“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing.” – C.S. Lewis
Watching my parents’ marriage end in divorce has made me doubt love. I’ve wondered “does love last?” and “can it last for me?” With these fears, I became timid, safe, and distant in my relationships.
Beneath those questions is another question: what is love? Our world says that love is an emotion. If that’s true, then the measure of love is the intensity of one’s emotions. More emotion, more love; less emotion, less love. Hollywood portrays it that way and mainstream music delivers the same message.
While feelings are certainly an aspect of love, authentic love is much more than the roller coaster of one’s emotions. St. John Paul the Great said: “Love is not merely a feeling; it is an act of will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.” Hearing this made me realize that to answer “can love last?” I first needed to purify my idea of love.
If I believed that love is merely an emotion, and that more emotion means more love, wouldn’t that also mean that when emotion fades, love fades too? In wrestling with my doubts, I found the wisdom below:
C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
“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. 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.”
Jason Evert added:
“When the infatuation fades, some imagine that they must not have married Mr. or Miss Right. This is partly why so many divorces happen within the first few years of marriage. It is a shame that couples are not prepared to let their relationship breathe. We often have little faith when the time comes to exhale. There is a love waiting to grow, but it is a quieter love than a couple know at the start of their relationship. It is unfortunate that so few have the patience to wait and work in sacrifice to see it blossom.”
Feelings don’t last. But desiring and choosing what’s best for someone can last. That’s love. Feelings are an important part of love, but they are only a part. And they certainly are not the measure of real love.
If your feelings are fading in your relationship, it doesn’t mean your love is doomed. Instead, see it as an invitation to a deeper love. In a dating relationship, you may realize this person just isn’t right for you. That’s okay. There’s also reason to doubt a relationship if romantic feelings have never been present. Still, never base a decision on the fade of emotion alone. Look at the objective parts of the relationship too, like Jason Evert suggests here.
[This post was originally featured in full length by Restored here.]
Joey Pontarelli loves being Catholic. His passions lie with Theology of the Body, sexual integrity, and adventures like mountain climbing and traveling. He is the founder of Restored, a ministry that helps teens and young adults from divorced and separated families find hope, healing, and support. He lives in Denver and is engaged to his beautiful fiancée, Brigid.