Someone told me recently, in a conversation we were having about Marriage -- and about Love, in general -- that "when the passion is gone, that's it, it's time to move on."
I was stunned by this comment, coming from an older person whose opinions and thoughts I respect very much; and yet at the same time, the comment struck me as profoundly symptomatic of one of the fundamental problems in our culture, the idea that my own personal "Happiness" comes before everything else, including Virtue, even including the "Happiness" of other people, even (and sometimes especially) my spouse!
In contrast to this idea, the wisest among us recognize that not only is Virtue far more valuable than "Happiness" (HERE is an outstanding Lecture on that very topic), but also that True Love does not come and go depending on the shifting winds of "Happiness" nor on the wild fluctuations of our "Passions".
Specifically, the constancy, the permanency, and the strength of True Love find perhaps their deepest grounding in MARRIAGE. Consider what a man and a woman commit themselves to when they say their Wedding Vows (and here I will paraphrase a fairly standard script):
- I promise to ACT in a certain way toward you...
("To Have", "To Hold", "To Love", "To Cherish")
Through and despite any and all Circumstances of Life...
("Rich or Poor", "Health or Sickness", "Better or Worse")
For my entire Life, starting this very day until I die...
("From this Day forward" "Until Death parts us")
"I promise you EVERYTHING, through ANYTHING, until I (or you) DIE." Witnessed by a crowd, hallowed by the presence of a minister, and of the Bible (and of God, presumably), and sealed with a kiss, a ring, and a Contract.
But notice something very important: We never promise to go on FEELING the way we did on our Wedding Day!
In fact, the Vows themselves clearly allude to the reality that there will be many days where we do NOT "feel" the way we did on that day, and that there will be Circumstances throughout all of LIFE that will tempt us to think that the Marriage was "a big mistake"; we will realize, on MANY occasions, that we are not "Happy" anymore, that the "passion" has gone, and it is precisely at those moments that the Vows we took to one another become necessary...
"FEELINGS" come and go; "passions" rise and fall, wax and wane, and absolutely nobody can reasonably and practically promise to FEEL, decades from now, what he is feeling on any given day, including the Wedding Day.
For an excellent treatment of the idea of "Feelings" in Marriage, from the perspective of the Christian World View, read this chapter from "Mere Christianity" entitled, Christian Marriage.
- ...I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present
nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God...
--Romans 8:38, 39