Engaged couples often describe their fiancé as being their best friend. They can also feel deeply attracted to their fiancé as they experience the feeling that this will last forever. Is this enough?
The data, however, does not lie. We hear, “I fell out of love,” far too often. The love they thought would fill a lifetime evaporated.
Fortunately, there is another kind of love that does endure. When we understand how these types of love differ, we possess the ability to change the odds in our favor.
Friendship, attraction and desire all share the same unreliable nature. These forms of love are all dependent upon the situation. As such we are merely corks sloshing around at the mercy of other forces. Are we in control whether others treat us with respect, kindness and care? Does the flame of passion remain strong in the midst of conflict? No.
Hence a love fueled by appearance or how others behave will wax and wane according to the turn of events. Consider friendship. Feelings of friendship only exists as long as everyone treats the other person well. Similarly, romantic love thrives when all is well. Yet, we are powerless to determine what others will do.
When someone says, “I fell out of love” what he or she often means is that the feeling they once possessed has gone. This happens because feelings are the result of factors external to ourselves. Those feelings exist at the mercy of our circumstances.
However, there is another type of love that can weather the storm of those factors beyond our control. Furthermore, it can contribute toward creating the environment where other forms of love such as friendship and desire can thrive. We find this type of love, known as agape in the New Testament, lies at the heart of being Jesus’ disciple.
Agape love can endure because it involves our decision to seek to act for someone’s well being. Thus agape is not hamstrung by what others might be doing or how they might react.
This is a love that can act even when warm feelings do not exist and even survive in a bleak desert. It is the love Jesus commanded when he taught, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” We won’t have good feelings about our enemies nor like them, but we can still choose to seek their well-being. This might not be the natural response. However, it is possible.
This is the love that God exhibited toward humanity when he sent his Son to come to earth, knowing that he would need to die to save us. This is unconditional love. That is, agape is the commitment to do good, regardless of how others might respond. Why? Because the decision has been made to seek that person’s well-being.
When couples put this love into action within their marriage, their actions contribute toward creating the environment where the other forms of love such as friendship and desire can flourish. Those who choose to embrace agape reap the side benefit of providing the best opportunity for the other forms of love to thrive.
Focus on your feelings, you might lose everything. Focus on the decision to do good and you’ll likely reap the feelings.
Many forms of love are fickle. There is, however, a type of love that can endure forever.