One of my favorite people in the world recently sent me a great article by Mark Manson, titled Love is not Enough. I was in complete agreement with much of what Mr. Manson had to say. Like how if you're incompatible as individuals before you get married, you're going to be incompatible as individuals after you get married. Excellent point.
The thing I kept turning over and over in my head is that I conditionally disagree with the statement "Love is not enough".
While I disagree, I understand why he says that. I say it's a conditional disagreement because I believe it's a matter of definition.
It seems like most people think of love as a feeling, something you can fall in and out of and through that prism, he's absolutely correct. Having strong feelings about someone absolutely isn't enough. Feelings change. They're not a good reason to get married. They're not a good reason to get divorced. They're not stable enough to build anything dependable on. Because they change, for so many reasons.
In these terms, Mark's statements holds more water than a ten gallon hat. Feelings don't fix problems in a relationship. They don't make you compatible and they certainly aren't worth making major life changes over. The fundamental issue I have is that real love isn't a feeling.
I know not everyone shares my faith, including the dear person who sent me Mark's article, but I'd like to found my point by borrowing from the core tenant of what I believe because I think it makes sense on a human level, no matter your race, gender, religion or creed.
This is from the book of 1st Corinthians, but it's most familiar to me because my mother wrote it out over and over. She wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it next to her bed. It was on cabinets, stuck to mirrors and in notebooks - there are very few of my mother's personal journals that don't have this written out inside, and then in some form expanded upon, cross referenced and studied. (The version I'm sharing is an expanded version from a commentary in her bible) This is what it says;
"Love endures long, having patience with imperfect people. Love is kind, active in doing good. Love does not envy; since it is non-possessive and noncompetitive, it actually wants other people to get ahead. Hence it does not parade itself. Love has a self effacing quality; it is not ostentatious. Love is not puffed up treating others arrogantly; it does not behave rudely, but displays good manners and courtesy. Love does not seek its own, insisting on it's own rights and demanding precedence, rather, it is unselfish. Love is not provoked; it is not irritable or touchy, rough or hostile, but is graceful under pressure. Love thinks no evil; it does not keep an account of wrongs done to it; instead it erases resentments. Love does not rejoice in iniquity, finding satisfaction in the shortcomings of others and spreading an evil report, rather it rejoices in the truth, aggressively advertising the good. Love bears all things defending and holding other people up. Love believes the best about others, crediting them with good intentions and is not suspicious. Love hopes all things, never giving up on people, but affirming their future Love endures all things, persevering and remaining loyal to the end.
Love never fails"
The thing about this definition of love is that it doesn't rely in the least on the love-ee, but entirely on the love-er. It isn't conditional on the person you love being well behaved, or deserving, in fact it's banking on them testing your patience, hurting your feelings, and giving you reason to believe the worst in them. It also speaks to the natural, every day stuff that we all struggle with; the impulse to be proud to the point of arrogance, the times when we look at other people's successes enviously and the eternal human battle with putting your own needs such a highpedestal that you selfishly take at the expense of the needs of those around you. This passage is saying that the next time you say to someone "I love you", if it doesn't imply all of this then it isn't actually true, not in the purest, most total sense.
Real love is not a feeling. It's effort, sacrifice and determination in the face of what is hard, even despite the feelings. There is nothing weak, fluffy or passive about living this way. It requires ferocious, relentless "I will fight for you" passion on behalf of others.
It is exhausting, sometimes painful and counter-intuitive more times than not.
But on the plus side, it never fails. Where feelings end, love begins. Where compatibility ends, love begins. Where you end, your lover begins. The consistent determined practice of love is the bridge that carries us over the times that would otherwise break and isolate us.
I say this because, obviously, nobody is going to get this right, all the time... but imagine if we did.
Imagine; if someone treated you this way, no matter what you did, it would be enough. It would be more than enough. It would fix all of your relationship problems because if at least one person was consistently acting this way, not only would the reasons for conflict ebb (since it takes two to tango) but also, don't you figure if you were on the receiving end of devotion like this all the time wouldn't you desperately want to reciprocate?
To take another page from the New Testament, Jesus, who was known among the scholars of his day for teaching with profound logic, was asked one dayby the teachers and priests whose life was to study the law and the concept of doing good "What is the greatest commandment?" ...and given that there are 613 definitive laws in the old testament, its obvious that they were trying to stump him. How do you pick one thing that resolves ALL the rest of what is good and life giving?
But Jesus said this;
"Love your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two things"
I know there are plenty of people who are still wrestling with the idea of God and some who have concluded that there isn't one at all. But I think everyone agrees that there are things bigger than themselves. All you have to do is look at the size of the universe , from atoms to pulsars. I don't think it's a stretch for anyone to agree that, to strive tolove according to the definition above both what is higher than you and your fellow man...would easily encompasses the whole of not just goodness and the law, but the only thing that really gives meaning to life at all, the only thing that really leaves any legacy or mark on this world.
Now, I will say this. We are human. Because humans aren't able to limitlessly love without receiving love in return, there ARE relationships that you have to get out of because the other person in what is supposed to be a partnership is essentially starvingyou of what love actually is. That's abusive and more than we're built to bear for very long without it doing some serious damage to us. In a healthy relationship, both parties are dedicated to at least trying to love in this way. Real love does make up for the fact that there is no way to pick a perfect person because we're all flawed, and when we run up against those flaws in one another, there has to be something there....something powerful to keep us tethered together, or we bounce from hurt to hurt, person to person, wondering why nothing seems to satisfy us.
So, dear person who sent me the article and anyone else who will be considering future mates; Yes, think about whether you're compatible as people. Think about how having strong feelingsright now for or about someone isn't going to be stronger than any problem your relationship may someday face, no matter how much you think it might. But mostly, choose someone who believes in this definition of love.
And then, take comfort in knowing that it won't fail you. Where past relationships may have hurt, the difference is; they were missing this.