In my previous article I outlined a hypothetical and all too common scenario observed among young couples today. Decisions made early in their relationship can have an impact on their future marriage. How can we effectively help our young couples achieve happy, faithful, lifelong marriages?
This quote by Arch Bishop Fulton Sheen bears deeper reflection, “The greatest illusion of lovers is to believe that the intensity of the sexual attraction is the guarantee of the perpetuity of their love.” He goes on to write, “What some people love is not a person but the experience of being in love…they only love being loved, which is the highest form of egotism.”
Many today believe erroneously that the intensity of the sexual urge to merge is equal to love and the greatest indicator of the health of a relationship. The good Bishop reminds us that “sex is what we have in common with animals and love is what we have in common with God.” Porn teaches us that sex is easy and requires little effort at all. In fact it seems to resemble the self-seeking activity of animals rather than the altruistic act of human love. Loving someone rightly for their own sake, is a whole different thing altogether and something that takes the determination of a selfless heart, the discipline of a skilled athlete, and perseverance superior to any Ironman competition.
People spend countless months in trivial, temporal pursuits with dogged determination to participate in a race, competition, or game. They hone their skills, deprive their body, sharpen their mind and exhaust themselves in pursuit of some elusive plastic trophy, title, or ribbon and when it comes to their marriage they give up before they even break a sweat?
Why is that?
I would suggest that these activities in of themselves can become distractions that divert our hearts and minds from the real prize of priceless value – love. Working out in the gym is easy, working out a relationship with another takes real fortitude, effort, and a little word we don’t like to hear – sacrifice. Oh, we are ok with sacrifice when it comes to sports, but when it requires that I die to my own selfish will and place another consistently first, we give up. I like to use the analogy of a bike rider. If we are coasting we are either going downhill or on a level surface. No one wants to be coasting downhill towards inevitable disaster, they apply the brakes and change course. Marriage takes work and tireless effort, it is like pumping up a hill and the good news is we are on a tandem bike. We don’t have to go it alone or do all the work. In fact when we are both doing our part, we are making great strides and having a grand adventure together.
What is love?
Love is not give and take as the culture suggests, but simply – give. Marriage is not fifty-fifty either as I have heard mindlessly spewed. If that were true no one would ever make it to the goal. Think full coverage, one hundred, one hundred. Love is limitless, never fails, gives up, or quits.
Our married love is modeled after God’s Trinitarian love. Giving and receiving in fullness, no half measures. We are to show the world through our imperfect but authentic attempts that God’s love is real, and can transform even the hardest hearts and the most impossible situations.
Listen to the words of the vows, “in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad, I will love and honor you all the days of my life.” Those are not words for the faint-hearted. Marriage is serious business and why the Catholic Church takes it seriously. One man, one woman for life and from that union can come a village. Love expands itself; it is fruitful and life-giving just as it is imaged from Love Itself.
The world will change when we get love right and it needs to start first and foremost in our marriages and families-the “first school of love.” I am grateful to be part of a diocese that gets this and has made the changes necessary to educate, and assist couples seeking to live lifelong, happy, faithful, successful marriages. We are seeing progress and transformation as we help those aspiring towards the Sacrament of Matrimony.
I encourage all those desiring marriage to start first with respecting each other enough to save sex for marriage, where it belongs and bears the greatest fruit. You don’t have to become another statistic, or suffer the agony of defeat. “Happily ever after” is possible and I can say that after thirty-three years of pedaling on all kinds of hills with my husband!
Pray, seek and prepare together. Good marriages are made in heaven and place God at the heart and head of everything. It is in them that you will find more consolation, solace, mutual trust and maximum joy than you ever thought possible. The effort we all put into our marriages will produce countless rewards that don’t require dusting. The world needs our witness and together we can all make a huge difference.