266. WHAT IS ROMANTIC LOVE?

(The Single Woman Series – Batch 4)

(DISCLAIMER: The following represent my views on the subject which I understand that some people may not agree with.)

I’ve said on previous occasions to women, that, if a man you like tells you he loves you, you should not start getting butterflies in your stomach and feeling faint with euphoria. I understand the excitement in hearing those three little words. However, instead of losing it with elation, try to gather yourself and calmly ask him what he means when he says he loves you.

After hearing what people said when they called in on what was supposed to be a Christian radio station about their views on the this whole thing called love, I have come to realize that finding out what that potential mate means when he says he loves you is critically important. For, not many people understand what romantic love really is and many people have a different definition for it.

For one man, him telling you that he loves you may mean that he likes how you can clean a house, cook, wash and take care of him when he is sick. To another, it may mean that he likes how you make him feel and the fact that you make him look good when around his friends and you make him feel better about himself.

Notice that the emphasis here is on him, without a mention of your welfare. Such compliments may sound nice but it is not love.

Others may tell you that they love you because you look hot or sexy, have a nice body and look like you will be fun in bed. That is NOT love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 speaks of what true love (which is called ‘charity’) is. It states:

  • “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”

For starters therefore, love of any kind (including filial love and love among the Church family) is not selfish. Wherever there is selfishness, in that the focus is on ‘me’ and ‘I’, whatever that may be, it isn’t love.

My mind ran on the issue of love again recently, when a Christian family member of mine told me that he did not believe in being in love. He believed that there was something called love because God is love and he calls us as human beings, to love one another. However, he subscribed to the view that when it came to love relationships, being in love was a fictitious Hollywood idea, as love was really a conscious choice and that is it.

IS LOVE IN A RELATIONSHIP CONTEXT, MERELY A CONSCIOUS HEAD DECISION AND A MATTER OF CHOICE?

I disagreed with my Christian brother and told him so. I agree that the ‘feelings’ based ‘love’ that Hollywood promotes which they claim captures their heart one day and leaves the next is not love at all but lust, self-centredness and selfishness. For, it places confidence in how a person makes you feel at one moment (which can be deceptive) and encourages you to always act upon it, even where that feeling changes tomorrow.

Hollywood subscribes to the idea that if you feel a certain way one day toward a person because they make you feel good or can do something for you, then you are in love but if you feel that way toward another the next, you are now out of love with the first and in love with the next. Quite frankly, it is never about being of service to the other person but how the person can serve you.

Hollywood therefore sells the idea that love is a floaty feeling that you have no control over and when the cupid bug or arrow or whatever it is hits you in your heart, you just mindlessly run into the arms of the other person.

Defining love as how I feel and what I want is a sure recipe for disaster and no wonder the divorce and infidelity rate is so high in the world of Hollywood.

Romantic love is definitely not a floaty, wish-washy, mindless, I-cannot-control-this, emotion. It is supposed to be outward in outlook, not inward and promoting self-satisfaction and exaltation. Charity never fails and endures all things so it is supposed to be stable, irrespective of the circumstances around it and the mood a person may be in on a particular day or in a particular season.

However, I told my Christian brother, that frankly, if any man comes up to me and tells me that he does not believe that there is such a thing as being in love but that to him, love was just a head choice, I would run in the next direction.

Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic but I cannot imagine, in a million years, walking down an aisle in a fancy frock and entrusting my whole life over to a man, vowing excitedly in front of witnesses to love him till death do us part, where I know that he is marrying me and promising to love me, just as a matter of choice and nothing else.

I need his heart to be knit with mind.

By no means am I subscribing to the folly that exists in Hollywood. However, as I told my Christian brother, if when it came to love relationships and marriage, there is no place for STRONG EMOTION and ENDEARMENT in love and it was just a choice, how then do you explain the Bible when it says that Jacob loved Rachel, so much so, that he was willing to work fourteen (14) years for her?

