She loved him so much when she married him eight years ago. Because of the intense feelings, he had for her he knew that keeping his vows to her would be easy. He felt he would always love her. Now, they are they getting a divorce. He says he no longer feels the way he used to. She says the same thing. Neither one seems to have a clear answer why but they both realize that their love has "died!" Some statistics say that romantic love only lasts on average three or so years.
If only they had a sign "Abandon reason all ye who enter here" over the door of the divorce courts of our country!
What we need to make a relationship work is a thorough understanding of how our emotions work-why intensity does not guarantee longevity. David Burns in his bestselling book Feeling Good, the new mood therapy notes that emotions follow thoughts as if baby ducks follow their mother. However, just because they follow their mother does not mean the mother knows where she is going. Jesus indirectly taught thoughts produce emotions. Therefore, if we are going to understand the romantic love emotion, we had better understand the "thinking" behind it. Romantic love is an evaluation of the loved one. It is the result of a person telling himself or herself repeatedly how wonderful the traits of the other person (real or imagined) are. Ignored are the person’s negative traits. It is a conditional love. It exists all too often because one or both parties believe that the other is nearly perfect.
Our evaluations can begin to change when we see someone is not as perfect as we thought. The intensity of the love emotion begins to diminish because of the change in our evaluations. If we are not careful, we can end up hating the other person with the intensity that we once "loved" them. Since it is such a conditional thing, romantic love is a poor thing to base a marriage on. Other areas of compatibility between people are more significant.
The philosophy of life of the other person is a better indication of how they will behave in an intimate stressful relationship like marriage. What is a philosophy of life? It is a set of beliefs used to determine how we interact with others.
One way to predict whether a relationship will work is to see how the beloved treats their enemies. Inevitably, in an ongoing relationship with another, we are going to "cross" the other person. If they rant and rave about their enemies and do not see their part in helping to bring about crisis with others, then they will not be kind to us when we cross them (even though accidentally). How are their problem-solving skills? Do they blame place or do they seek to solve problems? Are they flexible or are they rigid and demanding?
Everybody wants something from a relationship. Are they willing to discuss these desires and try to fill some of them? Are they the center of their own universe? People that are "nice" to others because they understand the human plight are much easier to get along with than overly opinionated, critical people are. If they only have negative things to say about others, that is not a good sign.
Are they overly apologetic? Do they accept themselves? People will often treat you like the treat themselves. If they are obsessed with themselves, they may not be well enough to love another. Be careful about people who think you will complete them. Usually they will only finish you off!
Is Intensity OK?
Can one feel intense affection for another and be realistic about the beloved's faults? Yes. Though it may be a rarity, it is possible. If one educates oneself as to the cause of one's emotions one can positively evaluate the beloved for their good traits and feel a great deal of affection. If one follows the teaching of the Bible, one can feel that way about every one.
Feelings are not facts. They are the results of the "goodness or evil" we attribute to things (our evaluations). They can add to the enjoyment of life. As Paul discovered, if we think "right" we will only have appropriate emotions and we will not need to have to try to control them.
Warm feelings are nice to have. However, the harsh light of reality can cause them to wilt like a flower in the heat of the sun. The person that loves people because He understands God's plan is probably the best choice for a mate. People that have something nice to say about everyone are much more apt to forgive and forget when they see us in the harsh light of day. They forgive the bad and play up the good. Romantic love in a relationship certainly does have its place.