen race, a sinful people. The ego must be crushed. How proud we are, how selfish and self-centered. Pride must be destroyed. Our whole inner life must be restructured to please the other person. 

     "In marriage the pressure is felt most in a whole series of tiny sharply defined issues of morality, (that) take the shape of commandments: Honor the day of your anniversary: remember to take out the garbage; don't use the power saw when your wife is home because she can't stand the noise. Only another person can challenge and confront us at this deep personal level of our own private will and reveal to us how petty it is," writes Mike Mason in a profound book, "The Mystery of Marriage." 

     Myth #6: It takes work to make a good marriage. It does take commitment, but the need goes deeper. The more fundamental need is TIME, T-I-M-E, not work. Lavish, extravagant, huge amounts of time. How much time did you spend with each other in courtship? 

     Be together without interference, resentment, opening up in life's lonely areas, vast areas where the other person can find a home, a friendly space, an unhurried peace and a serenity within the heart of the beloved.

     Myth #7: The goal of marriage is fulfillment of the individual. Of course we seek fulfillment, and many see marriage as a path to finding it. But if marriage were the vehicle, how could single people find fulfillment? Instead, we must seek abandonment, giving up ourselves so fully that we almost surrender our individuality and forget who we are. 

     Myth #8: I can change my mate. Actually, you can only change yourself. But that can change the character of the marriage, inspiring the very change you longed for in your mate. 

     As Mason writes, "Marriage is the single most wholehearted step most of us will ever take to fulfill Jesus' command to love one's neighbor as oneself."

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