When Tina Turner blasted her romantic ethic into our lives she asked a poignant question. In a relationship between a man and a woman, “What’s love got to do with it?” Her song answered it the way most today would. “It’s physical, only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that.”
With this catchy song, the core ethic of our culture’s belief about love and attraction became a money-maker for Ms. Turner. And it continues today. The true definition of love has been replaced with a feelings-based, sexual emotionalism supposedly made honorable by wrapping it in scientific dress and calling it “chemistry.”
Today, hooking up for sex without commitment is the No. 1 hobby on our college campuses. Two people realize their proximity raises the sexual heat index, and this chemistry must be served.
And I know from my hours counseling people in various stages of life that the “chemistry is love” toxin has bored it’s way into lives and marriages at every level.
I have taken to calling this debilitating view the Bachelor/Bachelorette Syndrome. This comes from the ridiculous but popular television franchise in which a single adult “finds love” during six weeks of over-the-top dates and fantasy suites.
This syndrome takes for granted that all it takes to create love is to put beautiful people together in exotic, sexy places, and poof, love happens. Then all that is needed is for proposers to propose, rings to be exchanged, and the couple rides off into the sunset to begin the perfect life together.
Only it hardly ever produces happiness, let alone marriage. Why? It’s simple. The idea that physical attraction is a sufficient foundation for the persevering commitment to one person for a lifetime is only slightly more plausible than me playing for the Lakers. You could dress me in purple, gold, and white, insert me into a year’s worth of practices, and even put me in a game. The truth is, I will never, ever be offered a contract for the simple reason you can’t put in what God left out!
The same thing is true for love when we understand its essential components. Ask anyone who has created a marriage that works, where husband and wife share a deep companionship grounded in acceptance, affection, provision and protection. They’ll tell you it is their commitment to these shared marital elements that makes sexual intimacy meaningful rather than momentary. They’ll tell you “what love’s got to do with it.” They’ll tell you commitment is what keeps you together as you fall in and out of love.
Over many years of my marriage, and my time spent with those whose marriages are struggling, I have learned some things. One of them is: In a good marriage, sexual intimacy is like the icing on the cake. It is very important, enjoyable, and satisfying even though it makes up a small percentage of the whole.
But in a bad marriage, the area of intimacy is often one of the two or three primary sources of resentment. Why? Because the couple has placed way too much confidence that chemistry can support commitment.
In the end, we all find what love really is. It is a flower that brings beauty and meaning to life as nothing else can. But we also find this flower can’t thrive in the soil of chemistry alone. What it needs is commitment. Commitment to one another, to marriage as an institution, to the children marriage produces, and to the society of neighborhoods built on strong, committed families.
But this kind of commitment is hard, and for many, seemingly impossible. I propose this difficulty can be traced back to the lack of one even more important commitment, and that is to live out marriage in alignment with the one who invented it.
Yes, I am talking about Almighty God, who in Genesis 2 conceived and created marriage. And he did it not to torture us, but for our good. God is the one who manufactured marriage, and it only makes sense that those who follow the manufacturer’s instructions will find more success and satisfaction with his product.
We all know marriage is in trouble in our world. It suffers largely because most enter it without really understanding its purpose, its priorities, or the personal cost you have to pay to stop being two and become one as a couple.
The answer isn’t legislation, or fiat. The answer is you and me, making our marriages work, and passing on the right legacy of love to our children. And maybe a good place to start is ending your relationship with those television programs whose betrayal of love is taking us down the wrong path.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.