Question: What the Dickens is True Love?

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    ALRIGHT, GUYS, IT’S STORY TIME. And don’t worry, for once, one of my General Writing Discussions threads actually happens to be about writing. But also, not. You’ll see for yourself, if you dig in to yet another one of my complicated writing questions that is likely based on a theological issue I don’t quite understand yet.

    Today’s Topic: True Love!

    Alright, so, here’s the shebang. I don’t really understand romantic love. This, by default, makes it difficult for me to convey a fulfilling romance in any of my stories – because I just don’t get it, for a lot of reasons which I hope to convey here. One being, does God have a specific person in mind for us? And the second being, if He doesn’t, then is there anything special about romantic love at all aside from the promise to stay by your husband/wife’s side for the rest of your lives? And if He does have a specific person in mind, then what if we fall in love with and marry the wrong person?

    Oof. I feel like Anna from Frozen.

    *le cry*

    The reason why I ask is this: There are something in me that wants to believe that romance is a wonderful, beautiful thing. If that is the case, then I want other people to know too, you know??? I want people to know that there is more than physical attraction and philandering and just, getting your heart broken over and over, or using another person to meet all your emotional or physical needs. I feel like there is so much of that everywhere, where people just use people to fill a need. It seems like that’s what people think romance is.

    And like, I’ve even read writing advice that says the same – make your characters each have something the other craves. E.g., if Girl is treated like a child, then maybe Boy doesn’t and it satisfies her emotional needs. And if Boy feel unloved and rejected, Girl loves him and therefore satisfies his emotional needs. But we shouldn’t use romance to fill emotional gaps, right? Or should we? Ugh, I’m so confused.

    So. If that’s not what romance is, then what is it? What is the point of romance?

    Because I feel like we all know that the above isn’t what romance is supposed to be like, but we don’t know what the dickens it is supposed to be like.

    So yeah. I want to write a romantic story that reflects the beauty of romance and the purpose of it (if, indeed, it has a purpose) rather than just giving something to emotionally satisfy the reader. I’m tired of people using romance as wish-fulfillment.

    Aight, I’m through with my rant. xD Insight would be extremely helpful!

    Married a blacksmith, and now frequently uses his knowledge for writing fantasy.

    The Inkspiller


    So, here’s my take on it – hopefully I have some appropriate scriptural basis for my verbiage!

    The purpose of love (not necessarily romance) between a man and a woman is as a reflection of the love of Christ for His bride, the church, and our humble submission and love back to Him. Look at Ephesians 5:22-33 for the scriptural basis.

    Love is a need. Not a desire – a fundamental need. The body may not die if the soul has not love, but he who does not love has not Christ, and that indeed is very much DEAD. (1 John 4:8 – “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”) John did not say this lightly – God’s love is the crowning jewel of the divinely inspired work which he gave to us in His Word, His impossible, supernatural love.

    I think there is a certain cheapening effect in the phrase “fulfilling physical and emotional needs” that downplays our deep need for love – for a love that will ignore all our flaws and overlook our sins and forgive us every time we screw up, no matter how badly and even if our screw up directly hurts the one who loves us. We were made to love God and be loved, but in our broken, sinful state, we can’t reach that – only He can give us that kind of love, and in His grace, not only does He grant that love in this life and promise our ability to love after His fashion in the next; He gives us a model of His love in the romantic love between a man and a woman which overlooks each other’s failings not out of selfishness, but selflessness – as a beautiful reflection of the true glory of God’s all consuming, all redeeming love.

    That promise, “until death do we part,” is supposed to be awe inspiring. We hear it so often that we forget it was shocking in the day and age of its introduction.
    Men of the Old Testament and pagan Levantine period commonly took multiple wives and concubines and traded in their older wives for younger. God declared that wrong, an evil mistreatment of the other half of Man created in God’s holy image, and decreed just as He loved one Bride (Israel) whom He would never throw away but whom He would always be faithful to, even through her faithlessness, so should a husband be unfailingly loyal to one wife till the end of his life.

    I don’t know if God has a destined “one” for us or not, and perhaps it varies from person to person. Hosea for example was told to marry one woman, a prostitute, to love her faithfully as an example of God’s love to faithless Israel. With Boaz and Ruth, God could have chosen any woman to be the mother of David’s line, but he chose to graft in a pagan-proselyte from among Israel’s ancient enemies as a symbol (check my theology here, make sure I’m not being a crazy heretic) of God’s future redemption of the Gentiles – a young widow with no wealth nor options, simply faith in the God of her mother-in-law that He would redeem her, even being an outsider in Israel.

