Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Eros is Blind

Continuing with the theme of marriage, I'd thought I'd recommend the book I've been using in pre-marital counseling for some years now. It was originally published under the title The Myth of Romance (which I liked better) but now goes by Spiritual Relationships That Last: What the Bible Says About Dating and Marriage. (OK, I know the Bible doesn't say anything about dating, per se, but overlook that unfortunate choice of a subtitle. The content is excellent.)

The authors, Gary DeLashmutt and Dennis McCallum, are pastors at Xenos Christian Fellowship . The book is the outgrowth of a class they put together to help single Christians understand what biblical love is and how drastically it differs from the cultural notion of love as an involuntary, emotional experience. This understanding of love as something that just "comes over us" is, according to the authors, the primary, if not the sole, criterion for marriage choices even among believers:

Using this standard, a couple can justify even the most hazardous marriage plans with the plea, "But we're in love!" The concept is so ingrained in modern culture that even strong Christians find themselves asking, "How do I know when it's really love?" Such a question reveals that they believe in a romantic attraction so powerful that nothing can change it. They think the key to success is making sure they find "true" love - eros so true it will never fade.
A chapter titled "Is Love Enough?" contains a list of questions to help readers know if they're being excessively influenced by the romance myth in their dating or marriage choices. One of the questions is related to what I blogged about yesterday - the necessity of realistically acknowledging your partner's weaknesses:
Are you unable to articulate your dating partner's weaknesses? Do your friends say you react with excessive defensiveness to those who offer a criticism? Couples who are "in love" often say that because they never fight or disagree their love is the "real thing." Eros is notoriously blind to a lover's weaknesses, and those under its spell tend to respond with outrage to any who poke holes in their idealized image of the other person. Some Christians spiritualize this blindness by claiming that God has "shown them" he approves of their relationship in spite of overwhelming objective evidence that they are in trouble. By contrast, dating couples who are forging a relationship based on Christian love temper their feelings of attraction with realism. They will not feel compelled to ignore or defend their partner's character weaknesses, because their love is a commitment to do good to the other person rather than an emotional state to be maintained at all costs. They make constructive criticism, along with encouragement, a part of their relationship from the beginning.
I appreciate this volume's sober and honest look at the difficulties of marriage (the first chapter is called "Marriage Success Today: What Are Your Chances?") as well as its consistent emphasis that biblical love is something that can and must be learned (a hope-giving emphasis that makes it worthwhile reading for married couples as well).

Unlike many works on marriage that focus exclusively on the relationship between the husband and wife, DeLashmutt and McCallum remind Christian couples that their relationship is not to be insulated from the needs and counsel of the corporate body. Chapters on marriage and ministry and marriage and community highlight this point. Other chapters address distinguishing between sexual love and exploitation, the importance of spiritual compatibility, and overcoming issues from the past that could impede marital harmony such as substance abuse, materialism, sexual abuse, past relationships, promiscuity, and divorce.

You can read Chapter 9, Are We Moving in the Same Direction?, here.

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