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Love that lasts

KATHARINE HILL, UK Director of Care for the Family, looks at one of the keys to making marriage work ...

KATHARINE HILL, UK Director of Care for the Family, looks at one of the keys to making marriage work ...

Last year, our daughter and eldest son both got married. Like the appearance of buses, nothing for 27 years and then two come along just eight weeks apart!

And just to keep the theme going, son number two has recently proposed to his girlfriend, so a third wedding is now being planned for this summer!

A photograph album has pride of place on our coffee table at home, and serves as a wonderful reminder of those two special days.

But at both weddings there was a moment, not captured on the camera or featured in the album, which will forever be etched on my heart. It is the moment in the service when the bride and groom turned to make their vows to each other. Time seemed to stand still as they repeated the familiar words, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part …”’, each promising to be there for each other whatever the future holds.

As I watched the couples exchange rings, the reality of the promises they had made dared to crash in on my thoughts, boldly warning of darker times ahead. Like countless others over the years, at that moment they were blinkered to the possibility that those vows would ever be called in. But called in they will be. Pressure comes to every marriage.

It’s easy to love in the summertime – when the sun shines out of a cloudless sky. But what about when the sky is grey and the storms come? What does it take to love then?

In our latest book, The Really Really Busy Person’s Book on Marriage, Rob Parsons and I have condensed what we’ve written on marriage over the years. We hope it will help couples learn how to invest in their relationship through every season of life – in the good times, but in particular when the darker days come.

The book contains quotes and stories and is illustrated with some wonderful cartoons. We have packed it full of wisdom we’ve gleaned from others over the years on how to fuel a relationship that will last a lifetime.

We are painfully aware through our work at Care for the Family that it is not possible to keep every marriage alive. Nevertheless, one theme in the book concerns the very nature of love. Writing to the church at Colossae, the apostle Paul urged his readers to, “Put on love”. It is almost as if he was telling us to put on love in the same way that we might put on a garment. It is a powerful reminder that as exhilarating as the feeling of love is, that feeling alone is not enough to sustain a marriage.

A beautiful passage often read at weddings is from Louis de Bernières’ novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. We included it in the book as it so beautifully describes the nature of love:

"When you fall in love it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are to become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement … It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body … For that is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away."

What keeps a marriage strong is not the intoxicating feeling of being in love, delightful as that is, but grasping that love is an act of the will. In short, it is the day to day reality, in the good times and the bad, of choosing to “put on love”.   

+ Katharine Hill is UK Director for Care for the Family, and a popular speaker, writer and broadcaster. She is married to Richard and they have four grown-up children.

+ The Really Really Busy Person’s Book on Marriage by Katharine Hill and Rob Parsons (Cartoons by David McNeill), ISBN 978-1-910012-30-7, is published by Muddy Pearl, priced £7.50, and is available from CLC bookshops and from www.muddypearl.com.

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