MARRIAGE begins before the wedding day. Not, as we have seen, in the most intimate physical sense; but in the building of a new relationship. Marriage is a structure, a true building, and not merely an event in time.

Take your time about marriage. Knowingly to cement a wrong relationship is asking for trouble, and it will almost certainly come. Marriage is not an escape from spinsterhood or, as someone once said to me, ‘cheaper than lodgings’! Our sights must be higher in every way because marriage changes the whole of life. Nothing is ever the same again and we need to choose wisely and permanently. Looks, disposition, family background, occupations, and income are all factors in the case, but they are only ingredients of a far more interesting compound; a living relationship of the highest order, a thrilling and deeply satisfying partnership which can endure without those considerations because it rests on something that is to survive prosperity and adversity.

Our natural urges are very powerful. For reasons beyond our understanding we find some members of the opposite sex so powerfully attractive that we are willing to sacrifice elements of our reason to secure the love and attention of the other person.

This is largely a physical response, compelling as it is, and can exist before we really know anything about one another. If the response is mutual, if the chemistry is right, as people say, we are in love’s jet-propelled chariot without having true command of the direction and power of the engine.

How do we handle a situation like this? It may be dangerous or become so, or it may be of short duration, though we do not know that at the time and certainly do not feel that way. What kind of forces must we bring to bear on the compass needle of our lives? How do we set a true course to real happiness?

What do we mean by love?

Is it physical, spiritual or what? And how is it related to ‘falling in love’ or to ‘making love’? How does it compare to the warmest feelings we have for other friends or for members of our family?

Remember the words, ‘fit’, ‘suitable’, ‘corresponding to’, and ‘answering to’ in Genesis? There has be a correspondence, a fitness, about two people if they are to make good marriage partners. Therefore, we need to take a careful look at our individual lives and see what the elements of life really are. We are persons with likes and dislikes, aims and objectives, needs and desires, and strengths and weaknesses. Marriage impinges on these important parts of our lives but it will not alter us basically. It is useless imagining that marriage is the answer to all our problems or the cause of all our joys. We need to remember that in a bad marriage it may become the cause of all our sense of deprivation, and the source of deep and destructive sorrow.

Does mutual attraction matter?

The answer is ‘yes’ to some degree, but it cannot be everything nor can it really be enduring because our physical appearance will change over the years—white teeth yellow and decay; golden hair turns grey; litheness is replaced by lack of agility and the once graceful figure takes on other dimensions. Hence, whilst there must be some mutual correspondence physically, it is a far less important factor than might be assumed when we first fall in love.

Nevertheless, the heart beats faster and the poetry in us is stirred by how we look to each other:

O my love is like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June:

O my love is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,

So deep in love am I.

And I will love thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

and the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

And I will love thee still, my dear,

While the sands of life shall run.

Scripture too takes up the theme of the attractiveness of one person for another when pursuing a highly spiritual theme:

“My beloved is white and ruddy, the Chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy and black as the raven.” (Song of Solomon 5:10-11)

Some of the Components of Human Love

Our emotions are involved to a very high degree and we wish to express them to each other. We have a wish to ‘possess’, that is, to have for our very own and solely as our own, the one we truly love. Our love is encouraged by the attention paid to us, and by responses to our own feelings which we seek by the things we say and do and by the care we bestow on each other. Love wants to serve and to protect or be protected.

Emotions are sensitive and sometimes dangerous things. At first we have so little on which to build because we know so little about each other. This should tell us that our initial feelings might be quite mistaken or altogether inappropriate. It is a wise person who sees the amber and red lights for what they really are. Take your time and, despite the intensity of your desires, take a cool look at yourself, at each other and, above all as we shall see, at everything in the light of God’s counsel in His word.

Love has Limits

Despite the first flames of love, it does not take long to realise that other forces are at play and crucially affect our feelings and appreciation. Our personalities are soon revealed for what they are—more easily so because we tend to be spontaneous when we are first moved. Do our personalities harmonise? Are they complementary? Or would they be the cause of constant friction? Would one partner totally dominate the other? These latter situations are intolerable or else they lead to the complete suppression of the one personality b y t h e o t h e r . That is the way to unhappiness.

Don’t be Blind!

Remember that there are parts of our make-up that hardly ever c h a n g e , e v e n though we find ourselves being moulded by the p r i n c i p l e s o f Christ Jesus our Lord. Very foolish marriages have been contracted because one of the partners has not understood these simple facts of life. Women have married alcoholics in the hope of ‘changing them after marriage’; others have sacrificed themselves on the altar of the other person’s total self-centredness or selfishness. Don’t gamble on working wonders after marriage. If the power of love does not work a change before marriage, why should it do so afterwards?

Above all, love for another person can constitute a challenge to our love for God and His Son. This is the greatest conflict of loyalties. Love for someone else may come to blind our eyes. The warning signs will be evident and we are foolish to ignore them. Is our ‘friend’ in the Truth? Is he or she showing real and abiding interest in it? Is our companion spiritually-minded? Do we find ourselves attending all possible meetings together, talking about our faith together, thinking and desiring spiritual things? Would we find it easy to pray together? Do we want to read the word of God together? Are we mutually committed to our faith? Do worldly things play a large part in the happiness of one or both of us?

These are crucial questions—please, please use them as yardsticks by which to measure the rightness of your love for someone else.