Is Love Enough to Sustain a Marriage?
There are a lot of ideas out there about why people should get married, Scripture even mentions more than one. Some recent publications suggest that marrying for love is a bad idea. I explored this idea using internet resources, as well as the Bible to attempt to find out why people get married, for LOVE or for more PRACTICAL reasons?
Love is WONDERFUL, But it is NOT Enough
One verse in Scripture that truly encompasses the partnership and "helpmeet" aspect of marriage is Ecclesiastes 4:9 which states:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?"
This emphasizes that being a married couple makes two people stronger because they have one another to help them and to build each other up. The idea of keeping each other “warm” creates a beautiful image in the mind when we think of how two being joined together in love can make a world of difference in each of them, and that their love fuels their abilities and strengths.
However, while love can be a powerful force in a relationship, it should go without saying that love is not the only force behind a successful marriage, as there a multitude of factors involved in it. The culture of love and marriage even just in western society has changed a good deal in the last few decades. People are getting married later in life than they used to for a number of reasons cohabiting being one (Leins, 2015). Before women were as welcome in the corporate world as they are now it used to be that they would marry to get away from their families of origin, or for financial security, or to have children (Sharma, 2015). Marriage has been taken out of the equation to a certain degree because women work outside the home more than ever and can support themselves, and having children out of wedlock is nowhere near as stigmatized as it once was (Sharma, 2015). While love has great value, it should not be the entire basis for marriage simply because it can change over time, it is not a strong enough foundation for such a HUGE commitment, and it is far from “all you need” (Gadoua, 2013).
Many who cohabit, or are in long-term committed relationships without marriage have been found to be happier than many married counterparts because the “stranglehold” of a legal document is absent (Sharma, 2015). As more Americans opt-out of getting married, in favor of cohabiting instead, there is growing populations who doubts the moral standing of Americans and find it to be of great concern (Leins, 2015). Interestingly, being married is actually a fiscally responsible endeavor as compared to the alternative because combined housing costs and other living expenses are lower, and it saves on time, travel, energy, as well as the benefits of division of labor. All of this makes marriage a good choice, regardless of the love factor. There is so much to find “The One” and studies are beginning to show an increase in love and romance needs which can actually weaken marriage (Gadoua, 2013). This is because little planning may go into the relationships built solely on love which can cause problems down the road when real life sets in. People who enter into marriage based on factors other than love (having children, companionship, or financial security) tend to be more realistic about what marriage entails and are better able to “roll with the punches” than those who focused on finding “The One” (Gadoua, 2013).
Each is lacking without the other
When I looked at some of my classmate's posts on this same topic regarding marrying for love, I found some really insightful ideas, and still others with whom I disagreed. However, I did find that however idealistic either position, they are both lacking without that other.
Each is LACKING without the other
While the critiques that my post received at first this was disheartening, upon reflecting on the above I can see I may not have adequately articulated my position, but rather done a review of the literature. I personally think that a marriage with a foundation in love is strong, and while love can keep us drawn together through many struggles we may encounter together, individual struggles can pull us apart. And so, ultimately Love alone cannot carry the marriage through ALL of the challenges and ALL the years that “until death do us part” implies. Love is integral to a successful marriage, but there are some really excellent parts of not marrying for love that are crucial too. My purpose was to really emphasize that either option is lacking the other. Marrying only for love lacks perspective and marrying for reasons other than love lacks passion. A great example of how these dichotomous marriage purposes are lacking is a topic Frivold (2017) brought up of older western men marrying younger Thai women:
"In Thailand where I reside, people are very pragmatic in regards to marriage. Although many marry for love, most marry for financial security. This is very evident among a subculture of older Western men who are married to young Thai women half their age. When looking for a mate, Thai working class women value financial security above attraction and love; whereas, the older Western men look for companionship and sexual fulfillment. Although these cross-cultural marriages are not easy and many of these marriages end in divorce, both partners initially receive what they are looking for in a relationship; namely, financial security and sexual companionship respectively."
and to make my point these relationships need not end in divorce if a true love connection is made beyond the needs for financial stability, companionship, and sex are concerned.
One of my classmates, Schultz (2017) made the distinction between Christian love and Secular love,
"According to Genesis 1:26-28 (New International Version), the biblical intention of marriage is to show God’s existents [sic] here on earth. Some ways this is done is through gracious and selfless illustrations towards a significant other or bearing children to become followers and disciples of Christ. Therefore, a Christ-like love can make it possible for couples to move towards marriage and glorify God in the process... viewing love in a secular light can lead to a destructive and painful marriage. With a secular viewpoint, love is a self-benefiting, intimate and emotional relationship. Once satisfaction from this kind of love has decreased, there is a chance the marriage will take a turn for the worst. Similar to many, I also believe secular love is not strong enough to withstand a martial relationship. However, love built on biblical principles creates a marriage centered on Christ, giving couples an opportunity to develop a successful marriage through God’s provision."
I have a slight issue with the generalizations made about either. I have known Christians who had very self-serving views of what love is and their marriages failed, as well as Christians who had the right ideas about love and still their marriages failed. Similarly, I think that to say that secular love cannot hold together a marriage seems unlikely. I think that with the right attitudes, communication, flexibility, and mutually agreed upon goals and roles any marriage can be successful. This also brings up the argument of what is a “successful” marriage? You cannot work towards or achieve success if you cannot define it. Some may define success in marriage as simply staying married, while others may consider having X number of children and a home with X number of bedrooms a success. Thus furthering my point that love and success in marriage is about perspective.
The last reference I would like to make to a classmate is to Cannata (2017), who discussed the conflicts regarding living in an individualistic society as a Christian:
"Individualistic cultures emphasize individuality as self-concept. Yet marriage and even Christian love in all relationships requires us to think of others first! Both partners from individualistic cultures want intimacy, but may have a difficult time giving up their independence to depend on their spouse for emotional satisfaction. Collectivist cultures are primarily concerned with interpersonal bonds, awareness of others needs and responsiveness to those needs, or an interdependence. These are the very types of bonds and intimacy we hope for in Western society, however it is hypothesized that our culture does not prepare us for this."
I want to only slightly disagree with the emboldened statement above and state that I think the issue has more to do with people grappling with trusting someone else with their emotional satisfaction and vulnerability than it does grappling with sacrificing their independence.
So, what's the Verdict?
Ultimately, each couple has their own reasons for getting married, be that Love, Finances, Companionship, or any other manner of partnership, who is to say what is right or wrong for any other person? The fact of the matter is that if two consenting adults can come to an agreement to care for each other and partner up in a healthy and mutually beneficial way to meet a goal, who am I or anyone else to tell them that they are wrong?
I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and interact with you in the comments section below!
Gadoua, S. P. (2013, Nov 17). 3 reasons why you shouldn't marry for love alone: By raising the bar, have we weakened the institution?Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/contemplating-divorce/201311/3-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-marry-love-alone
Cannata, A. (2017). Love & marriage. Liberty University.
Frivold, S. (2017). Reasons for marriage. Liberty University.
Leins, C. (2015, Oct 26). 9 reasons why you should get married, for yourself and for america: If you like it, then you should put a ring on it. Retrieved from U.S. News & World Report: https://www.usnews.com/news/slideshows/9-reasons-why-you-should-get-married-for-yourself-and-for-america
Schultz, M. (2017). Db#2 - melissa schultz. Liberty University.
Sharma, S. (2015, Feb 23). The psychology behind why people still get married. Retrieved from Elite Daily: https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/psychology-behind-people-still-get-married/935522