I’m not entirely sure where I am going with this. I’ve read several blogs recently that touched love, and specifically romantic love, usually in a somewhat negative fashion. Last week was one that was critical of Christian romance writing, then I read two near each other, one of which wasn’t even attempting to be Christian as far as I could tell, and another that kind of raised my ire. That’s the one I want to address.
Most of it was fine actually, talking about how much of love involves unselfishness and commitment. The problem was, the blog started as something of a complaint about how people who fall in love turn around and try to relate the experience to God’s love for us. The complaint was that being “in love” is really infatuation and it never lasts. From there he went into all the stuff about how we love long term. But first of all, I think the term infatuation should not be used in the context of an actual romantic relationship, particularly one that ends in marriage.
In my understanding, the word infatuation properly applies when an actual relationship is impossible, and yet someone is emotionally involved in what is essentially only a fantasy. The quintessential example is a young girl who gets a crush on her teacher, who happens to be married. Nothing is ever likely to come of it, and yet she is moaning and sighing over how wonderful it would be. The other way I might define infatuation is when there is a relationship of sorts, but it is of such short duration as to be practically useless, as in when you like someone and get over them within two weeks. Then again, I still might call that a relationship that did not work out.
Anyway, I’ve run across this attitude too many times, that the beginning stages of a relationship are somehow of no consequence, mainly because “the butterflies never last.” That really is not the point, in fact it is a normal progression of a relationship for the adrenaline driven emotions that draw a couple together to morph, after a couple of years generally, into an oxytocin driven relationship that is more about comfort and security than excitement. Granted there are adrenaline junkies out there, who will leave relationships seeking something new when this happens. But they are the exception, rather than the rule.
Surely most people out there have seen some nature specials where birds engage in a mating ritual. Well, humans have such a thing as well, and it appears to be more innate than learned. Attraction, after all, is driven by pheromones, and the more opposite they are, the stronger the attraction. On the other hand emotionally we look for something familiar, similar to the family we grew up in, or our parents. Part of the sequence of normal human bonding involves testing a newfound attraction to see whether it’s got enough of those elements to last long term. In any event, it seems we are genetically programmed to fall in love and get married. Well, the marriage part may not be exactly programmed, though procreation is.
The reason movies and such can show this is because it is part of human nature. In fact, sometimes it seems the godless movie makers understand the process better, at least in the early steps than those in the church. The first step in a normal bonding process is discovery, noticing another, often followed rather quickly by eye contact and speaking to one another. After that comes a phase that might be called the testing, or getting to know one another phase. Movies usually give this part a light treatment, because in a visual medium, it is difficult to show something that is primarily verbal. In fact, this portion interestingly enough is kind of a side by side process that gradually works through other steps before reaching the face to face stage. Movies like to skip to that because it’s more visual, and less verbal, hence easier to film. It’s a little sad that they do this, because skipping steps leads to less well established bonding. So typically movies and often books take the process into the physical too fast, and as young people have learned the process to some extent from them, they tend to short change the verbal exchange and form weakly bonded relationships.
My point is this though, we should not denigrate the beginning stages of a relationship by redefining the experience of being in love as simply an infatuation. In fact, for many people, that experience, as obsessive as it is, actually is the beginning of the long committed relationship the writer was referring to. And speaking from my own experience, remembering that during times when things are a bit rocky in a relationship helps tremendously. If you remember why you married someone in the first place, it can help give you the strength to stick with them in the hope that things will get better again. I’m not at all sure how the other writer would have couples get together.
It seems to me that God invented love, including romantic love. Further, I suspect that He intended for us to learn things about His love for us through the experience of earthly love in all its forms. Many of us develop a negative self-image through years of rejection by those of the opposite sex. Falling in love can often be a very healing experience in that case. So let those in love tell us all about what they are learning about God. It may very well be something God wants us to hear.