Husband & Wife Articles

Is Love All You Need?

Popular songs don’t tell the whole story

By Hallie Lord

If it’s true that “love is all you need,” as the Beatles song goes, then why did my parents end up divorced? What went wrong? We lived in northern California, after all, the lava-lamp center of the hippie universe. How could love have failed in a place where everyone had agreed to abandon uptight sexual mores in the name of peace and harmony?

Though it’s tempting to criticize the mistakes of past generations, I will not. I don’t harbor any grudges. All I know is this: when I converted to Catholicism in 2001, it was with the happy confidence that at last I’d found the God who loved marriage at least as much I did, the God who without apology or qualification desired that my future children would have the gift of growing up in a stable home.

I’ll admit I was naïve about what this gift involved. Simply becoming Catholic was not a guarantee of marital success. God did not cast a spell on me and my husband, shielding us from strife. Divorce, while unthinkable, is nonetheless an awful possibility that two people may choose, against Church law and every dictate of the human heart. For my husband and I, frankly, divorce is the “d” word that must never be uttered no matter how bad things might seem. God, for his part, gives us the tools, insights and consolations we need to rise above ourselves and achieve that life-giving, joy-producing union of man, woman and God known as the Sacrament of Marriage.

Here are some pointers that lead to the love that lasts:

1. To make a happy and truly Catholic marriage, we must first and foremost frequent the sacraments. In my own marriage, for all the wonderful love we share, we inevitably smack up against our limitations and hurt each other. Sometimes the hurt comes from anger, other times it’s unintended. Regardless, it is through Confession and Holy Communion that we receive the healing and grace to persevere in love. God is always ready to compensate for our shortcomings. We need only invite him to do so.

2. Remain open to life. The key to a successful union is complete mutual self-giving. Otherwise it isn’t actually a union, is it? Artificial contraception makes such a union impossible. A pro-contraception friend of mine once insisted that if God really wanted to give her a baby, then a simple thing like the birth control pill wouldn’t stop him. But that isn’t the point, is it? As long as artificial contraception is being used by a couple they are holding an aspect of themselves back from each other and from God, an aspect that will remain unblessed by God. Why would you keep any part of your marriage from God?

3. Remember that all marriages go through dry spells. Prepare yourself for these ahead of time. Simply put: they are part and parcel of any marriage. They are also only temporary. If we patiently persevere in love, even when the emotional high is absent, we will come out on the other side stronger for having endured our crosses. As one writer states, for every cross and crucifixion in marriage there is a resurrection. How many couples have given up the fight prematurely, not knowing that their own little resurrection was waiting right around the corner?

4. Finally, although God assigns us the task of assisting our spouse on his journey to heaven, we should not make the mistake of assuming that the responsibility rests solely on our shoulders. There is a temptation, when having identified a shortcoming or two (or five) in your spouse, to constantly chastise and correct; after all, if we don’t, who will? God will. Sometimes the best, most effective gift we can give is to simply and quietly pray. Though constructive criticism has its time and place, a spouse benefits most from loving support. Allow your husband to share his heart with you without fear of chastisement.

The Beatles weren’t wrong: love is all you need. As long as you understand that Love once carried a cross to the top of a hill to be crucified. Love like that, shared between spouses, never fails.

Hallie Lord, a convert to Catholicism, resides in the Deep South with her husband and five children. She writes at BettyBeguiles.com.