Alas, the vast majority of relationships today are mere business contracts.
Huh? Uh...Reagan, I think you need to check your calendar. This is 2016! Love has been liberated in the Western world. Marrying for love is the only reason people marry. People marry for any other reason unless they are part of a cult, and abusively forced to against their will.
When you think of a relationship leading toward marriage that is "just a business contract," what comes to mind? Well, probably something like what was mentioned above. Either an uber-conservative cult, or maybe the archaic systems of arranged marriage, betrothal, and courtship from days gone by.
We recall from history when marriages often very much were just business contracts. Kings would have their children marry in order to form a political alliance between their two kingdoms. Other families married for status, or land, or wealth. It has become so cliche to watch movies today that take place in the medieval era that feature a romance plot where one person or another is being forced to marry someone against their will.
What a tragedy! "But I don't love him!" we will hear a character say. "I don't want money! I want to marry the man I love!" Touching. I wonder, though, just how historically accurate are these plots? If arranged and forced marriages were so common, and marrying "for love" so alien, then probably most people saw being forced to marry someone they did not "love" as normal, and expected, just as today we expect everyone to go to college after they graduate. It's just what you do. But this is beside the point of this article.
What is promoted in these films, and our culture today, is the notion of marrying "for love". Marrying for any other reason is generally looked-down-upon in our society. I would agree with this idea...if it weren't for the fact that our culture has so misunderstood love today.
Now, when people talk about "marrying for love," they are really just talking about a business contract.
Huh? What? I think you're stretching a bit here, Reagan!
It doesn't mean what you think it means
Indeed, I am very much a proponent of marrying for love, and I think it is a tragedy that so many today are not marrying for love. This might sound very confusing, but I promise, it makes sense. The confusion comes in because the word "love" is very ambiguous. It has many different meanings today, so we have to make sure we define "love" when we use it.
When most people refer to "love" today, they are talking about a strong and pleasant emotion. We talk about being "in love" as though it is a state of being. We also talk about "falling in love" as though love is something that happens to us and is beyond our control. This is one kind of love, and it's not a bad kind of love. In fact, it is very good, and a gift from God! The Greeks termed this kind of love, "Eros."
However, Eros was never meant to be the foundation of a relationship. Eros is thin, and fleeting. By it's very nature, it flickers. This is because it is an emotion, and emotions don't last. They are temporary. They come and go. Building a relationship on Eros is like building a house on the sand, and when the storms inevitably come, the house crumbles.
True Love Is...
There is another kind of love though. This love is the kind that the Bible says marriages are meant to display, and be built on. It's the same kind of love that Christ had for us, the Church. It is a love that is unconditional. That means no conditions or requirements have to be met in order to receive this love. It is a love that that will make one die a torturous death on a cross to save the very people who condemn Him, and the very people who continue to betray Him even after accepting Him as their Lord: you and me. In the Greek, this love is called agape.
Agape is the love that marriage was created to display. This is the foundation, and the stronghold that all other loves are meant to flow out of.
From the bastion of Agape can flow "Philia", the deep kindred friendship version of love. From the citadel of Agape, Eros can expand, and continually grow. But without Agape, love is exposed, and vulnerable to attack. Philia and Eros will be overwhelmed by the enemy, and be swept away, and as a result the relationship will crumble...
Agape is a truer, stronger form of love because it is not dependent on transient emotions, but a state of thinking. Agape is a decision to will the good of another, no matter what they do, or whether or not they deserve love. Agape love is an action, and it is not dependent on outside forces. All we need is Christ, and to chose to love.
Unfortunately, it seems like many relationships are not built on Agape, but Eros. Marriages are entered into not because the couple is in love, not because they are "in Agape," but because they are "in Eros". The man is essentially saying to the woman, "You bring me pleasure, and make me feel good about myself, therefore, I want to have you always in my life so I can always feel how I am feeling right now." The same usually goes for the woman as well.
As a result, as soon as one's spouse fails to live up to their expectations, when their spouse inevitably does something that is unpleasant and brings pain instead of pleasure, our natural reaction is to say, "Hey! I didn't sign up for this! This isn't what I thought I was buying. This doesn't work. Can I take this back? I need a refund! I need a better one!"
But that isn't love, and there are no better ones, because the problem isn't what you got, but how you treated it. The problem is you, not them. The attitude that one married the wrong person reflects the reality that they never really loved their spouse when they married them: they loved themselves. If we fall out of love, that is a negative reflection on ourselves, not our spouses.
Love is a decision to will the good of another; love is an action.
If I were to "fall out of love" and therefore to stop loving my wife, that would not be statement about her unlovableness, but what a terrible husband I am. It would reveal how selfish I am, not that my marriage wasn't meant to be.
Marriage is not a contract, but a Covenant. In a contract, each party only has to hold up their end of the deal so long as the other holds up theirs. In a covenant, you hold up your end of the agreement no matter what the other party does; marriage is a covenant.
Will you marry for love?
Will you marry for love? Or will you marry for wealth, status, pleasure, or Self?
Will you marry for love? Or will you marry for the lust of the flesh?
Will you marry for love? Or is your marriage just a business contract, poised to be made null and void as soon as one of you doesn't hold up their end of the bargain?
Will you marry for love? Or will you cease to love your spouse when they fail to give you what you desire?
Will you marry for love? Or will you wield your "love" like a weapon to manipulate and obtain what you want?
Are you planning on marrying for love? Are you really loving your partner, or yourself?