Have you ever crossed a bridge or passed a chain-link fence decorated with what seems like misplaced padlocks? Inscribed with a loving note and the key discarded, these locks are a permanent monument of a couple’s love.
As I think about these deserted padlocks I can’t help but wonder about all these people searching to find a way to make their love permanent. I feel for these strangers, and I relate to them. I am, after all, just as a desperate for lasting love—that’s why I married my wife, Kara.
In Paris, love locks, as they are called, have been in the news because some feel they are ugly and harmful to the historic structures they’re attached to. Just like a couple carving their initials into trees or benches, it’s a way of permanently marking their relationship. Why do we do it? Well, I think it’s because we know that real love is something that’s meant to last.
And we perceive that love is something that transcends our emotions. Most relationships begin with the experience of being “in love,” that dramatic rush of pounding hearts and sweaty palms. And don’t get me wrong, that’s a great thing, but at a certain point our love calls us past that. As relationships mature, eventually they lead us to the desire to choose the other person, to go past the emotions, and to make a promise in our hearts, a commitment that says no matter what, we’ll stand by each other.
My wife Kara and I began our relationship long distance, and each time I drove the four hours to see her I’d get butterflies in my stomach as I thought about seeing her again. Our reunions were emotionally packed, and as time went on the goodbyes got harder and harder. That’s when I realized that I wanted to go deeper, to make our love permanent, and to choose Kara in a final way, so that the goodbyes were no longer necessary. And whether a couple lives four hours apart or four minutes, I think that’s a sign of real love.
This desire for commitment, the desire to choose, is the same desire that leads couples to fasten love locks and carve their names in park benches. It’s also the desire that leads us to marriage. That’s why I married Kara: Being in love with her led me to real love, that moment when I decided it was worth giving up my life to have her. Everything in me wanted that choice to be permanent.
I was definitely in love, and most of the time still am, but when we got married my emotions for Kara become something deeper, a lasting commitment. Marriage is the ultimate sign of romantic love because it is a permanent and public witness that wherever you’re headed, you’re heading there together.
And that’s the great romance of marriage: Two small and ordinary people make a single daring act—to give themselves to one another and throw away the key. Can it be scary? Sure. But that’s the kind of romance and adventure I think we’re all looking for.