Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dining to diapers: When romance turns to sacrifice

Society prospers most when its institutions adapts to the strengths and weaknesses of human nature as they really exists. When society is no longer structured to maximize its strengths and compensate for its weaknesses, then the first things that take a hit are relationships and marriages.

Take for instance the falling-in-love process. Hollywood and the music industry do a fine job at glorifying the initial phases of love and sexual attraction. But it does little in giving due attention to the unromantic acts of sacrifices that are needed to sustain that love when the demands of marriage are imposed.

Indeed, the very actors and musical artists who either portray the beginnings of love in movies or sing about them in songs are, themselves, involved in short lived relationships. Infidelity and divorce are astronomically high in the Hollywood subculture. Perhaps this is why Hollywood’s ill-adapted lifestyle to human nature produces just as many casualties as it does stars. Burnout and stardom are virtually an inseparable phenomenon there.

Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has an influence on the expectations couples have on what true love really is. There are many couples who go into a marriage unprepared for the natural evolution or growth that love- the forever kind of love –naturally involves. In the early years of marriage, the opportunities to court one another abound. To go for river walks, to dine frequently and to spend that quality time together are the benefits newlyweds enjoy. This is when the rewards of love are immediate and its demands are minimal.

Another perk is this: Dr. John Gray, author of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, said that God gives every couple enough hormones too sustain a strong attraction to each for about three to four years. This is a current of romantic and sexual attraction that carries a couple through the beginnings of love. After that, love has to be an act of the will and must become sacrificial.

The mistake couples often make is that they use this beginning phase of love as the golden standard by which they measure their marriage in the later years. When a marriage turns into a family, and children are added to the mix, chores and sacrifices increase. The romantic sparkle of marital love therefore takes a back seat to its more sacrificial form. It is at this juncture when couples miss the good old days of dining and romance. The temptation comes in when they become alarmed at the contrast.

Some spouses count it a defect when they consider that the feelings of love are not what they were. After all, they do not spend as much time together. Instead of the husband taking his wife out to a movie, he is getting up at 3am to change the diapers of his crying child so his wife could get some sleep. Love, in this case, is far from being in a crisis. It has actually matured. And as love matures, its sparkle and perks do not come with ease. Married couples have to work- really work -at courting one another between all of their parenting duties.

However, in a good number of cases, disenchantment comes with this phase of growth. Why? Because love, quiet often, becomes stronger when it is least felt! It is then that it becomes an act of the will; one of self-denial and sacrifice. But the constant theme of “falling-in-love” played out in television shows, movies and songs would suggest to the consumer that when the thrill of love is gone, then true love no longer exists. Yet, the opposite is true. It may be that love is just becoming more selfless.

Just as individual happiness depends on the forgetfulness of self, so too do married couples need to unite around a common objective outside of themselves. And that common objective is raising children. But with more children there are hazards that spouses will stop courting one another. With this, buying flowers, dining and sexual intimacy can just become just another chore. For this reason, married couples wince at having more than one child. However, there is no study, that I am aware of, which suggests that couples with no or few children fare any better in terms of happiness than couples with many children. In fact, from all of the studies that I have read, the opposite is true.

The caution I wish to draw your attention to is this: The first three to five years of marriage is not the best standard by which to measure your subsequent years to. It may serve as content for nostalgia but the pleasantries of love’s beginning are not the things that make for the best kind of love. They certainly may be needed from time to time. Every couple needs reminding that they are first husband and wife before they are mother and father. Nevertheless, spousal love is perfected by the selflessness of parental love because the rewards of the latter are not immediate. More often than not, it is later in life when the married couple will reap the fruits of parenting. It is then that they will see that their labor was not in vain.