What was this intelligent woman thinking?! This guy was so wrong for her! Everyone else could see it! Why couldn’t she?
It was the first time I was asked to do premarital counseling. It was also when I awoke to the stupidity of love.
My pleas were powerless. I resorted to rudeness, then begging. I think I inserted a few prayers for pre-wedding catastrophe—things like global flooding—that would keep them from getting to the church. All to no avail. They were married a few months later, separated within a year, divorced within two. Somehow, the stupidity lasted until the wedding ceremony and maybe a few hours after, which is the natural progression of stupid love. Something happened while they were driving away from the reception that cured her disease. Then all she could think was, “What have I done?”
Love, of course, is not stupid.
Chemistry, masquerading as love, is stupid.
What is chemistry? It depends on the context. It typically means that you feel something when you are with or even think about the other person. You feel more alive. More often than not, chemistry also means, “I am interested in a sexual relationship with that person.”
Lack of chemistry tells you to say “no” to a person who otherwise seems so suited to you. But its presence tells you to say “yes”—even to a person who will guarantee a difficult relationship. Occasionally, chemistry gets it right and we make a wise relational decision, but some people win the lottery too.
It is complicated. Do you encourage marriage when there is no chemistry? Perhaps. But shouldn’t we expect that a marital partner is affected by—is moved by, feels something because of—the other person? And if chemistry connects to an interest in sex, then we would hope that there is some chemistry in every marriage. I have known people who married without any chemistry, and then, later, there was chemistry—but it was for someone else, and they renounced their marriage vows. Ugh. I love chemistry… and I hate chemistry.
How to respond to stupid love
What should we do when a loved one is overwhelmed by that chemical-combustion-mistaken-as-love? Here is one answer: I don’t know. I have yet to find anything that neutralizes it. Tackle the victims, tie them down, bring in a hundred witnesses to scream at and berate them, send them to boarding school—these are all fine ideas. They just don’t work. (Yes, it is sort of like treating an addiction).
But godly wisdom isn’t intimidated when we are at the end of ourselves. In fact, that is when godly wisdom begins its work. Wisdom begins with humble dependence on the Giver of Wisdom. It could include the following.
- Listen. Wisdom specializes in listening. Though chemistry can be stupid, it also has its reasons. Remember that the chemically-addled person is more like you than you think. Behind the attraction might be ordinary human desires, including the desire for a partner.
- Be concrete. What specifically are your concerns? Vague generalizations will not win the person over but prove you are simply “against them.” And be sure your objections are valid ones. Talk to another wise friend first to get an outside opinion of the relationship. For example, I know a situation in which the parents’ concerns are not valid. They are persuaded that their daughter is sinful in her desire to marry because she is not yet 25 years old. They didn’t marry before age 25, so their children shouldn’t either. These parents are imposing their own story on their daughter rather than Scripture.
- Ask the person to listen. You want the person to be wise, and wisdom listens. If the person refuses to listen, first consider how you might not be worth listening to and confess where you have gone wrong. Then appeal to the person—if the decision to marry is a good one, it should be able to bear up under the different perspectives of loved ones.
- Get help. This one can be difficult because the person believes you are simply lining up like-minded people. It works best when everyone can agree on which wise people to include.
- Keep moving toward the person in love. This becomes more difficult when the person demands that love means enthusiastic support. But biblical love is creative, and we can pray with a certain amount of confidence that our Father would allow our love to be blatant and undeniable.
Loved ones can get it wrong. An unwise relationship can grow into something better. But loved ones often get it right, especially if they are part of a larger chorus that is singing the same refrain. Either way, parents, family and friends will be led through suffering when someone they love is afflicted with stupid love. And hardships lead us to spiritual dependence and prayer.