I recently learned from my son that his mother, my former spouse, never really loved or wanted me—that she married me because I tried hard and she found that irresistible, until she didn’t. My memory of her behavior toward me in the early days was much warmer and more affectionate than that. It seemed to me that she had re-interpreted our story. How can two people be part of the same story and tell it so differently? Because, as Stephen Covey used to say, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.” The facts of a story are neutral. The way we choose to see it is what gives it meaning. A great love story is partly heroic and partly a story of taking risk and overcoming obstacles for a love that is sweeter than life itself. The events have the meaning we give them, which is why marriage is more a creation than a discovery. The biggest enemy of love is our own minds.
Sometimes Cathy notices drops of water on the floor or specs of food on the counter. At times, I admit that I have found that irritating. I sometimes have found myself thinking she makes a big deal over nothing. On the other hand, when I think about it, I really like living in a clean house. Although she doesn’t know it, Cathy follows the “broken windows theory” that Mayor Rudy Giuliani used to reduce crime in New York City. The idea was that if you cleaned up the minor crimes, like panhandling and graffiti, New York would become a place where crime did not seem to pay. As you may know, it worked. Major crimes declined 62.3 percent during Rudy’s term. No one would think of wearing muddy boots into our house when we know that clean water droplets are a problem. I enjoy the pleasant and peaceful atmosphere of a tidy home, and Cathy is largely responsible for that. How I choose to see Cathy pointing out water droplets or breadcrumbs will determine how I feel about her. The story I tell myself is what matters most—and it is a choice.
Cathy and I devoted the last chapter of our book, Intentional Courtship (coming this Fall), to our love story. In my mind, it is the greatest love story of all time. And that is where it really lives—in my mind. It lives in hers too. We can look at a thousand little coincidences and come up with the feeling that our loving Heavenly Parents prepared us for each other and brought us together.
We recently interviewed a couple on LILY Pod, where the husband had reached the end of his rope after dating many women for 13 years as a mid-single. He told the Lord, “I’ve done everything I can, and if you want me to marry, you’re going to have to bring her to me.” Shortly thereafter, he was introduced to a special woman who had a near death experience and chose to return to mortal life to meet her eternal companion. Their path of preparation for each other was difficult and thorny—which made the blessing of their love and marriage even sweeter. The fact that they both believe in and cherish this love story helps them through the hard moments and makes their happiness even better in joyful times. The featured art work is of their hands planting a seed, which Tim drew as a wedding gift for Annie when they married in December of 2018.
If you are single, what kind of love story are you writing, even if you are just preparing for your king or queen? If you are married, please understand that your love story is still being written, and how you choose to think about your loved one will determine much of your happiness in marriage and in life. Look for the miracle of God’s grace in the events that brought you together, and focus on the goodness he or she brings into your life.