Despite my love for Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles work with Wings, I have to agree with John Lennon on this one: the world is full of silly love songs. Romantic love is the most overplayed sentiment in music, especially when it tries way too hard to be sentimental. In fact, that’s my definition of the popular slang word “cheesy.” My kids hear me use that term all the time and last year they finally asked me for a definition. After much thought (it’s actually quite difficult to define), here’s what I came up with: “cheesy” refers to any extreme effort to be sentimental. (Of course, then I had to define “sentimental”…)

But I believe that definition applies to what Lennon was referencing when, upon the Beatles breakup, he lamented that Paul only wanted to fill the world with “silly love songs.” Words which Paul, of course, adopted into a song titled just that. (And I actually like that song.) But even so, John was right. And the trend towards silly and cheesy love ballads hasn’t stopped in the 37 years since he made that statement.

For those of us already married, though, we know that most of those songs simply do not reflect reality. Most of those songs are only concerned with the immature efforts to woo some woman or saddle some stud. But the truth is that it’s after the wedding bells chime that the real adventure begins. And few songs are able to capture the ongoing “what now?” of marriage. Few songs are able to articulate how marriage is perhaps the most difficult, and yet promising, relationship we can experience.

I have found one such song, however. Unfortunately, the music of this song is incredibly cheesy. So cheesy, in fact, that it’s been used in hundreds of commercials and most of us cringe, or laugh, whenever we hear the melody. But then we miss the words. And I believe the words of this song are ridiculously profound. They are able to express the essence of what I believe marriage is all about: a long, daring, difficult journey of two people’s personal growth so intertwined that they can actually, occasionally, experience life as one.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the masterpiece of one-hit wonder Dan Hill, “Sometimes When We Touch” (cue the strings):

"You ask me if I love you
and I choke on my reply
I'd rather hurt you honestly
than mislead you with a lie
And who am I to judge you
in what you say or do
I'm only just beginning
to see the real you"

Right from the opening verse, we hear that this song is different. “I’d rather hurt you honestly than mislead you with a lie”? Are you kidding me? That’s one of the most integrity-filled statements I’ve ever heard, and it the type of courageous honesty that every relationship needs. No wonder none of us ever say it. Over and over, we choose to avoid any pretense of voluntarily hurting our spouse. We’re reticent to tell them when they’ve got bad breath, much less be honest with them about our feelings. I once worked with a client who would nag her husband to near death, but would never dare tell him he’s fat. “That’s just rude,” she would say. But it’s not rude to hide your disdain for his body and leave him wondering why you won’t have sex with him anymore?

The truth is that our spouses usually already know when we have negative or wavering feelings toward them. And when we have the courage to say it out loud, we communicate something far greater than the hurtful words—we communicate that we don’t want to have those feelings remain the status quo. Saying “I don’t like you right now” also communicates “and I don’t like that I don’t like you.” And that can be the beginning point to remarkable growth in your relationship.

"And sometimes when we touch
the honesty's too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold you till I die
till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides"

Here’s the cheesy chorus we all recognize. Again, because of the ripeness of the melody it is so easy to miss the words. But here we have an appreciation for the true intimacy we both crave and fear at the same time. Sometimes—not every time—but sometimes, getting close to our spouse triggers an insecurity that can be terrifying. Marriage has a way of exposing us nakedly, warts and all, before another person and before ourselves. And that type of honesty is not usually comfortable, and not usually something we seek.

Getting close to someone can bring us companionship, acceptance, and even lead us to the ecstatic thrill of orgasm while in the arms of the person we cherish more than any other on the earth. Getting close can also, however, bring us face to face with our partner’s flaws, our own inadequacies, and the mountainous anxiety we feel about how much of our lives we’ve entrusted to this union. That’s why we sometimes try to connect and hide at the same time. Think about it. How often do you close your eyes during any embrace with your spouse? When you hug? Kiss? Make love?

We so often close our eyes during any kind of embrace because the honesty of intimate connection is “too much,” and we “have to close [our] eye[s] and hide.” Sometimes we seek the touch without the intimacy; we end up connecting with our genitals in order to avoid connecting with our eyes. That’s because it is sometimes easier to copulate with parts of ourselves than openly communicate with all of ourselves.

"At times I'd like to break you
and drive you to your knees
At times I'd like to break through
and hold you endlessly
At times I understand you
and I know how hard you try
I watched while love commands you
and I've watched love pass you by
At times I think we're drifters
still searching for a friend
a brother or a sister
but then the passion flares again"

Marriage is not a relationship built for the short term. It is more like a marathon requiring incredible endurance and persistence, despite the wide variety of feelings and experiences along the way. And the best marriages are the ones unafraid to feel all those feelings, and even acknowledge them once in a while. And that’s what the song does here. Who among us hasn’t wanted to vindictively break our spouse and drive him/her to their knees? In the heated exchanges of emotional reactivity, who hasn’t felt this: “I cannot ever win with you!”

As if it were a battle in the first place. Have you ever heard the story about the two campers in British Columbia, Canada? They’re sitting around the campsite when a grizzly bear wanders up near them. Beginning to freak out, one starts to put on his running shoes. “Dude!” whispers the other one. “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a grizzly bear!” You can guess the response: “Man, I don’t have to outrun the bear…” In relationship battles it is easy to just care about winning, regardless of who loses.

What I especially love about this bridge in the song, though, is the repeated phrase that begins each thought. “At times” we do want to break down our partners, while “at times” we want to embrace them forever. “At times” it does feel like we’re just roommates, or siblings, just looking for someone to help us feel a little less alone. And then “at times” that strange desire for deeper connection erupts from within, leading us toward each other in ways far beyond mere friendship.

"And sometimes when we touch
the honesty's too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold ya till I die
till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides"

The greatest thing you can do for your marriage is focus on yourself, learning to calm your own anxiety as you pursue greater connection with your spouse. This means moving away from the mutual needs-meeting matchup so often highlighted as the ideal marriage, where we become responsible for propping one another up. It means moving towards a model that sees a great marriage as occurring between two strong, separate selves who choose to be together as one.

Dr. David Schnarch has a remarkably simple, yet remarkably scary, exercise for couples wanting to grow themselves up in this way. He counsels people toward “hugging till relaxed.” This involves holding your partner in your arms in such a way that neither one of you is supporting the other—either one of you could let go and neither one of you would fall. In such an embrace you are capable of strong emotional and physical connection, and yet you are each standing on your own two feet the whole time. The key is to resisting the urge to make sure your spouse feels comfortable, or making sure your spouse is “there for you” up as you begin to relax. The key is to focus on yourself, concentrating on finding your peace within as you embrace the one you hold dearest.

Such an experience can be tremendously powerful in teaching us that even in the midst of close connection, our emotional responses are still up to us. It is not my spouse’s job to calm my fears and ease my anxieties by telling me want I want to hear, or making promises to me about loyalty or security. It is my job to say yes to my marriage as it forces me to examine myself, calm my own fears, and boldly pursue the types of conversations, connections, and yes, copulation I really crave. I don’t want to run from you in order to feel safe; I don’t want to “trust” you to make me feel stable. I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides.

So there you have it, folks, a cheesy love song unlike most others, one that actually calls us into authentic, integrity-filled relationships. Yes, the song is incredibly cheesy. It is, in many ways, one of John Lennon’s hated “silly love songs.”

But what’s wrong with that?

Author's Bio: 

Hal Runkel is the author of ScreamFree Parenting and founder of ScreamFree Living. For more information, visit