Five Love-Lies We Learned from Nicholas Sparks

Last weekend was Valentine’s day: a day many enjoy and a day which many more gag thinking about. It seems that to a single person, valentine’s day is either a day to seek out a casual date, or a day to avoid as the plague. Whatever v-day may be to you, it is a day that makes us think of romance, whether for better or for worse, and a day which causes us to consider that deep, deep longing within the human heart to love and to be loved. Love is a longing that spans a greater gap of demographics than race, religion, agenda, or gender. Everyone loves to love and be loved.

Since I’ve been a married man the last couple years I find myself enjoying valentine’s day much more. It’s a day that I can dream up creative ways to spoil my lovely wife rotten and enjoy time together which ultimately reminds us why and how we fell in love. I personally enjoy being overly-romantic in all the ways you can think: dressing up in a suit, buying way too many roses, surprising Evelyn at work, sending chocolates and flowers, surprise dinners, etc. This valentine’s day, however, I decided to do something a little more casual that was right up her alley: chick-flick-athon.

I had our day all planned out: free coffee at chick-fil-a. And yes, by the way, that’s a thing. A date to a local bookstore to pick out our soon-to-be-born baby girl’s first story book, and then a bundle of rental movies in hand to take home and binge on. Anyone who knows my wife knows this is a total win. She LOVES movies! If I were to be completely honest, I thoroughly enjoy ‘chick-flicks’ as well. But that’s between you, me, and the wall.

We set down to gorge ourselves on video entertainment and microwavable popcorn and popped in the first movie of the afternoon. The one. The only. The classic: The Notebook. I first saw ‘The Notebook’ when I was 13 years old, and subsequently read the novel written by none other than Nicholas Sparks, and went on to read other books and watch other films by him. While carrying a soft bound stack of 300 pages snug under a picture of a rain-soaked Ryan Gosling about to kiss Rachel Mcadams led other guys my age to question my sexuality, I reveled in learning the art to a woman’s heart. It seemed like a good idea at the time: chicks dig Nicholas Sparks, so I read Nicholas Sparks. I can’t say it didn’t help at all 😉

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Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. By friskytuna. cc2.0

Interestingly enough, however, it was reported just earlier this year in January that Mr. Sparks and his wife of twenty-five years had separated. Fans everywhere were awestruck when they heard the news. How could the heartthrob writer himself have a dysfunctional marriage? ‘Wouldn’t any woman kill to be in his wife’s shoes!?’ – an important question to ask nonetheless, but meanwhile, let’s get back to our story.

I hadn’t seen this film in years but, as always we jumped straight into the story line and watched all the way until the end and both cried as the older gentleman Duke finally won his wife Honey back to remembrance and enjoyed an embrace with her right before her dementia rebooted and she couldn’t remember him. Boy that’s a cinematic masterpiece. After turning our second movie off rather quickly due to its superb lack of quality, we landed on number three: “The Best of Me.”

I had no idea what the film was about, but what interested me is that after only ten minutes or so of watching, I began to be able to predict the rest of the plot in stunning fashion. While watching the re-kindling flame between grown-up Dawson and now-married Amanda, we were given flashbacks of their upbringing and coming together: Dawson was from the rough side of the tracks, while Amanda was from money. Dawson had a desire to rise above his circumstances, and Amanda’s dad wished he would go away. I began to scratch my head and think to myself, ‘didn’t I just see this?’

As Noah had been a simple lumber-worker and Allie from a rich estate in The Notebook, so had Dawson and Amanda’s circumstances played out. As Allie had enjoyed spending time with Noah and his father on their front porch, so had Amanda enjoyed the same scenario many times with Dawson and his father-figure. But it didn’t stop there. Some years later both are re-united through varying circumstances. Only this time, in The Notebook, Allie is engaged, and in The Best of Me, Amanda IS married. To a real jerk, yes, but indeed married.

The coinciding of literary details in both plots was almost laughable, and I could give many, many more examples but I don’t wish to spoil either movie for you, though that’s what I’m going to do right this very moment.

In both movies, both couples end up in an interesting predicament where they are reminded of the burning flame they shared in high school for one another and, be it by fate in their eyes, are given a chance to chase the dream they desired from years ago. So they do what apparently any couple in a Nicholas Sparks book would do: fornicate. That’s right: fornicate. But not the bad kind of fornication. I mean after all, this is a romance movie, correct? No, they fornicate in the good intentions, ‘led by their hearts’ kind of way. Bleh.

