What color would you use to describe passion? Walk through the romance section at any bookstore. You’ll find yourself surrounded by shades of purple and red. Each cover advertises the passions waiting for you on its pages. They use a lot of silky legs and bared male torsos, too.
Publishers know their customers well. Many people hunger for sexual passion. Some read such books to prime what little passion they have, or to replace a passion lost or never experienced.
Red and purple have their place, but in marriage, that palette is far too limited. Marital passion does include sex, but only as a part of a much broader picture.
If I were painting a marriage, I would use many colors to express passion. Bright yellows for those glorious days that glow with life. Shades of green to show the growth and life that passion brings. I would even add some browns and greys – colors that represent the usual days with their down-to-earth duties and quiet endurance, a background showcasing life in all its hues.
And, I think I would need a little black, too. Black, like the darkness that surrounds us when a loved one is ill. Black, like the despondency that chokes us when life is unfair. Black, like the fear we feel when we must make a major decision, but have no idea what to do.
One master painter, Ver Meer, had a genius for the use of white. Combined with his amazing perception of light, his whites gave his paintings luminance, as though they had some hidden source for their radiance. Yes, I would add white to my marriage painting, to represent the hidden radiance that lights up all healthy marriages and makes them shine. You have seen it, and when you see it you wish for it.
In marriage, passion is far more than romance and sex. Passion is a deep, abiding desire to experience a lasting, satisfying, edifying marriage. That’s why you need so many colors to portray it. Passion is much more than emotion. Popular culture never separates the two. In that fantasy world, passion equals emotion. In real life, passion can motivate us even when our emotions feel flat.
The core for this kind of passion – the force that keeps it throbbing in a marriage, comes from a combination of commitment and determination. I love to see that in couples. I know that with those qualities, and some patience and forbearance, they will paint a mural of great and subtle beauty.
Sadly, some marriages seem to lack color. It’s as though the couple never learned how to make all the moments, with all their hues, part of their painting. They exist. But do they live?
I watched a man of eighty-eight, still healthy, caring for his wife, who has Parkinson’s Disease. They are all out of red and purple. They know that the time for those colors has passed. But how they paint! In kind words and thoughtful actions, I watch them love each other. Even black days have points of light where their love shines through.
In marriage, we paint by moments on a canvas of days. Our brushes are actions and words. Our colors are attitudes. Stroke by stroke, dot by dot, the painting grows. Each husband, each wife, adds to the canvas. And each canvas can become a masterpiece.
This is the last article in the Growing a Great Marriage Series. You may want to return to the English Home page to see what other materials are available.