    Romance isn’t really about wistful walks in the park or trips to the movies or checking out each other’s bums. Physical attraction exists for a reason, but physical beauty is not the only thing (nor is it to be completely ignored or denigrated). Romance is really just an outward manifestation of either love or lust: lust if the self is all there is (what I need or want), and love if the other is what really matters (what he/she needs). The same walk in the park can be a consummation of selfishness, or the epitome of selflessness. Though to reach either extreme it would need to be a VERY interesting walk in the park.

    The shortest way I can think to put it is this:

    “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

    I used to say that to my ex-girlfriend, most frequently in the context of forgiving one another and while I believe it is still true, the nature of that love has had to change since our paths no longer really cross anymore. And in many respects, my love for her was clouded with physical infatuation, and I was not as selfless as I should ideally be, and neither she – rarely anyone is.


    I think to show true enduring love, the way God has shown it to us, is a hard task – and frankly difficult to do in a short format.


    One way in which I have been trying to do this is through two secondary characters in my novel, a knight and a sorceress: the former of which has some major ego / pride / destiny issues mixed in with his otherwise chivalric-heroic personality; the latter having serious sin nature / temptations, as well as external physical ugliness in the form of horns, claws, a tail – in a medieval setting that very much believes in and fears demonic entities. Their romance goes up and down and sideways, fighting through stubbornness, each one’s inability to put aside their dreams to love the other, loss, betrayal, witnessing the worst – and the best – that each is capable of. It is as they learn to love one another more than themselves (along with a great many other teaching moments) that they come to consummate that romance – and to finally submit themselves to Christ who loved them first.


    Lemme know if I have been helpful or if I have completely failed to answer your question!

    Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.

    Princess Foo

    @h-jones This is a really loaded question. I think I have some answers, but I’m not sure they are adequate to cover “the mysteries of love”.

    First, as @the-inkspiller said, marriage specifically is a reflection of Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:22-33 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

    This is not the way that all men should relate to all woman, but how man and wife should relate to each other.

    Second, God is in control of everything. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Therefore we know that God knows if you will marry, who you will marry, and when you will marry. And you cannot mess up His plan by marrying the wrong person.

    As for the “filling emotional needs” part, I think that part of it is just the world saying “Follow your heart. Do what makes you feel happy.” But it is also an important part of romance. I once heard a story of a Christian woman struggling with having a crush on someone who was not her husband because he filled an emotional need her husband did not. Obviously, she should not (and did not) “follow her heart” in this situation, but it seems that God created us with “emotional holes” for partners to fill. Or something like that, I haven’t thought it out completely.

    But if I was writing a romance, I wouldn’t look at it as “filling emotional holes”. I would look at it as making the other a better person. Love—true love from 1 Corinthians 13—makes people better people. The boy who sees her when no one else does shows her that she matters as a person, and helps her believe that God cares about her. The girl who helps him find joy in life teaches him to look for blessings in everything, even when she isn’t around. Ultimately, true love should draw everyone closer to God.

    The cake is a lie. acaylor.com


    Hello 🙂 Thought I’d add my own two cents to this question.

    First off, MASSIVE question and I don’t think anyone can really understand all these nuances properly.

    As @princess-foo and @the-inkspiller have said, marriage is meant to be an image of Christ and His Church and His utmost devotion to her.

    I think God, in His omnipotence, knows who we will marry (if we marry) and in that way, I suppose He does have a specific person in mind for us, but I don’t think ‘soulmates’ are a thing. For two believers anyways, it’s a man and a woman who both sin, both mess up but have decided to work together as they live for God. Relationships like that aren’t (or shouldn’t be) built on butterfly feelings and ‘cosmic love’ but on God because God is the only person or thing who won’t disappoint us.

    As @princessfoo pointed out, promising to stay by your husband/wife’s side for the rest of your life IS a massive deal. That’s a big dedication; you’re sharing life with that person for (hopefully) a long time. That takes a lot of patience and selflessness, no matter how much you love that person.

    As for fulfilling emotional needs, I think that’s a portal to a whole other topic but very briefly: For believers, if God is the center of your life, then your dependence is on Him. Nobody and nothing else can bear that load. This relates to the whole idolatry thing; making someone else your idol (be that your husband or marriage or something else) leads to disappointment. So the fulfillment of emotional needs then, I think, should come from God.




    *puts on nerd hat* Oof. As someone who has had to recover from a life of poor examples of love and learn the hard way…wait, isn’t that everyone to an extent?…never mind…here we go. (Still learning over here, but this might help.)

    The operating definition of love which I have found to be extremely useful is this: Love is a commitment to the true good of another person.  It is truth played out in actions that truly benefit the other person in front of you. Not giving them what they want – because sometimes what they want is a form of self-harm. Not manipulating them to get what you want.

