If marriage lasted for twelve to eighteen months, I’d be a big fan of infatuation. (Those who study the brain tell us that’s the average duration of an intense infatuation). But since infatuation is so short-lived, I’m insistent and unapologetic when I talk to singles that infatuation is a pathetically poor reason to get married and an equally poor reason not to consider marrying someone — which sounds even more radical.
So the young woman’s plaintive question following my talk on The Sacred Search — “Don’t you want your daughters to be in love on their wedding day?”— was one last attempt to hold on to a myth that she felt I had just shattered.
I get it. Hollywood has created such a wildly romantic scenario, complete with music that crescendos as the couple waltzes out of the church, that it’s hard not to yearn for and even celebrate that. And if that is the scenario on the wedding day for one of my daughters, I won’t be disappointed… and I wouldn’t say it’s not real. It is real, in its own way. But it’s just the beginning of the story.
Here’s why I didn’t ultimately answer this young woman’s question in the way she was hoping: the same people who insist on a certain level of being “in love” to get married are the very people who, five years down the road, are more likely to leave their marriage because they no longer feel in love. They’ll say what counselors hear so often: “I still love him, I’m just no longer ‘in love’ with him.”
It makes sense, doesn’t it? If the main reason you’re getting married is because you’re “in love,” what happens when the infatuation fades and you don’t feel that same “in love” feeling? What’s going to keep you in the marriage then?
Neurologically, our capacity to feel “in love” is determined by a number of particular factors: our sense of security, self-esteem, neurological makeup, past experiences and other factors. Hollywood telling us we should feel a certain way on our wedding day is like a late-night infomercial telling us five minutes a day with their hundred-dollar machine will give us six-pack abs. Maybe, for some, but for most of us? Not a chance.
That’s why whether or not my daughter feels “in love” on her wedding day won’t be my first concern. I know this sounds radical because it goes against every message most young women have heard their entire lives.
But whether my daughter feels intensely “in love” on her wedding day doesn’t concern me nearly as much—not half as much—as the fact that she’s walking down the aisle to marry a man whose faith in God inspires her; whose character makes her want to be more like him; whose sense of humor seasons her days; who will fight and die for his family, refusing to let hobby or vocation get in the way of being a fantastic dad; who will be a rock if she gets sick, convincingly telling her how beautiful she looks as a bald chemo patient or how strong she is when arthritis makes it painful to get out of bed; whose prayers will sustain her, whose words will encourage her, whose knowledge of Scripture will instruct her, whose hands will work to provide for her (and never, not once, threaten her or harm her); whose unselfishness will give her many pleasurable sexual moments; whose faith will carry her and my grandkids through a life filled with pain and unpredictability.
If she’s found a man like that, I don’t care how “in love” she feels, because the qualities that sustain admiration, affection, and respect, are qualities that can grow rather than fade.
And here’s the truth: any woman who is “head over heels” in love on her wedding day won’t be — at least, not in the same way and not with the same intensity — five years from now. But that man my daughter is marrying, the one who is on a godly trajectory? If he’s seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, his faith will be deeper; his wisdom will be wider; and his love will be stronger.
If my daughter doesn’t feel giddy with love but respects this man, likes being around him, and enjoys (after marriage, of course) having sex with him, I won’t be concerned because with issues of character, the feelings will keep coming to a sufficient extent to maintain a fulfilling marriage.
And if she is bursting with feelings over a future husband I know to be selfish, lazy, narcissistic, cruel, spiritually apathetic, and emotionally stunted, I’ll do everything in my power to walk her out the back door instead of down the aisle.
So, do I want my daughters to feel “in love” on their wedding day?
Sure—in the same way I kind of hope at least one of them will have a grandchild with curly hair and a cute way of mispronouncing words: it would be fun, and it would make me smile, but in the end, it just doesn’t matter as much to me as things that are far more substantive and far more indicative of a solid, fulfilling, and spiritually fruitful marriage.