One day two disciples were walking with their Teacher, and the conversation turned toward marriage, and how the only enduring foundation for marriage is true love. “Teacher,” one of them asked, “please tell us, what is true love?”
And the Teacher said, “If a man and a woman find joy in one another’s presence, if they can scarcely keep themselves apart, if they love to laugh together, sing together, dance together, cry together— this is a gift from God, it is good. But, I tell you solemnly, this is not true love; it is changeable, and you cannot rely on it.”
The disciples were amazed that so beautiful a love still fell short of true love. After a while, he spoke again.…“Ah, but if a man and a woman appreciate and respect one another, if they talk about everything and learn to listen to one another, if they dream the same dreams, pursue the same goals, and hope the same hopes, yes, even if they share as much as any two people on earth— and such communion is rare and very good— still, I tell you, this also would not be true love.
By now the disciples were very amazed and perplexed. After a while the Teacher spoke again, “Ah, if a young man and a young woman have a common vision, if they pray together, if they serve the poor and homeless, if they work side by side, if together they share what they have, indeed, if they are willing to pour out their very lives in service to others, no, I tell you, even that is not true love, and in the long run, it could fail them utterly.”
At this the disciples were completely astounded. They young man and the young woman implored him: Tell us then, what is true love?”
He said, “If a man chooses to love his wife as Christ loves his Church, if like Christ, he lays aside his pride and sacrifices himself for her— putting her needs before his needs, her happiness before his happiness, if he will care for her and take thought for her, if he chooses to keep loving her when their interests diverge, when her youthful beauty fades, when she doesn’t speak sweetly and when he doesn’t feel ‘loving’…
“And if a woman chooses to put her husband first, to follow his lead as the true Church defers to her heavenly Bridegroom, if she is patient with his failings (those he sees and those he does not), if she encourages him and forgives him, if she respects him even when his faults are obvious or she must pay the price for his mistakes, if she has the courage to tell him the truth in love, yet stand by him through it all…
“And if neither wife nor husband will let the sun go down on their anger, but if each will race to repent and reconcile, and if both determine to let nothing on earth divide them as long as they both shall live, there, I tell you, is true love, and that marriage shall never be shaken.” (PETER S. WILLIAMSON)