At 30,000 feet,
somewhere between Buffalo and Dallas, he put his magazine in his seat pocket,
turned in my direction, and asked, “What kind of work do you do?” “I do
marriage counseling and lead marriage enrichment seminars,” I said mat-
ter-of-fact-ly. “I’ve been wanting to ask someone this for a long time,” he
said. “What happens to the love after you get married?” Relinquishing my hopes
of getting a nap, I asked, “What do you mean?” “Well,” he said, “I’ve been
married three times, and each time, it was wonderful
before we got married, but somehow after the wedding it all fell apart.
All the love I thought I had for her and the love she seemed to have for me evaporated. I am a fairly intelligent person. I operate a successful business, but I don’t understand it.” “How long were you married?” I asked. “The first one lasted about ten years. The second time, we were married three years, and the last one, almost six years.” “Did your love evaporate immediately after the wedding, or was it a gradual loss?” I inquired. “Well, the second one went wrong from the very beginning. I don’t know what happened.
I really thought we loved each other, but the honeymoon was a disaster, and we never recovered. We only dated six months. It was a whirlwind romance. It was really exciting! But after the marriage, it was a battle from the beginning. “In my first marriage, we had three or four good years before the baby came. After the baby was born, I felt like she gave her attention to the baby and I no longer mattered. It was as if her one goal in life was to have a baby, and after the baby, she no longer needed me.” “Did you tell her that?” I asked. “Yes, I told her. She said I was crazy. She said I did not understand the stress of being a twenty-four-hour nurse. She said I should be more understanding and help her more. I really tried, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. After that, we just grew further apart. After a while, there was no love left, just deadness.Both of us agreed that the marriage was over.
“My last marriage? I really thought that one would be different. I had been di- vorced for three years. We dated each other for two years. I really thought we knew what we were doing, and I thought that perhaps for the first time I really knew what it meant to love someone. I genuinely felt that she loved me. “After the wedding, I don’t think I changed. I continued to express love to her as I had before marriage. I told her how beautiful she was. I told her how much I loved her. I told her how proud I was to be her husband.
But a few months after marriage, she started complaining; about petty things at first—like my not taking the garbage out or not hanging up my clothes. Later, she went to attacking my character, telling me she didn’t feel she could trust me, accusing me of not being faithful to her. She became a totally negative person. Before marriage, she was never negative. She was one of the most positive people I have ever met—that’s one of the things that attracted me to her. She never complained about anything. Everything I did was wonderful, but once we were married, it seemed I could do nothing right. I honestly don’t know what happened. Eventually, I lost my love for her and began to resent her. She obviously had no love for me.
We agreed there
was no benefit to our living together any longer, so we split. “That was a year
ago. So my question is, What happens to love after the wed- ding? Is my
experience common? Is that why we have so many divorces in our country? I can’t
believe that it happened to me three times. And those who don’t
divorce, do they learn to live with the emptiness, or does love really stay alive in some marriages? If so, how?” The questions my friend seated in 5A was asking are the questions that thou- sands of married and divorced persons are asking today. Some are asking friends, some are asking counselors and clergy, and some are asking themselves. Some- times the answers are couched in psychological research jargon that is almost incomprehensible.
Sometimes they are couched in humor and folklore. Most of the jokes and pithy sayings contain some truth, but they are like offering an aspirin to a person with cancer. The desire for romantic love in marriage is deeply rooted in our psychological makeup. Books abound on the subject. Television and radio talk shows deal with it.
The Internet is full of advice. So are our parents and friends and churches. Keep- ing love alive in our marriages is serious business. With all the help available from media experts, why is it that so few couples seem to have found the secret to keeping love alive after the wedding? Why is it that a couple can attend a communication workshop, hear wonderful ideas on how to enhance communication, return home, and find themselves totally unable to implement the communication patterns demonstrated? How is it that we read something online on “101 Ways to Express Love to Your Spouse,” select two or three ways that seem especially helpful, try them, and our spouse doesn’t even ac- knowledge our effort? We give up on the other 98 ways and go back to life as usual.