What’s Love Got to Do With It?

The other day I heard the song What’s Love got to do with it? by Tina Turner. As I listened to the familiar chorus, I couldn’t help but think about how obsessed our culture has become with the emotional feeling of being in love. In fact, there is so much emphasis placed on that feeling of love, that it seems there is barely a trace left of what love really means.

Tina Turner’s song spells out a story of two people who are trying to have a relationship based purely on the physical element while pushing their hearts and emotions aside to avoid getting hurt. It may sound good in theory, but this is an empty, lonely, and painful approach to relationships. It’s a sad song that reminds me of how lost people have become on the trek to true love and relational satisfaction.

Our culture often paints a rosy picture of relationships: you meet that perfect someone who makes your heart race and gives meaning to your life. So, you throw away your cares, cautions, or conflicts bogging you down as you skip off into the sunlight together, and you believe that life with your perfect soul mate will be euphoric and easy. Unfortunately, that scenario is not realistic. The bursting of that bubble founded on false pretenses leaves a lot of people bitter and tainted, which often leads to the other extreme of swearing off meaningful relationships. These are the people claiming the single, “free,” and promiscuous life is the way to go. Both extremes are unrealistic and very unfortunate.

Society is in denial of what life and relationships are really all about. It isn’t about perfection or promiscuity. Love is a gift we are able to give as well as receive. True love in relationships requires action, which entails work. If you believe there is such a thing as a great relationship without work, issues, or problems, then you are quickly headed for disappointment and difficulty.

What is love?
A common misconception is that love is simply a euphoric emotion that we feel for that guy or girl that catches our eye. While these feelings are certainly important in a relationship, they are not love but rather the state of being “in love.” In his book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, Dr. Gary Chapman calls this emotional experience “the tingles,” describing it as “warm, bubbly, tingly feelings for a member of the opposite sex.” He goes on to explain that while the tingles are real and important, “they are not the basis for a satisfactory marriage.”

Love is not just something we feel but something we do. It requires action. Paul paints us the perfect picture of what love is and does in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God is love
A huge component of having a healthy, fulfilling relationship is first finding personal fulfillment and purpose through your identity in God. Relationships are a God thing, but we often use them as a substitute for the wholeness we can only achieve through a relationship with Him. No man or woman is ever going to be able to fill the void of a nonexistent commitment to Christ.

Marriage is a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of God. A husband and wife are designed to be a reflection of the Godhead and allow them to to experience a hint of the unconditional love He has for them. In her book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, Mary Kassian explains this relationship,

Men were created to reflect the strength, love, and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the character, grace, and beauty of the bride He redeemed. He created marriage and sex to display the joining of Christ and the church in an indivisible covenant.

It is important to understand that marriage is a reflection of God in order to fully grasp the significance of the covenant we enter in marriage. All too often we get caught up in the worldly view of marriages and relationships and forget to give them the respect and honor that they deserve and need. When we understand that our marriage is our ministry wherein we are responsible for displaying God’s image and communicating His love to our spouse, it gives us a sense of purpose and accountability in that commitment.

Marriage is a gift
Marriage is a gift God gave us to experience an earthly glimpse of the heavenly love our Father has for us. It is a blessing. While being “in love” is completely desirable, we cannot get caught up in chasing our emotions and forsake the purpose and sacredness of marriage.

If you are married, recognize the blessing you have been given and invest the appropriate respect and nurturing required. If you aren’t married, make sure you are not hunting a mere emotional high. Carefully consider the significance of the covenant of marriage by being realistic about finding that life partner (i.e., compatibility, preparedness, etc.). While love is certainly a major component to a relationship, commitment to your vows, spouse, and covenant is absolutely essential.

So, what’s love got to do with it? Love is the active display of commitment we freely give to others because we freely received from God. More than just an emotional ecstasy, love is the determination and tenacity to “stick it out” no matter what comes your way. It is the embodiment of a covenant and commitment we make in marriage that makes the good times great, daily life a joy, bad times bearable, and difficulties worthwhile.


Ashley McIlwain, M.A., is a Marriage and Family Therapist, speaker, and writer. She is the founder and C.E.O. of the non-profit organization, Foundation Restoration, and blog LittleWifey.com, which are comprehensive resources committed to restoring the very foundation of society – marriage. She is committed to and passionate about helping relationships thrive. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Azusa Pacific University. Ashley previously served as Managing Editor for StartMarriageRight.com where she helped launch and develop the website into a hub for premarital preparation. Currently she and her husband, Steve, reside in Southern California.

  • Rachel Monroe

    Great points. As girls I think it can be harder for us, watching “chick flicks” that make being in love seem so simple and carefree. Real love does take committment, and it might not always be easy, but it is so worth it!!

    • Rachel, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. It can definitely be challenging to avoid some of the surrounding messages that convey a message that love and marriage should be easy and smooth sailing. The truth is that it isn’t always that way, which is why we need our commitment and relationship with Christ to keep us moving in the right direction, especially during those more challenging moments.

  • Michael McCord

    Thank you for this very clear and concise article spelling out what love truly is, and what truly isn’t! What’s love got to do with it? Everything! We are even commanded to love one another, love your neighbor as yourself. As you care for yourself, care for the one you love and your neighbor too. Love is not veneer, love is the rings of an tree in an old growth forest. Deeply rooted and near streams of water, the Living Water that we should love others through. Not a shallow, stagnant, tepid pool of self-absorption. My pattern of love is based on

    Ephesians 5:25-27
    25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

    To be like Jesus, is the best and to my dying day, I will strive to do just that. Thank you Lord for Ashley McIlwain and her talent for writing and the wisdom behind it.

    God bless you.

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