The structure of the Marriage Pyramid are quite simple. The elements included in the Marriage Pyramid, however, are a bit more complex and nuanced which means that in order to understand these complexities and what they look like in a real marriage, we have to delve a bit deeper into each level. We will get in to that here shortly, but first let me expound a bit on the pyramid and why I placed these elements in the schematic the way that I did. The idea is that we start at the bottom of the pyramid and go upwards. In other words…love must be evident in order to feel safe. Safety and love must be in place before we want to grow and bond with our spouse. And we are not going to be at One with a spouse that we don’t grow and bond with while feeling safe because they love us. Make sense? That is the basic structure of the pyramid. So, for the sake of our discussion I maintain that the base element in any marriage relationship has to be love. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: I waited a day to read this next part so this guy could tell me that married couples need to love each other? In other breaking news…water is wet.
Remember what I said earlier though, the form is simple…the elements much more complex. So it is not enough to simply say that the basis for every successful marriage is love. We must examine exactly what we mean by that word in the first place. You ask a room of 100 people to give a definition of love and you will get 100 different answers. And with all due respect to the Beatles…love is not all you need. It is the base of the pyramid…the necessary foundation…but certainly not everything. Why? Because we cannot even agree on a universal definition of this phenomenon in the first place. It is elusive and circumstantial. Sometimes the best we can do is say that we may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it. But is that enough?
For example, the divorce rate for first marriages in this country is not as dire as once thought. It is NOT the 50% number we here espoused so often. For an excellent treatise I suggest you read the following article (http://www.inquisitr.com/1442751/about-that-50-divorce-rate-it-simply-isnt-true-it-never-was/) the effectively debunks the 50% myth. Divorce rates are amazingly difficult to pin down but the thinking today is that divorce rate is much closer to 25-35% as opposed to the 50% figure we have been sold. Now, 25%-35% is still way too high, at least we can start with some good news. But back to this issue of love.
The lower divorce rate still does not answer the question that needs to be answered regarding the role love plays in a marriage. I mean, if the vast majority of people get married because they are “in love”…yet 35% of them may divorce…then what happened to the love? If love were all we needed, then wouldn’t the divorce rate be even precipitously lower than 35%? I maintain that this would exactly be the case…if we had a proper understanding of what love is in the first place. That is the purpose of this installment of the marriage pyramid. We need to look at what is really meant by love. How we define it. How we contextualize it. How we differentiate God’s love as opposed to the world’s love. If we agree (and we may not) that love is foundational to any lasting marriage, then shouldn’t we at least be able to answer these questions? I would think so and that is what we are going to try and do.
I wish I had the time to go into more detail than I will here about this all-important issue. I go into much more detail in the marriage retreats but I don’t have that option here. Nobody is going to read a 10-page blog on love. So I will hit the most important aspects of this discussion that are germane to a broader discussion of the marriage pyramid and hope that I have made my case clearly and effectively. As always, I leave that determination up to you. However, I do believe that there are a few vitally important fundamentals concerning love that we absolutely must get right in order to understand this base element of the pyramid. The first (and I believe most important) is: What is the source of our love? From where does it emanate? Is it a phenomenon that we have engaged with due to our interaction with the world (by this, I mean our culture)? Or does it emanate from outside of any human context and do we draw from the well that all Believers should draw from…God?
Simply put…there is a universe of difference between what the culture defines as love and what God defines as love. And I will go a bit further here. I do not believe it is possible for any human being to truly love another person without first having experienced God’s love. I say that unapologetically. Oh, the world can give you an imitation of love…a sort of a form of love… but it will not be love in the manner in which we were created to experience. It will not be this way because it cannot be this way. Remember, my first post claimed clearly and without ambiguity that I would look at all aspects of life through the prism of God’s Word. That is my beginning and my ending point. With that in mind I give you one of many passages dealing with love from a God perspective: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (NASB).
Let’s look at the last part of the verse and the interesting verbiage used in God’s Word. It does not say that God created love…or imparts love…or manufactures it from time to time. The verse states that God IS love. He is the personification of love…He is the well from which love must be drawn. Apart from God…we cannot love. At least we cannot love in the manner in which God designed. In Jesus’ last hours with His disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion, He shared a last meal with them and imparted amazing and comforting truths. One of the last statements He made during this time is recorded in the last part of John17. Remember, in context Jesus here is not only speaking to His disciples but to all of “those who will (italics mine) believe in Me” b (NKJV). So he is talking to me…and to you if you are a Believer. Later in the chapter Jesus makes the following statement as He is praying to the Father for the disciples and future Believers: “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved me may be in them (bold mine), and I in them” (NKJV).
I know we are taking these verses out of context, but for the sake of time it is necessary. I implore you to seek out any and all verses I use to see for yourselves whether they mean what I am claiming they do. I find the verbiage again very interesting here. Jesus is praying that the love of God the Father…specifically the love He has for the Son…be IN Believers. Why would Jesus say this in this way? As Occam’s razor reminds us, the simplest answer is usually the correct one. And the simplest answer to this question is that if Jesus is praying for the love of God to be IN Believers, then that means that without God…that love is not already there. See…here is where the culture lies to us. The Bible states that God is love…the world will tell you that love is God. The world will tell you that it’s version of love, a thing that we can’t define…don’t know what causes it…seems to come and go with the wind…and actually motivates some people to violence…is, in fact, god. The world states very clearly that we do not need God in order to experience, feel and give love. But without the very source of love…how can anyone understand or engage love?
Love becomes whatever you want it to be…but more often what you don’t want it to be. It becomes circumstantial, petty, easily lost by those who displease us and just easily given to another who does please us…at least for the moment. Probably the best explanation I have heard of the difference between God’s love (the only true love) and the world’s love (a cheap imitation at best) was provided by the great Reformer Martin Luther. In a nutshell, Luther stated that all human love is motivated by selfishness in some way or another. We love a type of food because of the way it tastes to us. We love a certain team because of the thrill of victory we get when they accomplish greatness. We love people because of what they mean to us or what they do for us. We love them because they are beautiful…or dutiful…or they say the right things at the right time…or they take care of us. The common denominator in the world’s love…is always ourselves.
God’s amazing love is the exact opposite. He does not love us (by “us” I mean Believers) because of any inherent value we have in any way, shape or form. He does not love us because we are smart (). He does not love us because we are “good” (; ). He does not love us because we love Him (). He does not love us because we have a good heart (). He does not love us because we do good things (). He does not love us because of any of those things…He loves us despite these things. His love is completely unconditional and undeserved. Yet He loves us anyway. He loves us despite the fact that if we came across such creatures as ourselves we would deem then as unlovable. That, my friends, is God’s love. The only true love. In ourselves we cannot generate this type of love…that’s why Jesus asked that God the Father put this love into us from the outside. If we could generate this love ourselves, then Jesus would have told us to try harder…work more…exercise to get this love to a proper level. But He knew that would be the height of folly because the love has to be in us in the first place…and without God…it is not.
So we need to understand that while love is the foundational element that leads to an amazing marriage…we absolutely must have access to the source of all love in order to truly love our spouses. There is so much more to say, but time has become my enemy once again. So…we will move on and look at another aspect of love that we must understand in order to love our spouses in the manner in which God intended. In part three I will do something that I have always wanted to do…and that is to completely suck all of the fun out of love. I’m just kidding…sort of.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.