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Love is not a noun – it’s a verb

by Felicia Cameron Leger

Being newly married, I’ve started looking at male-female relationships through an entirely different lens. It’s sort of like buying a new car and suddenly seeing your chosen make and model everywhere you turn. It’s not that they weren’t there before; you just never had reason to notice them until now. So when my husband and I sat down to check out the new fall TV season, I found myself weirdly fascinated by … the commercials.

It’s no secret that advertisers cater to demographics. They put blondes and beers on the sports channels and iPhone-toting hipsters on midweek primetime. But what’s grabbed my attention lately is the way TV ads portray the husband-wife relationship. It’s a subliminal battle of the sexes where no one comes out the winner.

We’re all familiar with commercials that portray married men as having checked their brains at the altar. There’s the bumbling husband who sprays strawberry milkshake all over the kitchen while trying to figure out the Cuisinart, or the football fanatic who sets fire to his backyard while streaming video on his phone. The wife in this type of ad will saunter in and save the day, all the while looking like she’s just come from the spa.

On the other end of the spectrum are the nagging wife commercials. These women are only slightly more amiable than Attila the Hun, browbeating their husbands into behaving more like frightened children than grown men. I saw one commercial where the husband took out the trash during the winning touchdown of the Super Bowl to avoid a tongue-lashing. He was friendly enough on the outside, but privately he was daydreaming about being somewhere, anywhere, other than in the company of his snarky wife.

We’re so used to ads like these that we tend to write them off. Sure, they’re good for a laugh, but nobody really takes them seriously, right? Well, advertisers certainly do, and they spend obscene amounts of money researching how to most effectively reach their target audiences. So I have to ask: Do married women really see their husbands as idiots? Do married men really see their wives as shrews? If so, what is the process that drives a couple from newlywed bliss to marital drudgery, and how do you stop it before it begins?

Since my marriage is still in the cloud-walking phase, I can’t even imagine it going south, but I’m not so naive as to think that relationships maintain themselves. When I was single (a whopping six weeks ago), I loved hanging out with couples who had circumvented the idiot-shrew trap. I never minded the ‘third wheel’ thing; it just felt good to be around healthy marriages, especially ones that have gone the distance. I’ve even interviewed some of them, writing down their pearls of wisdom.

Want to know what they all have in common? It may not be popular thinking, but here it is: God first, spouse second, everyone else third, self last. And here’s a biggie: Love is not a noun; it’s a verb. In other words, no matter what difficulty I might be facing in my marriage, I always have the choice to respond in love.

So, as I venture forth into the unknown of sharing life with another person, I go armed with the experiences of those who have gone before me. The prospect is both exhilarating and daunting, but I am comforted by the fact that I am married to one of the brightest and most capable men I know, so there’s a decent chance that he’ll have a stronger resistance to the idiot virus. Still, if he ever starts setting fire to the hedges or falling asleep in front of the TV with a spilled beer and a Cheetos mustache, I’ll do my best not to play the snark card and try to remember that love is a verb.

** I’d love to hear from all you couples who have refused to allow your marriages to become stereotypes:

What makes your relationship work? What advice can you offer a newbie like me?

Felicia Cameron Leger

About Felicia Cameron Leger

Felicia Cameron Leger is a writer of Christian fiction and has a background in historical research. She has a fascination with the events that have passed before us, and the primordial ways in which they influence us today. She is presently working on a novel set in first century Rome.

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