How do you explain the Bible when it says that the first seven years that Jacob served were like a few days, given the extent of the love he had for her?

Yes. Charity suffers long, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Can one even begin to imagine how Jacob suffered and accepted it willingly for the joy that was set before him, at the prospect of finally getting Rachel as his wife? Can one even begin to imagine the excitement he felt and had to contain during that waiting period? How could such willingness to wait and patiently for so long a period, be considered to be just a matter of choice?

Surely, Jacob could have found some other lovely woman during that period? What made him wait it out? Furthermore, what made him consider seven long years in the first instance, to be but a few days? The Bible says in Genesis 29:20, that it was because of “..the love he had to her.”

Surely, if the love between a man and a woman was just conscious choice, then Jacob could have just cut his losses and stayed with Leah alone, when he realized after seven long years, that he had been duped by her father Laban and given the wrong bride. Yet he did not do that. The FERVENCY OF THE EMOTION, ENDEARMENT, AFFECTION and SELFLESS DEVOTION he felt for Rachel (which was definitely not just a boring, platonic choice on his part) prevented him from cutting his losses and walking away. He relentlessly pursued the object of his love not because he had made a choice to love her but because he was in love with her.

I cited a second example and asked my Christian brother to explain why, if love was just a choice, although Elkanah was married to Peninnah (the one who had borne him children) and Hannah (who had borne him none), the Bible says he loved Hannah and gave unto her a worthy portion, seemingly more than what he gave to Peninnah and her children.

If love was just a choice, surely, as a godly man, he would have loved both wives equally, based on his desire to be a just man. Surely, if he had loved both wives equally and had been perceived to be doing so, as a matter of just choice, Peninnah would have had no reason to be jealous of Hannah (the one that had not even borne Elkanah any children) and would not have gone after her so ruthlessly, taking pleasure in hurting her.

Even Peninnah knew and had experienced what it was like to be in a marriage where your husband tolerated you as a person and maybe as a friend as a result of a choice but where he was not in love with you. What she lacked in her relationship with her husband, she saw every day being experienced between Hannah and Elkanah and it made her envious, so much so, that she went after Hannah and tried to hurt her.

In fact, when one follows the story of Jacob, he favoured Rachel throughout her life’s journey, over Leah. Although Jacob had several children by four women (two being maids), when he felt that he and his family’s safety were threatened by his brother Esau, he placed the maids and their children at the forefront, then Leah and her children behind and lastly, Rachel and her son Joseph.

Genesis 33:1-3 states:

  • “And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.”

Clearly, he valued Rachel and her offspring more than everything else he had, them being his PRIZED TREASURES. He may have figured, that even if he, some of his children and the women were killed, Rachel and Joseph would still maybe get a chance to escape.

Clearly, what he felt for Rachel, over and above Leah was something more than just a conscious choice. It was SELFLESS DEVOTION and FERVENT EMOTION.

Also, it is interesting to note that Rachel did not appear to be a very noble woman in terms of her character and conduct, yet Jacob was in love with her. We see for example, that when Jacob and his family departed from Laban, Rachel stole Laban’s idols which he considered to be his gods. This called her relationship with the true God into question. She withheld this information from Jacob her husband and then hid it beneath her when Laban pursued after them and had her tent searched, lying that she could not get up because she was having her monthlies!

Earlier on, when she saw that her sister Leah was bearing children, her heart was full of envy toward her sister because she was barren and she demanded of Jacob that he get her pregnant or else she would die. This again called her relationship with God into question as she was completely faithless in this endeavour, even going so far as to make childbearing an idol and subtly putting the blame for her infertility on her husband.

Then we see that she used the fact that Jacob was in love with her, to tell him what to do and not to do, so as to influence certain outcomes. He was so in love with her that he obeyed, even if it was unfair to others. For example, she apparently instructed him to not be physically intimate with Leah, who was also his wife and therefore entitled to same. She then rented out Jacob for one night to Leah, in exchange for the mandrakes that Leah’s son had, that she wanted.

