With Valentine’s Day upon us once again, we are flooded with reminders of romance and romantic love. But with so many broken hearts today, one wonders: Is romantic love just a myth?
My long-time pastor, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, once told me: “Over the years of my ministry, I have noticed a repeated pattern in terms of the people who seek me out for counseling, when it comes to family matters. I find single people coming to me who wish so much that they were married. Then I find married people coming to me who wish so much that they were single---or at least that they were no longer married to their particular spouse.”
Of course, there are real feelings of romance. But feelings come and go. However, commitment remains. In short, romantic love alone is an insufficient basis for marriage.
Hollywood helps promote the myth of romantic love as a sure foundation for marriage---or even just a stable relationship (since many today simply choose to “live in sin”).
Look at many Hollywood marriages themselves. Virtually from the beginning of the movie industry, the stars themselves often had multiple marriages, divorces, relationships. It’s been a mess, and it’s still a mess.
I just read recently about a Hearst columnist in the 1940s defending a scandalous divorce and love child of a movie starlet. The columnist "argued that movie people were different and should be allowed to live by different standards. Their human frailties should not be judged so harshly as their purpose is so noble." (Louis Pizzitola, Heart Over Hollywood, 2002, p. 436).
Why so many marital breakups in Hollywood and now the rest of the country? Partly because it’s all based on this wrong premise---that romantic feelings are the foundation of a happy marriage.
But think about the seriousness of common marital vows---for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…as long as you both shall live. Or until the feelings dry up?
Is the alternative to a feelings-based approach to marriage essentially a “gray, drab, suicide pact,” as a friend put it? No. The true commitment, through thick and thin, is what allows the soil of true love to grow in.
There is wisdom from the old Catholic bishop who was on TV for years: Fulton Sheen. He said there are three to get married---Christ and the bride and the groom. To my wife of 33 years and me, the most important aspect of our marriage is to keep Jesus at the center. It may sound trite, but the old saying is so true: “The family that prays together stays together.”