With Valentine’s Day upon 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
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,
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
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.”
Obviously, taming the tongue plays an important role in a
good marriage---and a bad one. Praising others (sincerely, not flattery) is
like making deposits in a checking account. Criticizing others (even
constructively) is like making a withdrawal. Too many of us are overdrawn and
bouncing checks all over the place---including our homes.
Even where there had been positive feelings before, enough
criticism can be destructive to any marriage. I remember hearing about a lady
complaining in a marriage counseling session, “Well, he wasn’t that way when I
married him!” The counselor said, “Oh, so you changed him?”
Dr. Kennedy once said: “Love is not some romantic sort of an
exotic bird that comes flapping down with its wings and sets our hearts
aflutter and then disappears just as mysteriously. But love, as I Corinthians
13 tells us, is a way of treating other people. There is not an emotion in that
whole chapter, but there is instruction about how to deal with people. ‘Love is
patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It
does not insist on its own way.’”
These are not just beautiful words to be read at wedding
ceremonies. These are liberating words that can make virtually any marriage
work---and work well.
Kennedy adds, “We may have that feeling in great abundance
before we are married. But if we treat our spouse in some contrary manner, we
will find, before long, that the mysterious bird has flapped his wings and
flown away. We say, ‘Alas, what can we do? There is naught left but the divorce
court, because, you see, I don’t love him anymore.’”
But, he notes: “That is all a bunch of baloney. We have been
fed a lie, and we have believed it and we have based our whole society on the
romanticist concept of love. Therefore, we have rejected the biblical teaching
about the subject.”
So it isn’t just who we marry that matters, but how
George Washington said, “I have always considered marriage
as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or
misery.” That foundation is best laid with a lifelong commitment in mind, as
opposed to rushing to the altar based on feelings alone.
Newcombe is a TV producer and co-host of Kennedy Classics. He has also
written or co-written 24 books, including The Book that Made America and
(with Dr. D. James Kennedy) What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with
Peter Lillback), George Washington’s Sacred Fire. Jerry hosts
gracenetradio.com Thursdays at noon (EST). www.truthinaction.org
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.
P.O. Box 1
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302