For February, the month devoted to LOVE, Sheldon and Davy Vanauken’s marriage principles are prescriptive. The biography of their 17-year-long marriage, A Severe Mercy (1977), not only chronicled their commitment to each other but their journey from agnosticism to Christianity, influenced largely by C. S. Lewis.
They called their marriage principles “The Shining Barrier,” which purposed to keep their in-loveness from being breached.
1 – Avoid things that divide or divert attention away from the “Appeal to Love” (p. 41). Consider everything from the angle of what would be best for our love? Even possessions could be a burdensome distraction, which they avoided.
2 – No secrets, even trivial ones (p. 33). “Total sharing, we felt, was the ultimate secret of a love that would last.”
3 – Share everything; do everything together. “This is the central secret of enduring love” (p. 35). They determined to have the same interests, friends, and pursuits, in order to tie themselves so closely together that nothing could ever separate them.
4 – Guard your love from creeping separateness (p. 37). Don’t find separate interests where “we” turns into “I.” This is the cause of failing love, because the results are boredom, declining courtesy, and unfaithfulness.
5 – Total trust (p. 38). This includes spontaneity: if one has an impulse, the other goes along with it; Affirmation: if one has a belief, the other agrees unless and until it can be disproved; Courtesy: do whatever the other asks because you assume they have weighed the consequences and have pure, not selfish, motives.
6 – Achieve union. Conflicts are always between self and Love. In decision making, appeal to Love (p. 42). One person does not exercise authority over the other. Sheldon says this kind of Love is more than affection and sexual attraction. It is devotion and commitment.
We all lose the happiness of youthful love. Therefore, love must pass through a difficult death and rebirth to achieve happiness into old age. It must be crucified and resurrected. If it misses the re-birth, it does not survive.
Some of these principles seem extreme and may not be practical for couples who must make a living and raise children. (It helped that Sheldon could live on his inheritance, although he did become a professor, but he and Davy agreed not to have children as that might interfere with their marriage relationship.)
Nonetheless, every marriage can improve. Incorporating some of the above practices may be exactly what will do the job.