My wife and I just celebrated our 6th anniversary. I can confidently state that I am definitely not the man I thought I would be 6 years ago, and marriage is really nothing like what I expected it to be. I used to think of marriage as being a way to serve my needs, all the time being admired and adored by my wife. I think that's how I entered marriage. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had a definite idea of what a wife should do and what a husband should do. I had no clue how fluid a marriage really is. I had no clue about a lot of things. . .
Perhaps the thing that surprised me the most was that love just isn't enough––at least my understanding of what love is. My wife and I love each other deeply. Yet there were times when we were so frustrated with each other that we could barely be in the same room together. The problem is that love, so far as the emotion of it goes, comes and goes. What I've learned is that love is something much deeper than just a feeling of desire for someone. In Aquinas love is said to be willing the good for some one or thing. To love my wife means that I will the good for her. This helps me when I reflect on what it means when I say 'I love you' to my wife (and also to my children, and other familial relations). To say 'I love you' is to say 'I desire you to be in possession of the good'. That means that I'm concerned to know what the good is for the person I'm declaring my love to.
To love my wife, then, is to be concerned with knowing what it is that will bring her joy. Ultimately all joy is found in the contemplation of God, so in a sense to show love for my wife is to encourage her to contemplate God. This does not mean that I am to try to make our marriage exist on a different plane, though. There are other goods that contribute to the well-being and happiness of my wife. Providing for the material needs of my family is an important way to show love for them.
These rambling thoughts are my way of confirming to myself what it is that I think I've learned about love over the last 6 years. For more than 2 decades I was primarily concerned with possessing 'the good' myself. I sought for the things that I judged to be good, to take possession of them and be characterized by them. These last 6 years have taught me that love is not a desire to be fulfilled by a relationship with someone. That is something else. Love is desiring the object of love to enjoy 'the good'. Seeking the joy and happiness of the one loved over and above my personal desires. And even more than this, but having the joy and happiness of the one loved be a cause for joy and happiness in me.
Marriage has been an entirely different animal than what I thought it would be when I entered into it. There have been some difficult times in the last 6 years. But there have also been some exceedingly great times as well. My wife has been a teacher for me in many ways, constantly teaching me about myself. The love that I share with my wife is not one that is fleeting, the hard times have shown me that. The love that we share is rooted in a deep commitment to one another. This next year I hope that I can grow in demonstrating my love for my wife. It is my desire that my wife be in the possession of 'the good'. The things that make her happy are the things that I want her to enjoy. To know my wife is to know what her desires are, to know the things that she judges to be good. To love my wife is to desire those things for her.*
*I am not saying that everything my wife desires is something that she should have. I'm not promoting a reckless 'partner-centered hedonism'. What I've left unsaid is that the things that she judges to be good, which will not be a hindrance to her growth and maturity, are the things that I want to see her be in possession of. I felt the need to give this brief addendum in anticipation of all 6 concerned readers of this blog.