I launched a blog series this past week on marriage advice. Actually, I launched a blog series on bad marriage advice. Because sometimes we are careless with words and thoughts, as well as our reception to words and thoughts tossed our way.
I opened this little series by taking on the oft-given, but misguided, “Never go to sleep angry.”
This week? Well, this week I want to debunk another piece of advice I often hear.
“Love conquers all.”
No, it doesn’t.
Now, I get it. “Love conquers all” is a wonderful sentiment. It sounds powerful. It feels all warm and fuzzy. We want it to be true. We also want to make it scriptural.
But it isn’t always true. And it isn’t scriptural.
So, here is the deal. Love is amazing. It’s sweet. It’s intoxicating. And no doubt about it: love is a force. It may even make the world go around. I hear that. And on good days, I even believe it. There are cases where love played out in various forms changes the tide, reverses a bad play, or shifts a dynamic. This is not a blog to suggest otherwise, and I am sure we can all think of one million beautiful examples where love has ruled the day.
But the suggestion that love always rules the day and is always enough? The reality is sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes love does not conquer all. Sometimes love loses the battle. Sometimes it loses the war. Sometimes, a dream – it don’t come true (to plagiarize one of my favorite bands, The Killers).
This is because there is so much more to marriage than love. And while love is an incredible foundation for marriage, it may not be able to overcome the many other things that come along with marriage and life. Family systems. Addiction. Life circumstances. Trauma.
Love may not be enough.
Love is sometimes not enough to bridge chasms that appear as people grow and change. Dreams, goals, aspirations do not always remain aligned. In my own marriage, we always thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom. Why? Mostly because that was all either of us knew. Once I had children, though, that model did not work for me. My mental and physical health were tremendously improved when I went back to work. That decision changed the course of our marriage and my life. Fortunately, it worked out. But, I have a friend who decided she did not want children after all. Her spouse very much did. I’d suspect if asked, they’d both say they still have love for each other. But they are no longer married.
“Love conquers” also suggests that marriage is some sort of win/lose equation. Love enough and win at the marriage adventure. Don’t love enough? Lose . . . lose the marriage. As if this is some sort of game. Spoiler alert: marriage is not a game. Neither is love.
So, what can we say about love?
Well, what about love binds? That is scriptural, and provides a lot more depth and breadth to love. Instead of some sort of conquering force, love becomes an agent of relationship. And, actually, not just the marriage relationship but all relationships, including those we have with the Earth, the animals, our friends, family, existence itself. Love as a binding agent creates, sustains, and even redeems. In that sense, love envelopes (instead of conquers) our human frailty and failures. We are transformed rather than crushed. We are nurtured instead of conquered. We are pardoned instead of punished.
And all of that just seems, frankly . . . more realistic and more loving.
Sarah has been crafting custom weddings for couples of all kinds since 1999. Sarah is a Ravenclaw, and loves mythology, historical fiction, hot tea, and cycling of all sorts. She is an ordained minister who believes in coloring outside the lines. Sarah has been married to her best friend, Joe, since 1994. Together, their greatest treasures are their two children and the marriage they’ve worked hard to cultivate.