    Not yourself. Not your emotional needs. Only God can fulfill your emotional needs for emotional intimacy and affirmation. No human being can ever do that. Expecting a human being to do that will lead to you worshipping them as an idol, and you toxically abusing them when your desires are unfulfilled. What you expect to emotionally satisfy you is what you worship. For females, especially, this statement is utterly true.

    If this strikes you as confusing, keep in mind that the Holy Spirit literally lives inside your body and is closer to you than any human lover ever will be (no more details will be given). God controls every aspect of your life, including other people, and loves you through every single aspect of your life. Your emotional needs are <i>already </i>fulfilled in Him; the challenge is believing that they are. Sometimes God can use another person to fill that need – but, it’s still God that is doing it – if the other person stops doing it God will provide something different for you. It’s not the other person, it’s God.

    If you are feeling emotionally unsatisfied right now, it’s because your emotions are still in control of the sin nature and are lying to you with all them pesky needs that aren’t real. But expecting you to resolve that overnight is unrealistic -that emotional development process is torturous. It’s God holding you down while you want stuff that is bad for you and saying “no, you can’t have that.” Love is not glamorous or romantic – it’s like holding down a drug patient in rehab to stop them from going back to the bad stuff. And giving the other person good things that they don’t want and can’t appreciate. (Sometimes they can appreciate it, but you can’t count on that.) That’s what God does for us, so that’s what we should do for each other. “For as God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

    Thus love is also an intellectual process. It’s going back to the scriptures and understanding what is truly good for another person and giving it to them. What do they need to learn? How can the lessons be delivered in gentleness and kindness so they don’t violently attack you for being God’s instrument of love today? 😛 What idols may be blinding me to the truth here? What do I want in this situation that could hurt someone? It’s tearing down your own idols to help someone see the truth, letting go when you know that you will need more time to defeat your own sin sickness before acting. Love steps aside when another person would be better for them.

    And it really has nothing to do with romance – you can love anybody. So what is romance all about? A marriage is a flat contractual agreement to stay together because you’re having children together. It’s also a form of mercy on the fact that male and female interactions can be rough to cope without marriage sometimes. (In addition to the symbol of Christ’s love for the church which other people have pointed out.) Our culture idolizes these intense emotions and insists that we should pursue these emotionally intense situations – no, no we should not. According to 1 Corinthians 7, it’s not really a thing to pursue. However, God has placed in most of us a longing for connection with the opposite gender, and we should honor that. Love should be in that connection, but it’s not a function of that connection at all. Romance is about the desire to deeply understand someone who is different from you and connect with them.

    Which is different from love. It can maybe make love a bit easier because romance makes you want to understand the truth about another person, which makes it easier to truly love them, but yeah.

    Sarah, Miss S, Sierepica_Fuzzywalker


    @h-jones Oh help… This topic… GREAT TOPIC!!! Just the title is bringing back memories of my early days on SE… *wobbles a bit on my cane*

    There was another similar thread like this last year, which was great, but this is slightly different and I’m never not interested in this topic!! 😉

    So… The question is on true love/romance.

    Well, I’ve just skimmed through what everybody else said, and I think there’s some great stuff up there from what I saw, but I’ll give some thoughts on it.

    So, to start out, what is love? I believe love is an action, and 1 Corinthians 13 does a fantastic job defining for us in clear terms what the action of love looks like. Love is a choice.

    Now, as far as romantic love… that is one of the most sacred and precious of dreams that I have. I describe it as a glassed off room in my heart that I can look into and dream about but I can’t go in. It is indeed in my mind at least, a beautiful, wonderful, precious thing.

    As far as relationships go with that… Well, first I would mention Frodo and Sam as an illustration, not because it’s romantic (if anybody says that it is, I will personally whack them with my cane) but because of it’s beauty. So right of the bat, even friendship of that level is a beautiful thing! But I think that when it’s that way between a guy and a girl (romantically) it’s on an even deeper level. I do think that there’s something special and different in that relationship that you don’t get in any other relationship.

    I think I’m starting to confuse myself because I have so many thoughts on this, but I think I finally figured out where I’m going with this. XD Sorry, my brain is going swimming right now or something, for some reason my head feels really weird right now, but O.K. It’ll get out of the pool later. Hopefully soon because this is distracting. (Note I have worked on this at several different times today, and my head is done swimming, now my fingers just need to thaw out from being outside too long in the cold). XD

    First, ask yourself why you would want to be married? Several reasons come to my mind:

    1. Humans for the most part naturally desire to be married. I could be wrong, and I’m sure there are people who want it more than others (like the people who live to get married). For the most part however, people want to be married. It’s just a part of human nature.

