A big part of the Edge is to encouraging students to make healthy relationship choices now because today’s choices will affect tomorrow’s relationships.

As we talk about marriage in the classroom, most of my students indicate they want to be married in the future.  They have a variety of reasons, ranging from “I want to spend the rest of my life with my best friend,” to “I don’t know how to cook!” Of course, there are those few who wish to avoid marriage all together, saying “There’s no way I want to be tied down to one person that long!”

I’ve found in my five and a half years with the Edge, many of us have very messed up perspectives of what marriage is, or should be.  I’ll even call myself out on this one.  I can remember talking with my then fiancé about having children.  “I think we should wait,” I said. “Just in case things don’t work out.”

I can remember his response vividly, as though it was only yesterday. “Divorce isn’t an option for me.  It isn’t even on the table.”

I want to say that I know there are very legitimate reasons for divorce.  Abuse, adultery, addiction. But I also know that the overwhelming reason for divorce is convenience.  Or, “falling out of love.” What?!

I could go in any number of directions at this point, mentioning how love is more than a feeling (cue Boston), but I will save that for another time and another article.  Instead, I want to tell you a story that humbled me just last week. 

First, I’ll tell you that I love my husband.  With every bit of who I am, I know I am a better person because of him.  And, I understood when I took those vows eight years ago that this was for better OR worse, and in sickness AND in health.  But I never thought about what would have been if the sickness came before the vows.  Would I have still said “I do?”

Last week, I was introduced to Ian and Larissa Murphy.  I encourage to you watch their video for yourself, but I will hit the highlights here.  After meeting and dating in 2005, Ian was planning to propose to Larissa.  However, a tragic auto accident left him with a traumatic brain injury.  Larissa transparently admits that her initial thoughts (before discovering his prognosis) was they could handle anything except a brain injury.

Despite the circumstances, their relationship continued, with Larissa helping the Murphys with much of Ian’s day to day care.  Knowing his intention to marry her, she said she was able to remain by his side.

Their path eventually led them down the aisle three years ago, and they remain married today. Ian still struggles to communicate.  He is learning to walk again.  Their marriage isn’t conventional.

 
Photo from ianandlarissa.com 

I found myself with tears flowing, and not just because it was a “happy” ending.  In fact, by society’s standards, it wasn’t a “happy” ending. The “happy” ending would be complete recovery. Or Ian saying “No, I love you too much to hold you back.  Be free, Larissa.  Find someone who can care for you and meet your needs, not the other way around!” I found myself crying because I didn’t know if I would have done the same thing.

This is the marriage I want.  This is what I want all my students to experience.  A love that is so sacrificial, so unending that “self” never seems to enter the equation.  It’s a love that you can’t “fall out of,” but is all consuming.  It is a love that finds joy in caring for the other person. 

I talk to my students about true love a lot.  I tell them that love never says “Baby, if you love me, you would…” I tell them that love always seeks the best for the other person.  True love dies to self. True love is patient, and it is kind.

So, when I have a student that comes to me and says “My boyfriend says he loves me and wants to have sex,” I stop her right there, and explain that isn’t love.  Because as a teenager, sex right now isn’t what is best for her.  And if someone wants something less than the best, it isn’t true love.  It’s selfishness. Our students deserve more.

 

They deserve more than a sappy romantic comedy that ties up all the loose ends in 90 minutes.  They deserve to know that true love is a choice, not a gooey butterfly feeling.  Because feelings change, and the gooeyness goes away. And sometimes love finds itself in the “sickness” part of that vow, or in the “worse.” And it’s in those times that love isn’t convenient.  It’s in those times that love is not a feeling, but a choice.  And that is the love I’ve had the privilege to experience these last eight years.  And I can only hope that our students get that same chance.