I’ve been so blessed over the last couple of years as I’ve shared some of these ideas about singleness to engage a lot of different people. Young singles, older singles, married people, pastors among others. During one conversation with some people a woman said, “I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love. I don’t think you should do that.”
There are so many angles on this idea of being “in love”. There is the obvious stuff about romantic love vs. sacrificial love. I get that. Here’s the funny thing. Married people (and I mean people who have been married for a while) will almost always tell you it’s not about romantic love. I can’t count the times someone told me that. And the thing is, I got it then and I get it now. But I always chuckled because if pushed, none of them got married to someone that they weren’t “in love” with. So while that might be true in marriage, and while it can bring perspective to a single person, it’s tough to work through and most haven’t.
Really we have to define “in love” but I’d like to back up a couple of steps.
We need to first own what I talked about a couple of weeks ago. This idea that while there are things we are looking for in a person (such as a Christian, smart, fun, has a job, driven, likes sports . . . whatever else) those are really qualifiers. What I mean is that what we want is someone we are attracted to who also has those things. We need to own up to this because when we don’t, we are just in our own way.
What this woman was saying is I don’t want to marry someone I’m not attracted to. That would be a fair statement. But frankly that doesn’t have much to do with love.
We need to keep two very important things in mind. Loving someone is not a feeling and attraction is not a choice.
Both attraction and love are real. Here’s the good news. When you love someone, I think attraction can grow, and attraction can lead you to love someone. But when we confuse the two all the time it can keep us single and/or make us bad spouses if we do get married.
Love is a choice. I can choose to love literally anyone. This is why it’s a command. Jesus is not commanding you to feel something. Jesus isn’t saying, “Be attracted to God with all your heart. (Yes I get that we should be and one day will be). He’s not saying, “be attracted to your enemy.”
Think about this, everyone’s favorite little marriage verses, like, “Husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church”, or “Wives submit to your husbands” have nothing to do with attraction. Most of the people that Paul was writing to were married through arranged marriages in one form or another. Not all certainly but the point is that those commands aren’t based on how you feel about it that day. Love is a choice.
Attraction is not a choice. Here’s what I mean by that. As someone I was team teaching with put it a few weeks ago, Attraction is not an in that moment conscious decision. Read that again. Am I saying attraction can’t grow? No. Am I saying that you can’t lose attraction? Of course not. What I’m saying is that you don’t go out and say, “I’m going to feel attraction for this or that person.” In that moment you either feel attracted or you don’t.
Now I have a post coming about attraction and how what I’m going to call our attraction meter is completely hi-jacked. But the first step is acknowledging that it matters. The question is not does attraction matter, but how much should I allow it to matter.
If the question is, can I marry someone I don’t love, then the answer is well sort of. But if you get married you are commanded to love them so you might want to figure it out. On the other hand if the question is can you marry someone you aren’t attracted to, the answer is clearly yes. The hardest part about this for the single person (the part that no married person likes to admit) is that to do so would mean you’d first have to date someone you weren’t attracted to.
Am I saying that you should marry someone you aren’t attracted to? Not really. I didn’t. But you could. What I’m saying is at the very least, own that you are looking for attraction. I’m saying who you marry is a choice – attracted or not. Really you could choose to marry a lot of people irregardless of your attraction level – many of whom would have the qualities you say you are looking for.
I’m not saying we should ignore attraction. In fact I’m saying the opposite. We need to understand it – what we are attracted to and why, what makes us attractive to the opposite sex and why, and what to do about it all.
How attracted do you need to be to marry someone? To go on a date? Which is more important to you – your attraction to someone or the qualities you are looking for?