But why does love need to be guarded? Against what enemies? We looked about us and saw the world as having become a hostile and threatening place where standards of decency and courtesy were perishing and war loomed gigantic. A world where love did not endure. The smile of inloveness seemed to promise for ever, but friends who had been in love last year were parting this year. The divorce rate was in the news. Where were any older people in love? It must be that, whatever its promise, love does not by itself endure. But why? What was the failure behind the failure of love?
On a day in early spring we thought we saw the answer. The killer of love is creeping separateness. Inloveness is a gift…, but then it is up to the lovers to cherish or to ruin. Taking love for granted, especially after marriage. Ceasing to do things together. Finding separate interests. ‘We’ turning into ‘I’. Self. Self-regard: what I want to do.Actual selfishness only a hop away. This was the way of creeping separateness. And in the modern world, especially in the cities, everything favored it….The failure of love might seem to be caused by hate or boredom or unfaithfulness with a lover; but those were results. First came the creeping separateness: the failure behind the failure.Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, 36-37.
Diedra and I read A Severe Mercy early in our marriage–and it’s one of my favorite books. This passage is especially important, as it highlights the important work of growing together over the years.
Vanauken goes on to talk about how important it is to cultivate shared interests. To read the same books. To look deeply into the other person’s interests (even if you don’t initially like those interests) to find the thing it is they like, and work to appreciate it. To continue having common experiences. To have a united front against persons or activities that would seek to draw you away from each other.
This can be taken to an extreme: one that Vanauken acknowledges.
However, I think he’s correct to point out that the modern world (plus our own innate selfishness) is set up in a lot of ways to favor the creeping separateness.
(Note: Vanauken was writing in the 1970s–long before the advent of social media–which was supposed to bring people together, but which many are now urgently warning is driving us further and further apart.)
Connect with those you love! Read their books. Listen to their music. Share meals. Put the devices down and go for a walk. Let’s fight the creeping separateness together.