Letters to Children: Being in Love
When your mother and I first started falling in love, she was living in Ypsilanti and I was living down the road in Ann Arbor. After dating for about a year, I found myself calling her every day and making plans to see her two, three, four times a week. She was never far from my mind, even when my studies at the University of Michigan were beckoning, and I was constantly trying to think of little ways to make her happy. I would send her letters and flowers; I would take her little presents; I took her out to eat at all kinds of different places. When I later moved to South Bend (to attend law school at Notre Dame), I wrote to her almost every day (by “snail mail”; this was before e-mail existed) and racked up large telephone charges calling her. When we saw each other on the weekends, I was literally nauseous with sadness when it was time to leave.
Those are the actions of a man in the state of “being in love.” It is a wonderful thing.
But we can’t stay in that state. In C.S. Lewis’ words, “Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?” Now, as it turns out, I did live in that state for nearly five years due to economic conditions (Grandpa would’ve cut me off from his wallet if I had gotten married), but it was difficult and it got tiresome. The only thing that made it bearable was that your mother had promised to marry me, so I needed to plow forward with my studies and graduate for a greater good down the road.
Shortly after getting married, though, that continuous excitement of “being in love” wore off. Thankfully. As Lewis pointed out, it is difficult to handle life’s chores if you’re in that state forever. Your mother and I talk about those exciting days occasionally, and we miss them (excepting the prolonged separations). But we can’t go back to them. Whenever we talk about those days and how it would be nice to re-create them, one of us says, “But we have seven kids.” And we laugh.
Yes, we laugh. Sure, we get a little melancholy knowing that those exciting days are gone and aren’t coming back, but those vibrant days catapulted us into something better: a stable and loving marriage, and a crew of kids who make our love even better because they expanded it. Those exciting days of being in love were the explosion that started our marriage.
I see so many marriages ruined by a quiet type of despair. One or both partners feel like something is missing, that things aren’t like they used to be.
I suspect many of these people don’t understand the difference between “being in love” and simply loving someone. They went through that state of “being in love,” and they see the state constantly celebrated in the entertainment world. They want it back and some of them are willing to break-up their marriage in hopes of finding it again or at least somehow recapturing that vibrant dose of happiness that flooded their heart and soul during those months or years after they had first fallen in love with their spouse.
Don’t fall into that trap. Those fleeting days of “being in love” are wonderful, but short-lived and meant to give way to something greater. After that honeymoon period fades away, rest contentedly with your spouse and love him or her. Keep a sure eye on marriage’s permanency and never entertain the idea that you can get out of it (such an idea will poison your marriage). Take that energy you spent impressing your girlfriend/boyfriend and channel it into your children and more important pursuits, like studying and prayer. And always remember: your spouse is a source of grace and ought to be loved.