It is said that half of all marriages will end in divorce! Yet, people claim that they marry their true love. So, where is the disconnect? Either people are not finding true love, though they call it by that name, or they find love but do not know how to make it work long-term.
In this article, we are going to examine the first question: what is true love, and how can we find it? This is a difficult challenge in a world saturated with counterfeit “loves” and bad relationships that fail to satisfy.
We will never find happily-ever-after if we do not know what love is, and we cannot fall in love if we cannot recognize the true, good and beautiful from the counterfeits.
What is true love NOT?
Some people mistakenly believe that love is a feeling, a strong feeling, something you don’t feel with anyone else. Growing up, I always thought that the more emotions I felt inside for a girl, and the more I thought about her and could not get her out of my mind, the more it must be true love. Now it is understood that this was not love, but puppy love, a crush, a rush of feelings which are beautiful but far less than love.
If love were a stairway, feelings and emotions would be the very first step. It takes a long time and a lot of work to reach a true and mature love. While feeling “in love” is such a wonderful thing to experience, true love itself is not a feeling. Pope John Paul II, the expert on true love, rightly says that sometimes “Love and feelings are opposites,” and that “it is impossible to tell how much we love someone by the emotions generated.”
– I know a young woman who fell head over heals for a bad guy who used her and abused her. She stayed in the relationship too long because of how strong the connection and attraction to him was. She convinced herself it was love, even though she knew deep down that it was not. In this case, true love and her feelings were opposites.
– Another young woman built her entire world around her boyfriend. She was convinced that they were going to get married, and no matter how many people told her that this young man was not good for her, she would not listen. The feelings were so strong, and she knew that he was a great guy. Later on, she found out that her boyfriend had been cheating on her for some time, and it destroyed her. Love that is not based in truth is not love. Love must live in reality. Sex before marriage destroys love because it blinds an individual and prevents them from seeing the other person as they truly are.
– A teenage boy once confessed the incredibly strong attraction he had for his girlfriend. He had never felt like this with anyone. He knew deep inside that something was very wrong in the relationship, but he could not put his finger on it. In addition, he ignored the feelings because of the strong feelings and attraction he had for his girlfriend. Thus, against all counsel, he refused to break it off because it just felt too good. Later, he too found out that this girl was just using him to make her ex-boyfriend jealous so they could get back together.
Bottom line: it does not matter how strong a feeling is or how powerful emotions are with sparks flying, love is infinitely more than this.
Each of these people mistakenly thought their relationship was based on love because of how they felt. Love is based in truth and reality. Love must see things for how they really are, not how we wish them to be. Idealization and ignoring problems is not love, and is also a sign of bigger problems. This is why people “fall out of love,” as if there was such a thing.
The truth is that in marriage, after the initial honeymoon phase, emotionally charged feelings will come, go, and eventually fade over time. They don’t last forever or even a lifetime. Perhaps this is one reason why the divorce rate is so high, and cheating and adultery have become commonplace. If love is solely, or even mostly, based on feelings and the power of emotions, a relationship is doomed from the start.
Thus, love cannot be based solely, or even mostly, on feelings because feelings are unstable and constantly changing. Feelings come and go and change constantly based on circumstances, seasons, our moods, the weather, and so much more. Feelings come and go, but love is forever!
Despite how we feel, love should make us better, freer, happier, more ourselves, more confident, and bring us closer to God, our family, and our friends. False loves are full of pain, let-downs, fighting, dissatisfaction; in these relationships, we lose ourselves, drop our friends and hobbies, and become co-dependent on the other person.
There is no abuse in love! There is no lying, cheating, manipulation, mind games, guilt, or anything of this sort. Rather, it is kind, patient, and respectful, always putting the needs of the other before our own. Of course, love is reciprocal and this goes both ways.
What is True Love?
Love is choosing to do what is good for another person, despite how we feel. It is caring for their heart, mind, soul, and emotions, and not doing anything that would hurt them or bring them harm. Love is the opposite of selfishness. One woman, married over 50 years, told me before I got married, “You must love your spouse whether you feel like it or not, whether you get bored of her or not, whether it is fun or not, and whether she deserves it or not. You just love her always!”
Wow! That was great advice! Love is doing what is good for your beloved even (and especially) when it’s a sacrifice and even after feelings have gone away!
Imagine a husband at work. His boss makes him stay late as they are at the end of a crunch-time. After 10 grueling hours, he drives home stressed and with a pounding headache. He is hardly able to stand. His pregnant and sick wife desperately needs medicine from the store and cannot drive herself. While this is the last thing on earth he desires, he kisses her on the cheek and goes to the store. Did he feel like it? Of course not, but this is love.
I once knew a very handsome and well-built guy. We were friends, and the ladies constantly fell for him and his smooth ways. This friend would take advantage of these women, making out with them and more. Why? Because it was fun and it felt good. Obviously, he cared nothing for them.
Then Katie entered into his world. Katie was beautiful with her long black hair and her large blue eyes. My friend fell hard for her, as did most other men. Ironically, this was the only woman my friend could not snag. She was looking for something deeper, more permanent, and more beautiful.
This made my friend want her even more, in a good way. She was changing him from within due to her sweet demeanor and kind, caring heart. I remember my friend confessed to me and said, “If I ever have the opportunity to date this girl, I would never sleep with her or do anything dirty at all with her. She is such a beautiful person that I would never want to hurt her or have anything bad happen to her.”
What a difference in attitude! This is the language of true love. With the other girls, every relationship was selfish and all about him. With Katie, he put himself aside and truly cared for her as a person.
That is why love and lust are opposites. Love seeks to give, even when it’s a sacrifice. Lust seeks to take for one’s own pleasure even at the expense of another person.
My wife and I went through a couple of very hard years in our marriage. The kind of hard years that many people would walk out on. During the darkness and difficulty, I reminded myself constantly, “I promised my wife on the altar to love her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Then I would add, “Well, this is the bad, and it’s very bad. But I cannot claim to love her if I only love her when it’s good or when she deserves it. I am called to love her all the time, even when it is incredibly difficult.”
That was my mantra. The mantra of love. To give when we don’t feel like it and to always do what’s right despite everything going on. Of course, true love in relationships is always reciprocal. It’s not one person giving everything while the other gives next to nothing. It’s two partners both giving 100%!
That’s why when people say, “Where’s your other half?” I reply, “She’s not a half and neither am I. We are two people both giving our all!” ::Insert big smile::