HAPPY MARRIAGE MEMOS
by John Kpikpi
After a rocky period in their relationship, Deborah informed her husband of three years that she wanted to end their marriage. She had really loved him at first but she just wasn’t feeling that kind of love for him anymore. When the young man became distraught, Deborah gave him a short lecture which went something like this: it is not realistic to expect that just because someone loves you today and so agrees to marry you, then she will continue to love you indefinitely. He needed to grow up, adjust his expectations and go find someone else.
The young husband took several years to come to terms with his loss. He still wonders, to this day, whether he was naive (as his wife suggested) in expecting their love to continue as long as they both should live – or whether she was rather the immature partner to jettison him and their marriage at the time that she did.
The question which arises is: what kind of love did this young woman have, which seemed to come on and then go off as capriciously as the electricity supply does in some countries? Is there any hope for marriage if this kind of love is the standard for all relationships?
Thankfully, there is more to love than Deborah would have us believe.
During the speaking of the vows at the wedding ceremony, the groom is asked to say to his chosen lady, “I will love, cherish and honour you” and the bride is made to repeat the same words to her man. Note carefully that they are not told to say, “I will feel love for you”. They simply say that they will love each other.
The vows that the couple are led to speak to each other reveal the kind of love that is meant to be on offer in marriage. It certainly is not the sentimental type that ‘flows over us’ – and ‘evaporates’ as mysteriously as it comes. Rather, it is the kind that we can do something about, it is under our will, and we can do it for each other. This is the kind of love that is anticipated in the marriage vows and which, if in place, can stabilise every ‘marriage ship’. So what is it?
I would say that this kind of love is one which desires the best for the other person and does all that is within its power to help the other person experience the best that is possible in this life. It is the choice to do all you can to foster the happiness, well-being and wholeness of another person. We see an example of this kind of love flowing from parents to their children. It is the very stuff that spouses need to keep going in marriage. Whenever you choose to speak to or act towards your spouse in a way that will add to his/her happiness, well-being and wholeness, then you are giving this kind of love.
If our love is to be like this, then there can be no shortage of opportunities to love each other in marriage. Every day, we can find good things to do for each other. When we get angry or upset with each other and are tempted to withdraw our care for each other (or even to hurt each other), we need to remember that we have made a vow to love each other come what may. So Deborah was wrong. She got the wrong end of the stick about love. She could have continued to love her husband for as long as she lived. Although she might not always have felt love, choosing to speak and act in very kind ways (as she promised in her vows) would have kept things going and sure enough, the good feelings would have crowded in again!
However difficult things have been in the past and regardless of how things are at the moment, you can love your wife or husband today. Think of two things that you know will enhance your spouse’s happiness and well-being today. Go on and do it for him/her! This is love.