I realized what we are dealing with in our culture during the big conversation that each man has in each film with his female counterpart. It’s a conversation where she is distraught, trying to decide whether she should give into a fairytale lustful moment, or hold true to her commitment to her guy back home. But after all the stress, and tears, both Noah and Dawson slam it home with one general question that goes something like this: “What do YOU want?” or “What makes YOU happy?” In fact, Noah even goes so far as to say, ‘Quit thinking about what everyone wants or says!’

            After the film’s climax and ending sequence, most viewers were probably touched by the deep, “love” relationship that we see played out on screen, but I was left with one question that I can’t help but think almost nobody else was asking:     “What about the other guy?”

What about Allie’s fiancée who had done everything right and treated her well, and asked her to marry him with an acceptance? Is it
okay that she cheated on him to fulfill a sensual desire for another man she had kindled as a teenager? And what about Amanda’s husband? Yes, Amanda’s drinking, apathetic, selfish husband. Doesn’t he get a say in whether or not she sleeps with another man?

As I contemplated the parallels in both plots, I came to a startling realization that brought me to a glimpse of Mr. Sparks’ heart-beliefs, as well as the deeply-rooted misconception that the majority of modern society holds about love. I will preface my following thoughts with the understanding that Mr. Sparks has written some things that seem very deep, genuine and true. For more on that watch A Walk to Remember. I will also state upfront that I have a deep respect for the situation that He and his wife are going through, as nobody truly knows the details of their situation, save themselves and God. That being stated, after thinking over both movies, I’ve come up with five lies we learn about love from Nicholas Sparks:

  1. Love is something you fall into.
  •  This is the belief that there is a perfect person for everyone and if you don’t wind up with that person, then life will never be what it was intended to be. The truth is there is no perfect person for you because there are no perfect people. You must seek to find someone you like and then LEARN to LOVE them, in the action sense of the word. After all, Love is a verb. It is something you do (serving, giving, submitting, forgiving, etc. ) not something you fall into. (Everything about you makes me have butterflies so let’s get married, or at least fornicate. )
  1. What makes you happy is best.
  • This is the ideology given that it does not matter what makes others happy, it is simply about what you desire that will grant you great joy and success in the long-run. We see this played out in the core of each woman’s decision-making. Whether it’s ditching your fiancée for your high school fling, or divorcing your husband because he doesn’t give you attention, it’s your life. And it is over quick. You must do what feels best. This is completely contradictory to the biblical presentation we see of love where a man laid down his life on a cross for an adulterating people that he knew would constantly turn after false-gods and false-comforts, neglecting him in return. That same man asks us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
  1. Covenant is cheap. 
  • The greatest picture we have of covenant in life is the marriage of two people. In The Best of Me, we see that if your marriage isn’t what you’d like it to be, you can cash it in, and apparently for a much higher interest rate than we see in reality when divorce happens.
  1. It all works out in the end.
  • In both movies, though one film doesn’t end as you’d think, we see the main characters come to a satisfying conclusion in life, a sense of accomplishment. This is the ideology that one can cut and paste their partner, ignore the advice of others, and sow seeds of sexual sin and reap a beautiful, lovely harvest of joy and happiness. The truth is bad seed sown is a bad harvest reaped.
  1. You’re the only one it hurts.
  •  In both movies, we have almost no record of the emotional and spiritual state of various family members and friends that are involved in the lives of both parties long-term. The one glimpse we do get is of Amanda’s son who seems to be enjoying time at college. This is the ideology that so long as you are happy, you’re actions impact you and life carries on. Which is false of course. In reality, when divorce, rebellion, deceitfulness, and adultery take place what we’re left with is distrust, frustration, heartache, and multiple thanksgiving dinners.

With all these subtle instructions being given and played out throughout the ‘greatest’ romance novels of all time, is it any wonder that the divorce rate is so high, and love is becoming an entirely dysfunction sphere of life for the majority of people.

Could it be that we got love completely wrong? Could it be that we’ve promoted lust in the name of romance rather than things that don’t sell such as sacrifice, commitment, death-to-self, and serving?

Could it be that we got love completely wrong? Could it be that we’ve promoted lust in the name of romance rather than things that don’t sell such as sacrifice, commitment, death-to-self, and serving?

I, for one, believe Hollywood’s definition of love is rather shallow and misleading. If we want the truth, we have to look for a source of truth. And unfortunately, straight from the horse’s mouth, we find that Nicholas Sparks, in a very ironic and quite unfortunate turn of events, is not that source.

What do you think? Are these five love-lies told frequently in modern society? What are the five love-truths that counteract them? What can we do and how can we teach the next generation precious truths regarding the area of romance to see marriage and family restored to its right working order? I would love to know you’re thoughts! Please consider leaving a comment, and sharing this article with others!