I posted this yesterday on another blog site. It still needs some work, but I think I’m on the right track:
I lived my adult life with what I thought was a pretty good understanding of people and emotions. I raised my children to believe the same things. When I discovered my husband’s affair, I was rocked to the core. Everything I believed seemed wrong. Since then I have struggled with the meaning of love. I questioned its very existence, and I have been reading about and contemplating on the concept for 4 months now. I’m no expert, but I think long term couples share two different kinds of love for each other at the same time. They are both important in a marriage.
It seems to me that, between spouses, there is romantic love and there is agape love. Agape love is the choice to care for someone unconditionally. It is more than a feeling. It’s a decision to place someone else’s needs before your own. It is safe and secure and makes you a better human being. It is absolutely the basis and foundation upon which a marriage is built.
Romantic love is all that stuff about ecstasy and passion and spark. It’s the “falling in love” feeling that makes the object of your affections seem so wonderful. Infatuation is the beginning of romantic love, but romantic love is more than that. It is also more than just lust or attraction. Romantic love is the electricity that runs through you even when you have gotten to know the person’s weaknesses and warts and areas of wimpiness. It is a feeling, yes, a wonderful feeling that can make an ordinary life seem grand. It is not essential for a marriage to last a lifetime, but it sure makes the journey more satisfying and fulfilling.
Mort Fortel wrote a book called Marriage Fitness in which he says that if you increase the ecstatic love in your marriage, you can conquer all other problems much more easily. People on that other blog site attacked this view because they felt love was not so changeable and fickle. They were talking about agape love. Fortel was talking about romantic love. Romantic love is a feeling, and it can come and go. His points are well-made that if you are feeling romantically in love with your spouse, you are in a good place to be compassionate and will feel more compatible. Any problems that come up will be more easy to overcome. Communication is far easier when you are romantically in love.
And since romantic love is a feeling, you can do things to bring it back and keep it going: daily reflect on at least one characteristic that you like in your spouse; often talk about how you fell in love and how you show your love today; never dwell on the faults of your spouse. We all have faults – this is where your agape love will help you in working through them without dwelling on them.
In spite of everything that has happened in my marriage, I still have both kinds of love for my husband. My agape love for him is why I’m still here. My romantic love for him is why my heart still skips a beat when he enters a room, and it makes it possible for me to work through the pain of his affair. Maybe one day he’ll understand that.