Over the last few days, I have been pondering the definition of true love as it relates to marriage. What is true love? How does one make love last? I have been shocked by the number of people who are Messianic and have gotten married to people they barely knew and then within 6 months they were divorced. Actually, shocked is an understatement, horrified is more accurate. I am not writing this to judge anyone, rather to investigate for my own peace of mind what is happening here. I have often been ridiculed and chided for having what I call, a logical approach to love. I think that love and romance are two different things. Many people have romance and feelings of desire and attraction towards someone but love takes years to grow. Although the seed of love can be planted quickly, it does not blossom into a tree overnight.
I have come up with a series of questions that I believe is helpful in ascertaining whether or not you truly love someone. They are not meant to be exhaustive but to provoke thought…I encourage you to take off the blinders and step past the infatuation for a few moments to reflect on them. Please, do NOT answer these questions in the future tense. Do not say that the answer will be yes in the future, if it is not a yes now, it is counted as a ‘no’. Don’t fudge the answers, you will suffer for it if you do.
Do I love my significant other?
1. Do I REALLY pray for this person daily?
2. Do I go out of my way to make sacrifices for this person? (Driving long distances, going with less to buy them something nice, listening to them when you’d rather be sleeping, re-arranging my schedule to be with them, helping them cheerfully with something that is not your thing, refraining from criticism when they mess up, etc)
3. Do I respect their body? (Not pressuring them for sex ahead of marriage, or if you are married, not pressuring them to have sex when they can’t )
4. Do I speak well of them and praise them to others, refraining from dropping teasing hints about their faults? (ie. Joking about them being late all the time, etc)
5. Do I study them to know their interests, recognize their moods, understand their strengths and weaknesses?
6. Do I daily think about something I can do to give them enjoyment or to make them happy?
7. Do I step out of my comfort zone for this person? (Trying new things that they want you to do, being willing to eat things you might not like because they want you to try their cooking)
8. Am I laying down my life daily for this person?
9. Am I being prudent financially for this person? (Saving money, working hard to provide, etc)
10. Am I taking care of my body to try to keep it looking nice for my significant other? (Showering regularly, not eating garbage, being conscientious (not obsessed) about my weight, grooming your hair, etc)
11. Do I consistently ask my significant other how they are doing and ask for their opinions on things?
12. Do I talk about difficult subjects regarding our relationship because I want the truth?
13. Can I handle criticism from them? Can I give criticism lovingly?
14. Is Yeshua and the Torah a priority in our life? (If you have an unbelieveing spouse, this is not applicable. If both of you claim to be followers of Yeshua, then this is VERY applicable)
So how did you do? If you are not courting or engaged to someone, flip the questions around and ask your self if they could say yes to these questions. I am amazed at the amount of crap women put up with in relationships because they love their man and he treats them indifferently or is selfish . They will sacrifice and go out of their way to communicate with him, give him gifts and help him with his needs and in return the man buys them supper once in a while and throws out some scraps in the form of compliments. Ladies you should not be somewhere on his priority list you should be second from the top! Only his relationship with Yeshua should be ahead of you. Men, the same goes for you…if you are putting all kinds of effort into the relationship and the woman you are courting is not returning your calls quickly, makes excuses for being late all the time for dates with you, doesn’t give compliments unless you give them first (answering out of obligation)…wake up! Life doesn’t get rosier after marriage and sex is not a giant fault eraser. Truly, if they can’t be unselfish before marriage, it does not get better afterwards.
So, are you ready for marriage? Are you ready to take the step towards doing something that will be for the rest of your life? For better or FOR WORSE? Why is it that we take our marriage vows so lightly? The only reason for divorce after marriage is infidelity according to scripture…not incompatibility and surprisingly, not even abuse. I do NOT advocate abuse but I have heard so often, ‘it just did not work out’ or ‘we were incompatible’. Those are not reasons for divorce! I was reading several articles lately on arranged marriage and, according to the articles, the divorce rates were low and the satisfaction level of the couples was very high in arranged marriages. Why? I believe that it is because their foundation was a lot firmer than most couples. Their marriage started off with unselfishness, hard work and determination not merely flowers, moonlight strolls and whispered promises. Right off the bat, they were doing love, not feeling it. The feelings came later. They both realized that trust is earned by sacrifice and effort, not quickly won by sweet words and compliments. In arranged marriage, couples don’t often have lengthy courtships involving months and months of dinner dates, fun activities and extended physical contact - that all comes AFTER the marriage. After marriage, each person in the relationship behaves as though their behavior will make or break the relationship.
There is a LOT we can learn from this. If a couple told me that they were getting married and they were not in love, it wouldn’t fizz me. I am not against people being in love when they get married but I view it as a bonus. It is the walls and roof of a house but if the foundation of self-sacrifice, determination, common values and goals, being equally yoked spiritually and having a Torah centered relationship with Yeshua is not there…the walls and roof will collapse eventually. Romance is one of the most wonderful gifts YHWH gave his children but it is meaningless without the solid foundation of true love that is not feeling based. I see couples get married quickly (nothing wrong with that as long as you have set your strong foundation in place) and then their marriage fizzles out quickly. They either did not take the time to get to know the person well enough before marriage or else they set their expectations of marriage too high and when the rubber met the road, they couldn’t hack it.
I meet people who are married and still act single. They take stay out late without letting their spouse know where they are. They make plans without consulting the other and they hang out with their friends all the time. They make messes and don’t clean them. They eat the last piece of bread and don’t replace the toilet roll. They see their spouse as an extension of themselves…the extension that will cook, clean, bring in the money, do the yard work, etc. That’s not the way it works! Marriage is about giving yourself completely to the other and daily seeking to serve them. It is not about what we can get from marriage, it is about what we can give. If you feel you can’t give much, why are you seeking a spouse? You should rather be putting that effort into making yourself a more giving and unselfish person so that you can BE the kind of person who is ready for marriage. I meet men all the time who think when they meet the right woman, they will miraculously change and become more organized, better savers, more neat and clean, harder workers, more spiritual, etc. Hogwash! Iron does sharpen iron and you will help each other to grow but you will not miraculously change overnight. Why wait to change? Why not start preparing yourself NOW to be a gift to your future husband or wife?
So, why should your significant other marry you? Why should you marry them? Beyond the attraction and feelings you have around them, how do they fare on the checklist above? How do you fare? If you are not DAILY making sacrifices and seeking to keep the heart of your partner, do you truly love them? How do you know if it’s a sacrifice? Often, it costs more than we have and pushes us out of our comfort zone. The man who gets up day after day to work hard for his family when he’d rather stay in bed and takes time to hug his wife when he’s having a bad day…he truly loves. The woman who stays up half the night with the sick kids and still gets up to make her husband breakfast and meet his sexual needs although she’s exhausted…she truly loves. Infatuation will make excuses when asked to sacrifice. Romance will eagerly squirm out of pain. Feelings will come and go. True love is hard work, not fairy stories and happily ever afters that require nothing more than goo-goo eyes and kisses. If you don’t have what it takes, get on your knees and ask YHWH to help make you that kind of man or woman or resign yourself to being single.
Read 1 Corinthians 13 and ask yourself...do I truly love?