“Love doesn’t mean anything if you’re not willing to make a commitment.”

Though that line is spoken by one of the characters in Nicholas Sparks’ new novel Safe Haven, it’s a viewpoint the best-selling author shares.

With the success of books and movies like The Notebook and Dear John, Sparks has a well-founded reputation for being able to craft romantic stories that touch people’s hearts. But romance alone isn’t enough to create a meaningful, lasting relationship like he’s had with his wife Cathy for over twenty years.

In a recent interview with Christopher Closeup, Sparks explained that he once had a debate with his brother Micah about this very topic. Micah suggested that communication is most important in a relationship. That led Nicholas to ask, “What does communication matter if you’re not committed to each other? People who’ve been married a long time or been in any relationship -- whether it’s with your parents or with your children -- you know that emotionally, it’s going to go up and down. Love is not a straight line. If you’re committed, you know you’ll work through whatever’s keeping you down, that you’ll come out on the other side, and it will get better again.”

Sparks acknowledges that there are times when he and his wife don’t get along for a while. Their commitment, however, motivates them to improve things and provides “a source of stability.” The couple’s Catholic faith also keeps their relationship grounded and on the right track by directing their minds and hearts toward a higher reality. Sparks says that praying daily and attending Mass every week serves as a reminder that, “There’s more out there. The world doesn’t just revolve around you.”

Commitment through difficult times has been a factor in Nicholas Sparks’ relationship with God too. Both his parents were killed in accidents and his sister died of brain cancer, so the author admits to having some angry conversations with the Creator over the years. Yet Sparks sees even those times as having a positive spiritual effect because he talks to God constantly. He says, “You think of God as your Father, but fathers and sons hopefully become friends. My view is that it’s less blasphemous than honest. I think He likes the fact that you’re talking to Him.”

The struggles that Sparks has faced incorporate their way into his novels through all his characters having wounds they need to deal with. For instance, in his new novel Safe Haven, Alex is a widower raising two kids on his own while Katie has secrets she fears will bring harm to herself and others. The author believes these wounds are what make his characters relatable because everyone strives to recover from problems and pains. He says, “It’s your wounds as well as your successes and how you deal with them that really define who you are as a person.”