Everyone at one time or another can remember back to childhood crushes in the past! The boys in first grade that pulled your hair and threw basketballs at your face to show their affection, the girls in middle school that turn cherry red sitting next to the boy they like at the lunch table, and the awkward high school couple that have no idea how to properly flirt! These and other exciting situations get two people interested in each other on a level deeper than friendship and gets the heart pumping a million miles an hour! You never know if the attractive other feels mutually about you and it’s a fit of emotions to deal with the not-knowing!
However, there comes a point when crushing and gooey feelings transform into romance, something that runs much deeper and matures into something beautiful. Sword Art Online’s Kazuto Kirigaya and Asuna Yuuki are one of anime’s most famous examples of a couple that display this and provide themselves as an example of what genuine lovers should look like. Even as I start dating, I keep on seeing myself looking back at the protagonists of Sword Art Online and finding relationship goals that I desire to imitate with my girlfriend. Whether a married couple, dating, or a single person looking for dating advice, listening, learning, and loving are three things that allow romance to take root and are evident in Kirito and Asuna’s life in Aincrad.
The first part to the formula for a successful dating or marriage relationship isn’t as hard as it may seem. Listening is exactly what it means: listening to the other person! In our anime couple’s relationship, Asuna Yuuki has a lot of emotional problems that come from being trapped inside the death game she lives in: fear of watching her husband die right before her eyes, anxieties of fighting tougher monsters on higher floors, and abandoning the front lines to stay with her lover forever. This girl has a lot of issues and needs someone to vent to, someone that she can trust will listen to her when she is having a rough day. In case the connection hasn’t been made clear, regular people have problems too and sometimes we need the same listening ear to take some of our burdens and help us through our trials.
This sounds great and all, but what if you don’t know how to solve the other person’s problems? For Kirito, he found himself constantly in this scenario where he would be listening to his wife and have no idea what to do. As a man I see myself in the same place sometimes when my girlfriend is sharing some of the things that she deals with and the struggles that try to bring her down. However, even if he doesn’t necessarily understand what to do or how to fix Asuna’s problems, it’s his presence that truly matters. Listening isn’t solving problems, but instead being available, caring about someone else enough to just be there for them when they need you.
Learning is when you intentionally seek out the other person and desire to learn more about them. This doesn’t mean to play the 20 Question game or send your lover an application to fill out, but instead to get to know them inside and out in a natural way. Often times, learning happens when there is two-way listening, but simply being together will bring about the chance to learn more about the other person. For Kirito and Asuna, a fun night’s evening eating an S-Class meal of Ragout Rabbit stew together, spending a sunny day waking along the boardwalk, and shoving frog legs down your husband’s throat brought conversations where the two got to know each other better and enjoy each other’s company!
Sometimes, learning is more than just understanding a person’s hobbies, but instead their heart. These can be fears, boundaries, personalities, and other things you can’t see on the outside that are just as important! There are times when my girlfriend and I will be enjoying each other’s company, learning bit by bit about each other, but there comes a shift where things become much more serious, when we begin to pour our hearts out to another, and that is when I am learning the most! Kirito and Asuna have these moments sprinkled throughout Sword Art Online where one moment they are going through the motions of a normal day and the next they are sobbing in embrace. Two people in a relationship have to possess this ability, to learn everything about the other person inside and out.
The final relationship goal present in Sword Art Online, love, is unlike what most of culture actually believes it is. God is very clear that love is a verb and a choice that a person makes for someone else, whether romantic interest or not; love is not a collection of sexual experiences and love is not passionate emotions. And the greatest way to display love for another person is to be willing to lay down your life for them, as what Jesus Christ did on the cross for mankind.
Even Kirito and Asuna have the same Christ-like love for each other and this is seen at the end of their virtual world, when the two strongest players are fighting ruthlessly to the death for the freedom of all Sword Art Online players. Good against evil, Kirito against Akihiko Kaiyaba, the duel that was meant to happen since the very beginning. Clashing back and forth, Kirito locks himself into a series of deadly double-handed sword combos and when his lag starts after his last move, Heathcliff comes in fast with a slash towards his torso, aiming to tear him to pieces. At the last second, however, Asuna rushes towards the middle of them like lightning and protects her husband from the attack, shattering herself into a billion pixels. This kind of love is love put to the test and was proved to be unbreakable. Even at the end, Asuna truly loved Kirito with everything she had and was willing to give up everything she had for him.
In my own relationship, I hope to have that opportunity, to have my love for my girlfriend put to the test where I can lay down my life for her and prove how much I love her. Couples will have these type of trials as they walk their relationship together, not necessarily life or death, but true love is shown by the people who make it through the thick and thin. Dying to your flesh and living selflessly for your significant other is one of the best ways to show that you love them when your lives aren’t on the line.
These relationship goals from Kirito and Asuna are fantastic for any romantic relationship, but for the Christian these are taken with much more seriousness and reverence. Unknowingly, when two believers join in dating or marriage, they are bringing God into it as well and He is the one that they should honor with what they do. Christians should first and foremost listen, learn, and love God because if they do not there is no way they can provide those things for their significant other.
Romance, when done correctly, can grow to a successful, intimate relationship between two people, one that grows into marriage and can last a lifetime. Kirito and Asuna listen, learn, and love each other throughout their lives on the floating castle Aincrad until the very end. They are a strong model for others to follow and, if done with God in perspective, can be useful for Christians as well.