by Motte Brown
In my article “Cultivating Godly Attraction” I asked if we are slaves to what we find physically attractive, allowing it to dictate our pursuit with little regard for other characteristics. Pastor Steve Cornell addressed a similar question about feelings on The Gospel Coalition blog – Are we victims of our own feelings?
Pastor Cornell references a conversation he had with a women who was leaving her husband because she “didn’t love him anymore” to make a point about “being in love” vs. “behaving in love.”
Over the years, people have told me they want to be married because they love each other. I’ve also had people (like this woman) tell me that they want out of their marriage because they no longer feel love for their mate.
This has led me to ask some serious questions about the nature of love. In my evaluation, I’ve concluded that we need to distinguish two dimensions of love.
1. Being in love
This dimension is the emotional attraction of love. It’s what people mean when they speak of “falling in love.” It’s usually based on more superficial reactions to appearance and first impressions. Clearly, it’s a natural part of human attraction. Though not necessarily wrong, it’s not enough to sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship. It’s far too superficial. Deeply satisfying relationships are built on the second dimension of love.
2. Behaving in love
This dimension does not depend on feelings and chemistry. It’s the love of volition. It’s the choice to respond to my mate in a loving manner, regardless of feelings. This dimension of love is a choice to value my mate and seek his or her best. While I can’t always make myself feel a certain way, I can always choose to act in a loving way.
In the context of marriage, the distinction between these two dimensions is very important to understand. Most relationships start with a high dose of the being dimension of love and, in most relationships, this feeling diminishes with time. When this happens, the key to keeping the flame of love burning is not pursuing a feeling but deciding to value the other person and be devoted to his or her best—no matter what one feels.
I’m glad Pastor Cornell makes the distinction between the beginning of relationships and marriage – there is a whole lot of being at the beginning. However, before getting married, dating couples need to realize that a transition must take place from the “being” to the “behaving.” Because there is usually an expiration date on feelings even in a dating relationship, particularly if it lacks intentionality.
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