485) Being ‘In Love’ and Living ‘Happily Ever After’

 By C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

      What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us.  It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality.  In that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust.  No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centeredness.  But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.’  Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing.  There are many things below it, but there are also things above it.  You cannot make it the basis of a whole life.  It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling.  Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all.  Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.  And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last.

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     The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all.  If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.  The curious thing is that lovers themselves, while they remain really in love, know this better than those who talk about love.  Those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises.  Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy.  The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature:  it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

     And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love.  A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions:  no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way.  He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry.

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     If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were.  Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years?  What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?  But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.  Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling.  It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.  They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.  They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else.  ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity:  this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.  It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

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Genesis 2:18  —  The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Mark 10:6-9  —  (Jesus said),  “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Ephesians 4:2-3  —  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  — Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

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 A MARRIAGE BLESSING:

May the Lord make you holy and bless you, and pour the riches of his grace upon you, that you may please Him, and live together in holy love until the end of your lives.  –John Knox