Despite her character clearly not being the best, Jacob’s love for her was not based on her having earned it. Even where he may not have known why, he just found that he was very much in love with her, even if to the average person, she was undeserving.

Undeniably, Jacob’s love for Rachel which was the real deal, involved his heart and not just his head.

This highlights the fact that a person cannot say I choose to be in love or not in love with someone because of their character. Sometimes, when it comes to the object of a man’s AFFECTION, it makes absolutely no logical sense when subjected to reason but yet a person may still find himself significantly in love with someone.

The problem with seeing love in the context of a relationship as just a choice, is that it suggests that a person is in complete control of the decision to love at all times and therefore acts with the head alone, based on reason. This however is not the case. The HEART is very much involved and is the one that makes the decision.

As I indicated earlier though, this is not to be construed as many in Hollywood tend to construe it. While love certainly involves the heart and is not just a conscious head decision or choice to love someone, this does not mean that a person has no control whatsoever over it.

I agree that choice is a factor which has relevance for Christian marriages but on the other hand, choice cannot be all there is to a Christian love story.

For those inclined to think that love is just a choice and a head decision but it does not involve the pulling of the HEART strings, I have one question for you: Have you read the Song of Solomon? That book in the Bible not about two people who have simply made a choice to be together. On the contrary, there is STRONG EMOTION, ENDEARMENT, EXCITEMENT and PASSION involved, which is much more than just physical intimacy and certainly more than just two friends with lots in common and getting along.

Having said what I said, the Christian brother informed me that he agreed that some AFFECTION would be involved but I got the impression from the flippant way he said it, that he viewed this as not very important and a minimal factor.

I informed him that it was my view that not all Christian marriages have couples that experience what it is to be in love with each other (even where both parties are Christians) and some of these marriages, admittedly are the product of just what he was contending for: a choice.

For, some Christians marry someone they like and with whom they have lots in common but they are not necessarily in love with that person. Maybe in some of those marriages there is a little dose of AFFECTION here or there but it is mainly platonic in nature, as a decision made between two friends.

Those marriages are like what I think Ruth and Boaz had and admittedly, they can be successful. For, Boaz did not know Ruth well enough to be in love with her like Elkanah loved Hannah and Jacob clearly and ardently loved Rachel. It was clear though, that Boaz was very impressed with her character, fortitude and selflessness and thought her to be wife material, even calling her a virtuous woman.

She on the other hand was grateful to have her needs provided for and the marriage seemingly worked out. It seemed that God was clearly involved in bringing about the union so, given how highly they clearly regarded each other, it is not far-fetched to think that they may have learned to love each other deeply and passionately as time progressed in the marriage and therefore experienced what it meant to be in love.

However, I believe that there is such a thing as being in love before a marriage takes place and continuing to be in love during the marriage. This love of which I speak and which I believe exists is far from being just a platonic, rational, friendly choice with a dose of AFFECTION.

Since God is love, true love begins with him. Whatever people in the world have therefore, if they don’t know Jesus Christ, I do not believe that they can ever experience being in love to the fullest extent that I believe God intended it for his Church.

One thing needs to be pointed out at this juncture though. It is my view that it is possible to be genuinely in love with someone and to make a choice not to commit to that person in a relationship and a marriage or to desire same but the other party refuses. It is also possible to make a choice to commit to someone and to resolve to strive to obey God’s command to love that person but yet not be in love with that person.

Love in my view therefore, cannot be equated to a choice to commit to a person. In other words, I am saying that, not because a man chooses to commit in marriage to you and he certainly intends to be faithful, does it mean that he is in love with you. He can do this without his HEART being connected to you and on fire for you. He can also choose to walk away and not marry you and be in love with you.

The Christian brother may have been arguing that the whole issue of loving (whether it ends in a relationship or not) is a choice a person makes, in that that person can choose not to love a person or to love a person.

