Is it Love or Infatuation?

One of my readers asked a great question the other day –What differentiates the really happy couples from those who are just getting by?

It reminded me of an article I came across regarding the longest married couple in the United States –they’ve been together close to ninety years.  This sweet little couple with the wrinkled faces claimed their secret weapons to marital bliss were saying I’m sorry and compromise.

Sounds easy, right?  I think it’s even more basic than that.

Simply put –LOVE IS A CHOICE.

But real love might be one of the hardest things in the world we choose to do.  And the honest truth is that many of us are so deceived about what love actually entails we get it wrong before we even begin. 

We think we love others but really we love ourselves.  And since we love ourselves so much, we tend to think we love people who love us back and give us what we want.    

But we are wrong.

This is because most of us have a warped idea of love.  We believe love is a feeling.  We think sex is love.  We think our happiness comes from love and we think we can fall in and out of it as if it were a place instead of calling it what it really is –infatuation .

Love is none of these things.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 1 Cor. 13

Infatuation is hooking up now to get your needs met, it keeps you guessing if he’s not that into you, it makes you doubt and keeps you on your toes, it seeks the hottest chick and the richest guy to feed its ego, it keeps one eye roaming just in case there is someone better around the bend, it is jealous, and intense and it burns out fast –usually within a year of marriage.  Infatuation needs a constant source of more deviant sex to keep the fire going, it manipulates to get a ring, it leaves when it gets tough, it gives up when it’s not happy, it’s selfish, and it seeks personal gain above all else. 

Infatuation might get you to the altar but LOVE IS A LIFELONG CHOICE.

The closest many of us get to real love is with our children. We are willing to sacrifice, to move beyond ourselves and to lay down our life to protect and cherish their hearts.  But all too often, what we are willing to do for our babies we are not willing to do for our spouse.

When my husband Tim is huffing and puffing around the house like the Big Bad Wolf and I’m wailing and weeping like a little kid that got her ice cream stolen -“I’m sorry” and compromise are a little tough to choke out.  But if love is a choice those are the exact things I need to lean into.

Laying my own needs and desires down and putting my husband first is how I show him love.  Respecting Tim, even when I think I’m right is real love.  It’s meeting his physical needs despite being exhausted.  It’s when I give up my agenda for the day to get stuff done and I’m spontaneous and present, and it’s getting up in the middle of the night to care for the baby so he can sleep, even though we both have to be at work the next day.

For Tim, real love is taking all three of our kids to Costco so I can finish writing when I’m stressed.  It’s asking me questions and pulling out my prickly emotions I struggle to identify.  It’s doing the dishes and playing with the baby and rubbing my back for the nine-hundredth time.  It’s when he chooses to be tender even when it’s easier to be harsh.

Real love is hard and sacrificial and painful to our crusty selfish hearts. 

I received a letter the other day that was the antithesis of love.  It was from a man I dated in the past.   It’s tough to admit, but there was a point in my life after my divorce where I was so starved for love I let myself settle for scraps.  It’s not that he was a bad guy but he didn’t treasure me or my heart.  He didn’t give me security in the relationship.   He took me for granted and only when I disappeared out of his life did he fully appreciate all that I gave to him and who I was.

And now six years later he is married and he writes me a letter claiming he is still in love with me.  On top of all the awkwardness of having to share this with my husband, it also made me sad because he is so deceived. 

Love is a choice not a feeling.

Sending me a message like this is not love – its disrespect to my husband and to our marriage.  It’s disrespect to his wife.  Love is choosing to care for the spouse he chose to marry not longing for another man’s wife.  

But Hollywood has told us there is one soul mate, one serendipitous love of our life and we keep looking for it instead of learning to love the person in front of us.  My heart breaks for HIS wife because he clearly hasn’t grasped what real love is.

LOVE is choosing to love your wife even when it’s not easy.

They say President Lincoln was one of the greatest president’s ever.  Few people know his wife was one of the most trying women of all time and struggled desperately after the loss of their son with bitterness and anger.  And yet President Lincoln loved her tirelessly and had patience far beyond his own strength. In the battlefield of marriage he became a man worth following.(1)

Lincoln became an epic leader because he learned how to love and sacrifice first at home.

Lincoln chose to love.

One of the best books I EVER read on marriage was Stormie O’Martians Power of a Praying Wife.   It’s a simple little book and much of it is taken from scripture –BUT what got me by the tail feathers and rocked my world was this. 

Stormie was in an awful marriage.  Her husband was emotionally distant, unloving and downright mean.  She suffered from depression and emotional trauma from childhood. It wasn’t a match made in heaven since they wanted to kill each other. 

One day God nudged Stormie to stop praying for her husband to change and to start praying for herself to be the wife he needed her to be.  She began praying for God to give him the wife of his dreams and to let it be her.

It was a radical prayer that changed the course of their marriage.  She stopped picking apart his faults and worked on her own.  She respected him EVEN when he was unloving and she moved at him every day with genuine care and concern DESPITE his behavior.

And her Christ like love couldn’t help but change his heart.  Over time he started to try harder to love her.  He became more sacrificial and eventually became the husband of her dreams.

When I read this I wept because I knew if I was ever going to be a Godly wife I had to bury my selfish desires and let go of my pride.  I had a lot of work to do and a lifetime with the man I love to figure it out.

Real love is counter-cultural and reeks of Jesus –a God that humbled himself and died on a cross for a people who rejected him.

So what is the secret to a happy marriage? 


1. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

2. Power Of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian






  1. I love the contrast of love vs. infatuation your describe, and the story about Stormie – her change from an outward to and inward focus on “being” towards her husband. That’s powerful.

  2. Wow, this is powerful. As a single guy I can’t honestly say I’m looking forward to sacrifice, pain, compromise, and selflessly putting my future spouse first, but if it will produce a great long-lasting marriage relationship, then yes, I suppose I am looking forward to that. It’s very counter-intuitive and yet not – like you get out of it what you put into it. So, are you a hard worker? What kind of husband am I going to be? Am I going to have the courage to move forward despite my fears? What do I need to do (I can’t control her)? Am I going to be a “high performance athlete” and put out the effort to win? Will I have the tenacity of willpower to love her even when she’s being a pain int the?

    • I think you probably will get out of it what you put into it. Certainly you will be a more Christ-like person. But usually when your spouse feels treasured and loved they will in turn respond and your marriage will become a healthy and happy relationship. It just takes work.
      And yes, I work my butt off and I adore my husband. It’s good because we try and let go of our selfishness and pride. But it’s very humbling. And yet so worth it!!!


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