Right before I got married I read Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman. There is a great list of “flags” to go through in conversation with your significant other before, and even after, you marry. I believed most sources of conflict in marriage can be worked out so I didn’t see anything on Chapman’s list that was a deal breaker. But these conversations are important to have.

One of the things that really stood out to me was when Chapman wrote that, “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.” It goes against everything we’re taught socially about love and marriage. The songs tell us that, “all you need is love” and “if I had you, that would be the only thing I’d ever need.” But there’s more to marriage than that.

Love is not enough

Love alone is not enough. It really isn’t. It might not sound romantic, but it is so so so true. We’ve lost the meaning of what “love” is. We can say, “I LOVE my new shoes” and “I love you” and it sounds like the same word. Hollywood’s romantic comedies tell us that love is a fantastic chemical reaction in your brain that triggers intense feelings of joy, passion, and butterflies. (This might be why gym memberships tend to outlast Hollywood marriages.)

Love can be that, but if that’s your whole picture of love then be prepared for a bit of a reality shocker. While these intense feelings are real, there’s more to love than that. The butterflies are not what make up the deep binding kind of love that will last through the trials a marriage brings.

We’re told that physical attraction is the most important, but I think that it’s the least.

Rather than relying solely on a romanticized version of love, Chapman’s book lists five foundations you can really build a marriage on. You need spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social, and physical foundations. Intimacy on each of these levels is essential. We’re told that physical attraction is the most important, but I think that it’s the least. An accident or illness, heck, even gravity, can change a person’s physical attractiveness.

Don’t build a marriage on something so temporary. Also, when looking at emotional intimacy, don’t confuse that with happiness. Emotional intimacy is a mutual sense of security and acceptance. (I’ve heard it said, and I believe this to be true, that pursuing personal happiness at all costs is a sure way for no one to be happy.)

A word once spoken is as hard to take back as a bag of feathers opened in the wind.

There have certainly been some arguments this first year of our marriage. Both my husband and I have felt intense emotions of hurt that lead to questions like, “Was this a mistake?” I chose to not allow myself to entertain such thoughts because I think the more thoughts are kept in the mind, the more readily one of them can be spoken when emotions get high. And a word once spoken is as hard to take back as a bag of feathers opened in the wind.

When my husband and I started dating one of his first questions to me was, “What does commitment mean to you? ”My answer was that commitment means putting in whatever thought, time, and money it took to make the relationship work. He held the same definition of commitment and that has enabled us to work through the conflict. Beyond just compromising to maintain status quo, we’ve been able to grow together into a new, deeper level of love and commitment to each other. And I think THAT is the main foundational piece to building a successful marriage…not feelings of “love.” but actions of togetherness.

Finding the right partner is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It can really help to talk it through. We have mentors who would love to listen to you and help you process things. Just fill in your info below and a mentor from our team will get in touch shortly. It’s confidential and there is no charge.

Have you ever asked yourself What is true love?

This article was written by: Andrea Shair

Photo Credit: Samuel Hearn