I disagree. This nonchalant decision may apply to filial love and love between and among Church members but I do not think that it applies when it comes to a romantic love relationship between a man and a woman, which entails so much more.

THE PART I BELIEVE THAT CHOICE PLAYS

I will say that, while I believe that people do experience being in love (sometimes with the right person, sometimes with the wrong person), they do not fall in love. That is, it is not something that takes them off-guard suddenly as depicted in the idea of a fictitious cupid striking a love arrow into one’s HEART. Being in love is the product of something that we fuelled over time and encouraged to some extent, without taking sufficient precautions to prevent getting to that stage.

What do I mean by this?

Well, I think that we have some level of control in that we can make conscious choices to avoid situations where EMOTIONS, BONDS, AFFECTION, ENDEARMENT and so on, will develop and so in being proactive, avoid getting to a place where we are in love with a person.

If however, we say to ourselves that love is just a choice and we have complete control over it and we foolishly open ourselves up to spending more and more time with a person that is not God’s will for our lives and letting our guard down, we may find ourselves in a situation where we begin to feel things that we ought not to feel, which, if we do not make the choice to avoid spending time with that person, can grow to STRONG AFFECTION, ENDEARMENT and SELFLESS DEVOTION. In a work situation, you may not be able to avoid a person totally but if you maintain professionalism and limit one-on-one conversations, along with other restraining measures, this can safeguard you from getting to that point where your HEART has gone running in the direction of that person.

I agree that no matter how we may feel or if, due to our own negligence in not taking proactive measures, we find that we are in love with a person, we can still make a choice not to act on it and to separate ourselves from that situation (painful as it may be at that stage), so as to be healed and delivered from that connection we feel.

Choice is therefore important in terms of whether we will take the road that leads to being in love or avoid it but choice does not equate, on its own, to love, in my view.

In my view, being in love with a person can be a pure thing or an impure thing. It is only pure, to my mind, when it is in relation to two genuine Christians and it exists within the boundaries that God has set (e.g. It is not a Christian man loving a married woman). Often times, there is also the issue that we confuse lust with love.

WHAT THEN IS LOVE?

In my view, when a Christian man is genuinely in love with a woman, this means that:

  • he feels in his HEART, STRONG AFFECTION and ENDEARMENT toward this woman +
  • he feels SELFLESSLY DEVOTED toward her and GENUINELY CONCERNED about her welfare (above his), voluntarily wishing because he feels driven, to invest his time, energy and resources into selflessly building her, making her better and ensuring that she is successful in life holistically, (that is spiritually, emotionally and physically) +
  • he feels a STRONG ATTRACTION toward her spiritually, emotionally and physically, which makes him have an insatiable desire to want to be around her, to want to be with her and to have her as his own.

Personally, this is what I expect of a man that tells me that he loves me or else his words will fall flat and have no significance. So far, no man has said the three little words to me as yet and I am grateful, for I do not take those words lightly. I want that when they are said to me, they are said with meaning and sincerity and depth and substance (because believe you me, I will spend the whole night up afterward, just reminiscing on that moment with a smile on my face, if I am also in love with that person).

So far, no man that I have encountered has been in love with me yet but by the grace of God, I am trusting that the man that God sends to me (not the one I foolishly choose for myself without his blessing), will tick all of the above boxes, signaling that he is genuinely in love with me.

As indicated before, all the above factors could exist in terms of how a man feels about a woman (so that he is in love with her) but yet he can choose to walk away and not be in a relationship with that person or the person may choose to walk away from him, so that a relationship does not commence or does not continue.

When a Christian man approaches a Christian woman for marriage, it is our hope that he has made a choice to commit to that one woman for life, without regret, trepidation and without reservation. It is our hope that this choice is fueled and inspired by all of the above factors mentioned (not just one or two) + the approval and applause he wholeheartedly believes that God has given for this union, after seeking HIM for her hand in marriage and the wonderful peace and confirmation (from his Word) that has ensued as a result of his decision.

