Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Husband's Responsibility

Most people are probably tired of hearing about how our culture misconstrues love, but I think it's the case. Here you have the whole "falling in/falling out" model propagated by Hollywood and in the rain-forest devouring phenomenon known as the romance novel. We are told that an inability to choose who we love is a brute fact for all humanity. "The heart wants what it wants," as Woody Allen said.

Our absorption of this idea has made it a strange and seemingly futile thing to "work on" a relationship. Generally whenever I hear a couple say they need to work on their relationship I hear an accompanying death knell. Even many couples who stay together do so because they have that rare ability to sustain the feelings that most people use up in the early stages.

If it is the case that "the heart wants what it wants" and "working on a relationship" is futile, then what do we say to people like Michael Schiavo? This is a man who has abandoned his wife (Terri; see below for more on her) when she needs him the most. But he is no longer in love with Terri, is he? No, he is not, otherwise he would not have fathered children with another woman, with whom he still lives. If this is the nature of love, Michael should get a free pass.

The fact of the matter is, however, Michael should not get a free pass. Most people who are honest with themselves find Michael's course of action repugnant. This calls into question the nature of love. I think the very marriage vows many of us take are a better picture of the nature of love. We are to care for each other. We are not free to do whatever we wish when the other is in a coma or severely brain damaged. We have pledged ourselves to this other person and have no right to sever that bond (unless it is mutually agreed upon). The heart is fickle. Honor is not. Husbands, love your wives. Don't just tell them of the warm feelings you have. Honor them by taking care of them in their hour of need. Do not betray your vows.

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