    2. I think the core of wanting to be married is to have somebody that sticks with you through life. You have that covenant with them, and in marriage, you get a team that works together beautifully. The guy is stronger, the defender while the girl is weaker, needs to be protected (sorry ladies, yes we do) and is a source of strength for the guy. I think in the deepest parts of our natures, girls want to be protected and guys want to protect. I’m not saying that this is the way everybody feels, but I think that it is largely there.

    3. Marriage is the relationship in which we are the best known (aside from our relationship with Christ). It is a relationship in which you are no longer alone (just think about why we use the word single), you belong to someone and they belong to you. I think that most people want to go through life with someone who won’t leave.

    I may be missing a ton of stuff, but those are some ideas that come to mind.

    Now to your other question…

    Yes. I believe that God has a particular person in mind if it’s in his will for you to marry. I do believe that, that’s why I can pray for my future spouse (if God gives me one) even though I don’t know who that will be. Can I mess that up? Well… Technically, yes, I believe that I can mess it up. I mean, if you really wanted to, you could probably walk down to the nearest town and find somebody willing to marry you *shudders*. Yes, I believe that you can do the deed, but if you’re smart, will you do it is more the question in my mind.

    Well, I think several thinks can help protect you against that. Keep in mind, sometimes good girls do marry a looser, or the guy (or girl for that matter) ends up changing for some reason or another later on, I’m not saying this is perfect advice, and just remember you’ll still marry a man with a sin nature, nobody’s perfect. 😉

    1. Keep your parents involved. Parents have good sniffers for sorting out who’s a scum bag and who’s a keeper. 😉

    2. Know what he’s like by what other people say. Does he have an all around good reputation?

    3. Keep your list of qualifications together. Just because there’s 100 great guys out there doesn’t mean that any of them are good for you. Here’s some questions to ask yourself about a guy. 😉

    * Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?

    * Does this person’s personality fit mine?

    * Do I just have stars in my eyes? Do I really see what he’s like? Trust your gut instincts. 😉

    * Could I follow this person and the way God is leading them/will lead them for the rest of my life?

    * What are their life goals/ideas/philosophies/etc. If they don’t match up with yours… That could be biggies down the road.

    And this list could go on. 😉

    So, finally after all that rambling, on writing romance. XD

    I absolutely believe that when this happens, it is beautiful. I could say so much more, but this is already getting so long. XD Anyway writing it. I think I’m sort of intuitively able to write romances. I don’t know why, I think I’m just wired to pick up human emotions pretty easily, not perfectly but rather easily. Advice though… I think just keep in mind what people have said, that romance is more than a feeling. Yes, feelings are there, but love is a choice. Pay close attention to your favorite romances, the ones that really have you dancing circles in your room because it was so heartwarming/wrenching.

    Also, remember that love is not always a beautiful act in and of itself. Sometimes the actions that love requires are ugly, but that makes the beauty of love shine all the brighter. My mom nearly died in the hospital three years ago after the birth of my youngest sister. My dad’s routine was along the lines of take care of my mom at the hospital all day and take care of a newborn at night. It was not a fun experience as added to that stress was that he didn’t know whether my mom was going to make it or not. What was one of the most touching things was that when he came home one evening, he got out his guitar and made a video of him singing 500 Miles (the Stephen Curtis Chapman version) for my mom and put it on Facebook for her.

    Love requires sacrifice, that’s what makes true love beautiful is that when you love someone, you are choosing to love them and not yourself.

    Welp, I hope some of that ramble was helpful! It made me feel very nostalgic… I might have to go hunt up that old thread on writing romance to die of laughter over some of the discussion that went on there…

    Tek an ohta! Tek an cala!



    Well, G. K. Chesterton’s character Michael Moon, in Manalive, says “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline”. I haven’t exactly experimented myself — maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic, considering that at least some people are called to celibacy, see also 1 Cor. 7? — but it’s an interesting analogy.

    Jenny Freitag, an excellent writer, and herself married, has good thoughts on romantic love (cos we agree guys and girls can love each other as friends, and as family, right?) and marriage here: http://www.thepenslayer.com/2012/10/between-music-and-lyrics.html and here: http://www.thepenslayer.com/2013/07/slips-and-suitcoats.html and here: http://www.thepenslayer.com/2012/05/oh-darling-lets-run-wild-together.html.

    Perhaps the best nonfiction book about the distinctions between kinds of love is Lewis’ The Four Loves. Chesterton has some great examples of all kinds of relationships in various of his works, but they’re less a how-to than “this is how these two unique people get along within this category” and it’s usually awesome.

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