The formula I’m looking for, of the man who is not just in love with me but who I should marry is therefore as follows:

  • STRONG AFFECTION and ENDEARMENT in the HEART FOR ME +
  • SELFLESS DEVOTION and GENUINE CONCERN FOR MY WELFARE ABOVE HIS OWN +
  • STRONG ATTRACTION (Spiritually, emotionally and physically) +
  • GOD’S APPROVAL and APPLAUSE +
  • PEACE +
  • THAT MAN’S CHOICE TO COMMIT

CONCLUSION

In my view therefore, choice is a relevant factor to the issue of love but it does not equate to love. For, one can choose to proactively exit himself from situations that will lead to emotional attachments and other bonds before such bonds are formed (and so avoid getting to the place where he is in love) but one can make such a decision reactively after such bonds have already been formed (and so feel the pain of separation after having negligently allowed himself and in particular, his HEART, to get to that place of being in love).

The negligence can come from a range of factors, from not removing oneself from the situation before the bond developed or not seeking the Lord’s will from the onset or not listening to what God was clearly saying all along (e.g. in an unequally yoked situation) or not considering how incompatible the person’s purpose is to the other’s e.g. Her main purpose is to serve as a missionary in China whereas the man’s purpose is to attend Prisons locally.)

In such a case, we are in love with the wrong person and this brings no satisfaction. Being in love with anyone that is not approved of by God for your life, brings no lasting satisfaction but pain.

Romantic love is definitely not what Hollywood and the world promotes which is not love at all but something selfish, in terms of what the person can do for you and how the person can benefit you and how the person makes you feel.

At the very core of true love is selflessness, sacrifice and patience, demonstrated perfectly in what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us when he came to earth and died for our sins. In fact, he commands men to love their wives to the extent where they are prepared to lay down their lives for them. (Ephesians 5:25-33).

One does not get the impression that this loving is to be done as just a duty or a chore to ensure obedience to God. When it comes to Christians, I sincerely believe that the love that God approves of is supposed to be enjoyable and exciting and it is supposed to flow freely, just like the relationship of the Church with Christ. The Bible states of the Lord Jesus Christ that, although he despised the shame, for the JOY that was set before him, he endured the cross.

It is my view therefore, that a person can choose to commit to someone and can choose to love that person based on God’s command. However, given that being in love with someone is supposed to come naturally without feeling forced or contrived, I am of the view that it is not possible to CHOOSE to be in love with a person.

Where a person chooses to love a person, if that never grows to him being in love with that person, it is my view that that union will take on the semblance of more of a friendship, where the parties possibly respect each other and try to be kind to each other and to meet each other’s needs sexually and otherwise but the passion and excitement that accompanies EMOTION and STRONG ENDEARMENT and DEVOTION would be missing, resulting in a love that is more platonic than FERVENT.

That is, the couple will most likely find that their love compares to a love between friends as opposed to the romantic lovers we find in Song of Solomon. As stated before, in some such cases, the parties may develop the EMOTIONAL BOND in time and therefore experience what it is to be in love. However, in some cases, this never happens.

I am mindful as well that some Christian women are content to be in this sort of platonic, friendly relationship and marriage. They say better this than nothing and compromise what they really would like to have and enjoy. To each their own.

I want to experience the height, the breadth and the depth of romantic love and optimally. I believe that God desires this for his children and brings it to pass, if it is his will for us to be married and we submit our lives to his plan and timing. I know that for me to accept anything less for the sake of getting married or having children or pleasing my impatient aunts and some Church members, it would mean that I compromised and sold myself short of the passionate kind of love story I have always desired.

I CANNOT do it. I have therefore resolved to WAIT on God for the real thing.

(Written on 17th February, 2020)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying, you may also be interested in the following under the Courting or Engaged Daughters Page:

  • Note 15 – ‘Does He Love You Fervently?’
  • Note 21 – ‘Does He Love You Or Lust You?’
  • Note 33 – ‘How Much Should He Love Me?’

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