“All you need is love” sounds seductively simple and has just enough truth in it to make it believable without much thought.
Unfortunately, without more thought, it can easily give married couples unrealistic expectations and eventually undermine their relationship.
“All you need is love” is never true of infatuation. Infatuation is when you can't think of anyone or anything else. Infatuation feels like love, but it isn't.
Author Michelle Drew explains that infatuation is “characterized by an unrealistic expectation of blissful passion without positive growth and development.” Unlike love, infatuation is purely self-centered. The other person is “perfect,” the two of you are “perfect together” and everything will remain “perfect” because of how they make you feel and what you get from the relationship.
Because everything is perfect, there's never a need for you or your relationship to grow or change. Infatuation “feels” real, but it is not based on reality and always ends with disappointment.
“All you need is love” to make your marriage flourish is correct, but only if your love involves four elements, which author Mark Gungor describes:
•Affectionate love is the warm feeling of tenderness for another person and the ongoing desire to be with them. Gungor explains that affection is “rich and wonderful and should be cultivated in your marriage relationship.”
Focusing on positive memories and your spouse's characteristics that made you fall in love in the first place and regularly doing small things for each other “will cause this kind of love to re-emerge again and again.”
•Friendship love grows when couples have the same likes and dislikes. Friendship is a key factor for the success of marriage. Gungor warns that it's important to “work hard to build a friendship with your spouse.” This means spending time together, showing mutual appreciation and respect, publicly acknowledging, affirming and validating each other, doing small favors for each other, sharing your feelings, and making sure not to make hurtful remarks.
•Commitment is the part of love that holds you together for the long haul; that means I'm with you, no matter what. Life happens: Things break at unexpected moments, people get sick, friends and family die. We all need someone who will help us when the storm hits.
Committed love doesn't give up in the face of disagreements, disappointments or hurt feelings. All marriages have problems, and committed husbands and wives face them honestly and work through them together.
Committed love gives; it looks out for the other person and tries to see things from the other's point of view. It is a love that lasts a lifetime.
Just as infatuation looks at what you get out of the relationship, committed love looks at what you can put into the relationship. Love sacrifices time doing things you don't want to do and delays things you'd like to do because you value your spouse's need more than your own.
•Gungor says that sexual love “is crucial to a healthy marriage and provides a kind of 'cleansing' for the relationship.” The physical touch and the release of hormones involved in sexual intimacy has a powerful bonding effect that helps strengthen marriages.
But the sex can become stale and boring if couples don't intentionally take steps to keep it alive. Gungor warns that couples “must fight to stay 'wild' about each other — if they don't, this love will die” and, eventually, their marriage will die with it.
If your love involves affection, friendship commitment and sexual intimacy, then love is all you need for a healthy marriage. Anything short of this won't be nearly enough to get you through.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.