“Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.” -Victor Hugo
How would you make your spouse fall in love with you again if they could not remember you? Or, more commonly, if they could not forget a time of great difficulty? “The Vow” is a film loosely based on the true story of a couple who experienced tragedy and had to reclaim love and relationship. Leo and Paige were in a car accident which caused her to suffer memory loss, forgetting the past five years including the time they met, fell in love and married. Leo sought to win her heart all over again.
This recurring theme, the words of their vows, echoes throughout the film: “I vow to fiercely love you and all your forms now and forever. I promise never to forget this is a once in a lifetime love … and no matter what challenges carry us apart we’ll always find a way back to each other.”
What sustains your marriage? I was thinking about this today. Several times I have heard people say they married their own perceptions of their spouse. Then after marriage they found out who the real person was and chose to love that person. Kind of awkward. But with us, I don’t think that was the case. We talk for hours a day sometimes, so when we were dating and engaged we communicated so often on a deep level that we knew one another quite well. I fell in love with his brilliant mind and caring heart. He had a glimpse of what was in store when I got out of the car one evening and started dancing down the street, but it was many years before he danced across a pedestrian bridge with me. And I saw the stressful weight of future responsibility affecting him. He sometimes says I am a kite and he holds my string.
Our backgrounds provide the framework for different outlooks on life. His view of family was survival and keeping the peace. I had a deep sense of security in my family, so our outlook was to enjoy life and explore opportunities. Our personalities differ as well, but we share love, respect, common interests, a strong commitment to God and one another, and a sense of mission in life. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said “Loving is not just looking at each other, it’s looking in the same direction.” (Note quotes by two French guys in a love article.) Moreover, we need to be embraced by a God-inspired, God-sized vision for our lives and marriages which fills and sustains us because of Jesus, His love, purpose and grace.
Most of the trials we have endured happened because of our life calling and choices on the mission field in Eastern Europe. Because we share common goals and hearts to serve in that part of the world, we chose not to allow those hardships to come between us. But there have been times when extreme difficulty or trials would cause one of us to shut down or shut out the other due to pain, self-protection or misunderstanding.
During such times, a partner has a choice. Do you seek to pursue your husband or wife in loving ways? When we do this, love deepens and we learn more about unconditional love, how to meet the needs of another, and we find that we can get past a difficult time. We find that the feelings return as well. Date nights or lunches are important, even when life is busy or finances are tight you can plan a date at home or in the beautiful outdoors. I watch war and spy films with Mike (I really enjoy them), and he enjoys a night at the ballet and an elegant dinner out with me. Forgiveness is key too. It seems that every other day there is a news article about a couple getting a divorce because they have grown apart or don’t love one another any more. But what is the foundation for their marriages? Stay together as long as they have feelings for one another and as long as the other person doesn’t get in the way of their personal goals and happiness?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a famous theologian and pastor who died in prison in Nazi Germany before he was able to marry his fiance, wrote “It is not your love that sustains the marriage but … the marriage that sustains your love.” Our covenant before God is not to be taken lightly, causing two to become one. When we value marriage as our most important relationship, we consider how our decisions affect our marriage, not just ourselves. And we take the time to enjoy one another, learning how to meet the needs of one another while we trust God to meet our deepest needs. Many marriages never deepen to the point of intimate belonging, mutual understanding and compassionate love.
Kim Carpenter, the real-life husband who inspired “The Vow” said “We live in a society where vows are constantly broken…Years ago, till death do us part meant the death of a soul mate; today it’s the death of a marriage that society has accepted. . . We don’t have a story without God. And that story really is about commitment – commitment to Him and commitment in marriage.” His wife, Krickitt, said, “You have trials in your life and you have to keep persevering.” Another important aspect of a loving, healthy marriage is that it makes our children secure and gives them a strong foundation for their future families. This is not an insignificant side affect, but an important legacy for generations to follow. So love up!