Gracy Olmsted offers perspective on the substantive differences between falling in love and ultimately choosing to love. One starts, one sustains:

Because marriage does not just involve “falling in love and sharing your life together.” This is perhaps one of the most passive definitions of marriage one could come up with. It involves no effort, no choice, no purposeful decision-making or selflessness. It involves “falling in love,” rather than loving. It suggests “sharing your life together,” rather than building a life together. Yet marriage must involve the latter, not the former, if it is to survive.

I’m not speaking from my own, still young, experience of marriage. I’m thinking about my grandparents, both sets, who celebrated 50+ years of marriage together. They were purposeful, careful, respectful. They made time for each other, honored each other. They were jealous of each other (in a healthy way), seeking to preserve intimacy and closeness to the exclusion of the outside world. They were romantic—nurturing the spark of love with gifts, flowers, acts of service, words of affection.

I’m also thinking of my parents and parents-in-law, who have celebrated 30 and 30+ years of marriage: both of whom have carefully set aside date nights since the beginning of their marriage, taking time to nurture intimacy despite the chaos of life and kids. They’ve conducted arguments behind closed doors, keeping their disagreements private from even their children. They’ve helped each other with everyday tasks, not dividing their lives into “his” and “her” portions. They take the time for kisses and compliments, no matter how busy the season. And they pray for each other—which seems to have given them a deeper compassion, empathy, and humility.

I’m sure I’ll fall far short, but this is basically what I aspire to in a relationship.