These immortal words ring true during dances and road trips worldwide, but beg a great question. What is love?
I wonder how many people really know what “I love you” means. You’ve probably heard that “hate” is a strong word; so is “love”, and so let’s define it. For this, we will travel to Ancient Greece and find four different words for one concept: storge (store-zjay), philia, eros, and agape (a-gah-pay).
- Storge identifies general affection between friends, parents and children, and lovers.
- Philia; loyalty between friends and family, hence Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s nickname, “The City of Brotherly Love”. It is also translated into the Latin “fidelis”; “faithful”.
- Eros; romance and intimacy.
- Agape is the self-giving, unconditional love of someone placing the good of the one they love above their own. If you know your Scripture, you may recall the passage from John’s Gospel in which Jesus says “There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Another example comes from the third installment of Lord of The Rings, when Sam tells Frodo “I can’t carry it (the burden) for you, but I can carry you.” Agape is the highest and most perfect form of love.
Now let’s look at the aspects of compatibility, the key to lasting love. There is too much emphasis on emotions and sex today. I think “We need to know if we are sexually compatible” is a very flawed justification for the misguided and vicious cycle of “sex = love, love = sex” and highlights already-existing insecurities about the relationship that people think will be resolved if they’re good in bed.
There are several things one must consider in order to have a happy and healthy relationship. They are as follows.
BELIEFS AND VALUES
What do you believe and why? Where did you learn your values? How strongly do you believe in them? If you are a practicing Christian and your partner is an atheist, can you fully accept and embrace each other? If you don’t want sex in the relationship but your partner does, expect problems. If the children’s upbringing will be a competition, expect disunity at home. Having differences is one thing. Fundamental disagreements are something else.
Your career is a large part of what defines you. Higher pay may be enticing, but you must also be fulfilled by your work. You may have heard the saying, “Find something you love and you will never work a day in your life”. You should never have to choose between your career and your partner. Ladies, can you accept if the man you marry wants to be a doctor, a teacher, a landscaper, or in the military? More importantly, will you embrace his life choices?
Men, chauvinism aside, maybe the woman you marry wants to be a stay-at-home mom. If she works, maybe she will make more money than you. Can you accept her life choices and will you embrace them? Will you support each other in this vital area of life?
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Listen to this song: link. Your partner will become your responsibility, but will always be someone else’s son or daughter. Some scoff at the idea of asking a father’s blessing on a marriage proposal, but it’s not some phony, outdated tradition. It’s a simple display of courtesy and respect.
"Your family and friends must consider if you are happy, but they have an obligation to you to raise legitimate concerns if they have any."Does your family approve of your partner? Your family is most likely looking out for you if they voice disapproval (though for whatever reason, some may never approve, i.e., Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents). The same applies with friends. You won’t always get along with each others' families and friends. There may always be one or two who disapprove, but if the simple fact that you are together makes everyone around you miserable, the relationship will suffer. Your family and friends must consider if you are happy, but they have an obligation to you to raise legitimate concerns if they have any.
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
Recreation is essential to a happy life. Do you approve of each other’s interests or can you at least hold back objections (depending on why you object)? For example, if you are a firearms enthusiast and your partner does not like guns at all, will you receive flak? If you win first place in a shooting contest, will your partner congratulate you? If your partner’s idea of a good time is hanging out at home when you want to spend the evening out, can you compromise?
I don’t just mean if you’re outgoing and your partner is shy, but if you can set differences aside and work with each other to solve problems. If you are both born leaders and used to doing things your way, there could be personality clashes and trust issues. If you are both followers, your relationship will become boring and you may feel overwhelmed by even the smallest of things. Will you be able to handle your partner’s personality flaws and shortcomings?
Actions speak louder than words, but words are good to hear. Your words are the foundation of your actions. Tell your partner “I love you” and demonstrate it in little ways every day. Mother Teresa put it brilliantly when she said “We cannot all endeavor to do great things, but to do small things with great love” and while she was speaking about general charity, this no less applies to dating relationships than it does to treating human beings with dignity, care, and respect. Communication breeds compassion, respect, and understanding.
The three parts of effective communication are what you are communicating, how you are communicating, and listening. Case in point: the request for a sandwich. Guys, if you say to your wife or girlfriend (hopefully only one or the other) “I’m hungry. Make me a sandwich” and order it thusly… link--don’t expect a quality feast.
On the other hand, ladies, if your husband or boyfriend (hopefully only one or the other) calls and says “Hey babe, I got off late and I’m stuck in traffic. Would you mind making one of your amazing turkey sandwiches for me?” and you somehow hear the former example and reply with “Go to McDonald’s”, don’t expect a grateful heart. Or stomach.
To expand on how you communicate, watch this clip from the TV series Home Improvement: link. Note Tim and Jill’s different communication styles.
Now let’s revisit sex for a moment. How many people really get it right the first time? Studies have shown that married couples who use natural family planning rather than contraception and birth control as a means of avoiding pregnancy are less likely to divorce, are less likely to cheat, and report happier marriages, family lives, and more satisfying sex (Dr. Robert Lerner, University of Chicago, 2001) because NFP requires communication, respect, and sacrifice. The lovers are more in tune with each other, know each other’s desires, and plan their sex around the woman’s cycles.
Do you trust each other? Have you let go of hurts from past relationships? Is breaking up and getting back together a routine? Do you fight a lot and if so, why? Money is a significant reason why many marriages end. Are you each financially sound?
"You must have mutual respect and compassion. “You are everything to me” and “You are the center of my world” sound sweet and romantic, but you are not the only person in the relationship."
The American Heritage Dictionary (New College Edition) defines “humble” as “…aware of one’s shortcomings; modest; meek” and “showing deferential respect”. Humility reminds you that there’s nothing you can get away with and keep the relationship healthy; you are not above the relationship. It reminds you that you should hold your partner above yourself (agape). You can’t “do no wrong”. You can damage the relationship if you are not careful. “There is no room for inflated pride in a relationship”, says my mother, married to my father for thirty years as of June 2012.
You must have mutual respect and compassion. “You are everything to me” and “You are the center of my world” sound sweet and romantic, but you are not the only person in the relationship.
In December 2011, Cornell University reported that many young Americans are avoiding marriage because they fear the ravages of divorce. A lot of people don’t know what it means when they say they love each other. They have an idea, but don’t grasp the full concept. There is a lot more involved when selecting a life partner than two people saying “I love you” and having great sex. You become a part of the other person’s life and they become a part of yours. You must understand this, especially if you want marriage. Romantic love is important, but your relationship will not survive on that alone.