It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, so a few comments on “being in love” are in order. When in Rome.
If I had to chop down a tree every time a magazine interview, TV show, or movie sent us the message that the moment you “fall out of love” with someone is the moment it’s okay to end the relationship, we’d all be living in Thneedville. (That, dear reader, is a reference to The Lorax. Yes, I have children.) And if we all lived in Thneedville, a hollow of artificiality–no real trees, plants, or flowers–love would lie dormant, because romance cannot exist without roses, of course.
Jesting aside, here’s what I want to say. The message our culture bellows is this: Fall in love. Get married. Fall out of love. Get a divorce. Start again.
As I wrote about last Friday, I’ve been spending some quality time with C.S. Lewis this year. In Mere Christianity (1952), Lewis writes of “being in love” and “loving.” His comments are a far cry from what we often hear today.
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 … 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 … ‘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 (Mere Christianity, 108-109).