In the movie, The Notebook, Noah and Allie have reunited after being torn apart in adolescence by Allie’s controlling mother. Rowing in a canoe together across a beautiful, crystal clear lake and surrounded by white swans, they express their undying love to one another. Could this be true love, romance and the perfect prince charming?
While looking deeply into each others eyes, thunder roars, lightning strikes, and rain comes pouring down onto their faces. Feeling a surge of joy, we identify with the longings of falling in love
This is real love, correct? Even the term “fall” implies that the process is inevitable, uncontrollable, or risky. Statements such as “Crazy in love” imply that discernment and reasoning are often relinquished. If we are not vigilant we can fall prey to this dangerous deception.
Early stages of love do make one feel energized and alive. People can even become addicted to falling in love as they chase after the “high” of this experience. Researcher Dr. Helen Fisher, states, “We found when one is in love, activity in the brain’s pathway is the same as being addicted to cocaine and nicotine.”
Misinformed by our culture that there is a perfect soul mate can leave us confused. Newly smitten lovers often idealize their partner, magnifying their virtues and similarities while justifying their weaknesses and differences.
Comments such as, “He thinks I’m smart; he wants to spend every moment with me” are familiar. A poet said “I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you and how you make me feel about myself.” Romantic love is definitely a boost to ones self worth; however, this is a short season in a couple’s life.
Hollywood shows us that once the “lovin’ feeling” wears off then so does the commitment. Many believe the myth of the greener grass and began their search for the next relationship.
In Cinderella, the prince proposes after only one evening together and rescues her from poverty and pain. In Aladdin, Jasmine waits for her prince to free her from an unhappy childhood to explore a whole new world. Sleeping Beauty regains her life only by the kiss of the prince, and the Little Mermaid gives up her family, voice and identity for her man.
There is no perfect prince or princess on this earth. We are sinful, broken people, marrying other sinful and broken people. We need to stop expecting our spouses to meet all our desires and needs. This only serves to rob us of contentment.
Many couples on the verge of divorce, state, “This isn’t the person I married.” We share these stages to help couples avoid the delusion of ideal love.
The first stage couples enter into is the romantic, honeymoon stage where there is a merging of two into one. There is laughter, playfulness, affection and energy. Emphasis is on similarities. Each is willing to forego activities to spend time with each other. Conflicts are minimized during this bonding phase.
The second stage is the disillusionment stage, when many come to couples therapy or someone begins an affair. Conflicts and power struggles emerge and negative traits that were once overlooked become irritating. Wounding and defense mechanisms from childhood are activated and impasses can’t be negotiated. More time is spent alone in ones own activities and with other friends. Different values, beliefs and behaviors are realized.
The third stage is the Acceptance Stage/Mature Stage. This has evolved through commitment, friendship, partnership, humility, sacrifice and the acceptance of each others good and bad traits. Attachment, deep respect and cherishing of one another as separate and unique individuals have developed. It is filled with security, tenderness, warmth, comfort, and familiarity.
If we navigate through these stages by following God’s plan for love then when we watch elderly grey haired couples strolling hand in hand we won’t wonder, “What did they do differently?” Too often, this generation has responded to struggles and disappointments in marriage with cynicism, affairs, and divorce.
We must leave the enchanted kingdom, give up our fairytale dreams and face the reality of marriage in a fallen world. Disappointing – yes. However, once we recognize this truth and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us, we can love one another deeply.
The only prince on this earth is Jesus; the prince of peace, who rescues and saves us. We can not be saved by man, or by our husband or wife. Jesus is the one who comforts us in our pain, heals our brokenness and love us in the depths of our hearts.
“Happily ever after” only comes in heaven. Until then, we need to replace expectations of our spouses and marriage with realistic outcomes and cling to the Prince of Peace instead of Disney or Hollywood to guide us in love.