The idea of having one soul mate that you must find to be happy and in love is quite fear provoking-- what if you don't find him? What if he is already married? What if you make a mistake and marry the wrong guy and your soul mate is still out there? At that point, are you justified in leaving your marriage to find him? What if you quit loving him?
But, the flip side is also a little daunting. If you can marry many different types of men, do you have to settle for someone? Does that mean romance is gone? Is it more like a contract than a marriage? How do you pick? Do you find someone practical with whom you have no romantic feelings for and settle down? I have jokingly said that I could have married many different men and probably made it work (not so romantic right?) -- but God is sovereign and allowed me to marry one special guy. There may not be soul mates or star crossed lovers, but there is a God who often time directs our paths and opens doors - which is why out of all the guys I could have ended up with, I ended up with D. (FYI, I don'st say ALL the GUYS to mean LOTS of guys were asking for my hand in marriage, I mean ALL the GUYS in the sense that there are many godly great men out there who could have and would have made a good husband. I am particularly grateful though that the person I married is D!!)
So here is a recent article from the Huntington Post entitled, "Real Love is a Choice" Check it out because the author is far more eloquent than I am. And I love that it is a secular article. Christians and non-Christians alike are noticing the need for more commitment in our relationships.
Many times, we choose to love our spouses...and I suppose the longer you are married, the more love becomes a dance between feelings and choice-- alternating between periods of time where you wake up completely enamored with this other person and you can't imagine walking through life without him and days, weeks, even months where love feels more like a choice, a commitment, based on vows not feelings. And, even on a daily basis, we alternate between desiring to please and love our spouse and moments where we want our way and must choose to lovingly place him or her first.
Sometimes love is a choice made separately from your spouse -- where you chose to put them first, to honor and cherish them despite a lack of emotions encouraging you to do so. But, sometimes love is a choice together -- realizing that marriage isn't living in a viral engagement video, honeymoon facebook album or a blockbuster romantic comedy. Most days, it's paying the bills, cooking dinner, sharing the same viruses back and forth, watching tv, cleaning toilets. In these days, marriage may be a happy commitment, with accompanying feelings, but it is still a commitment, still a choice, definitely not always a fairy tale.
My thoughts on choosing a spouse that makes "choosing love" a bit easier:
1. Choose to marry someone with whom you are "in love" and feel attraction. I feel like this is obvious. This is not an arranged marriage or two people deciding they are suitably matched to be business partners for life. Fall in love, enjoy loving and being loved in return. Pick someone who you find attractive -- physically, emotionally, intellectually. This won't guarantee that you always feel love, but it's a good place to start. On days that you want to choose not to love your spouse, on days you want to quit, hopefully you can remember your original feelings and why you loved them.
2. Choose someone whom you respect and admire. Attraction and love are great, but make sure you are marrying someone who you admire and respect. Marry someone whom you would think was a great person even if he or she wasn't your spouse...someone who portrays character traits and discipline and has goals that you respect. It will still be hard sometimes to love this person, but it is easier to love someone whom you generally think pretty highly of.
3. Choose to marry a Christian. He or she does not have to be a preacher, elder, biblical scholar, but someone who loves the Lord, loves His church and who seeks to serve Him and grow. Being unequally yoked makes for a hard marriage.
4. Choose to marry someone who has dealt with hard times. Someone once asked me what had prepared me most for marriage and my response was having roommates (see #5) and enduring hard times. I think it's one of the things I find so attractive about my husband. He has had disappointments and hardships and pushed through. I feel strongly that he can handle any challenges life and marriage throw our way. I trust that he will strive to choose love even when its hard.
5. Choose someone who has chosen to love others well. Marriage is not the only relationship where we have to sometimes choose love over ourselves. Find someone who treats others lovingly, who chooses to act kindly to family, friends, neighbors, roommates, cashiers at Walmart.
6. Choose to marry someone who repents and forgives easily. Whether you feel head over heals in love or are choosing to love when it's hard, you will screw up and fail to love well at times. It's best for both partners to repent and forgive well.
***And of course, when we seek mates with these qualities then for sure, we should be striving to do the same things...learning to handle hard times, loving others well even when that love is a choice, practicing repentance and forgiveness in our daily lives, etc.
I'm not an expert in love or marriage -- with almost a year and half of marriage under my belt, most would call me a novice. We can't control who we fall in love with, but we can choose who we marry. Love is a choice, and oftentimes it may be a hard choice - but choosing well at the beginning may help make that choice a bit easier.
Also, on one last note: I am a big believer that often times, feelings follow choice. In marriage, in relationships: choose to love, choose to serve, choose to forgive and the Lord can supplement that choice with feelings.