The first chapter talks about how we are each sinners and selfish in our own right - and the idea of romantic love being the ideal for marriage is an unrealistic ideal to set for ourselves. Marriage is meant to be for the glory of God ultimately, and a way for God to teach us some of the characteristics that we need in order to live our lives more like Jesus.
A professor in a marriage and family class I took in college once told us that marriage has good years and bad years - ebbs and flows. I never truly understood that until I was myself in a marriage. There certainly are good times and not so good times... times when you feel romantically connected, and times that you don't. The one truest thing though is that God has provided you a partner to share your life with - share the journey... share the ups and downs... and learn so much about Christan life through the daily struggles.
I said earlier that we are all selfish and sinners by design... which can cause friction in a marriage - we are also designed very differently. Men and women process things in ways that seem completely foreign to each other. I've noticed this at different times in my own marriage - neither way of processing is wrong - just very different from each other. I'm more of a sit down and process it on paper type of person while John is more of a talk it out in the moment type of personality. At times this is frustrating for us, but eventually we come together and work it out.
One thing that we both realize is that the way the media portrays marriage and relationships is vastly different from reality. I think this starts with fairy tales as young girls... we are taught to think that our prince charming will come along and make everything alright. To a degree, he does if you follow God's plan for your life... but no one person can fulfill your every desire in life - only God can do that. Humans are flawed and will let you down from time to time. They don't mean to - and have the best of intentions, but no one is perfect and at times this leads to hurt feelings and let down. God is the only one that will never let you down... He might not always be on the same time table as you are, but he will never let you down or leave your side.
Somewhere along the way, people have come to think that if the romance dies down a bit - you can cut and run from the relationship. It is up to US, our generation of Christians to teach the world that this isn't the true way that God designed marriage. He designed us to be together with one person during our lives on this Earth. It is yet another test of our character as to how we deal with it for his glory and his kingdom. It is designed to help us in our journey to live with the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If those traits don't define the tests of marriage - I don't know what else would.
I grew up as the child of a divorce, a not so pretty one... and I always knew that when I got married - it would be with the plan that it was a once in a lifetime commitment. One and done. I married a man who grew up in a family with all of his relatives having the life long marriages that I desired for myself. His parents have been married for almost 51 years. That is the legacy I want for my life - for my children and grandchildren... I want them to look at John and I 30-40 years in the future and see the love and admiration we have for each other. Not because it has all been a fairy tale, but because we withstood all the tests and lived the journey together.