Strive for genuine love
The Church says that happiness comes as a by-product of duty well done. It is earned, not found. The best way of achieving conjugal happiness is by fulfilling the ends for which marriage was instituted.
While the procreation of the race is the primary purpose of marriage, there are other important ends achieved by this divine institution.
Marriage fosters the love and devotion of husband and wife. It provides a legitimate expression for the divinely implanted sexual hunger. It answers man’s craving for intimate companionship, sympathy, understanding, and lasting friendship.
It enriches the personality of man by increasing his unselfishness and deepening his capacity for love, friendship, and sacrifice. Although the physical elements of marriage are not to be depreciated, the highest and most enduring joys are the mental and spiritual ones that come from the complete union of hearts and souls – the perfect fusion of two personalities, which is achieved only in the holy mystery of conjugal love.
The domestic affections – the mutual love of husband and wife, of parents and children, of brothers and sisters – are the principal source of human happiness and well-being, the chief wellsprings of actions, and also the chief safeguards against evil.
Focus on the spiritual, not the physical
Love is not a mere emotion of the body. Merely emotional or sensual love is an attraction that arises within the body and concerns itself only with the body of another.
To keep married persons from forgetting their primary duty to the race, God has implanted sexual hunger in human nature. It is part of the divine plan that the satisfaction of sexual hunger be accompanied by feelings of pleasure and happiness.
Emotional love eventually dies down after some years of marriage with the cooling of sentimental attraction. If a married person unfortunately comes to the point at which he can honestly say that his love for his spouse has completely died, this is usually an indication that it was only a selfish, sentimental, mental, animal-like love from the very beginning.
Mere animal attraction may sometimes lead to marriage, but when it passes – as it always does – love passes, too, and usually some other animal attraction is sought and satisfied.
Nothing is harder for a human being who possesses religious convictions and aspirations than to live long in marriage with a person who does practically nothing that a brute animal cannot not do. Therefore, in seeking happiness in marriage, do not stress what is physical. The fact is that only a small part of happiness in marriage is dependent upon the senses.
Happiness and pleasure sure cannot be taken as a steady diet, because the Creator never meant people to be permanently happy here on earth. Physical attraction diminishes and gives place to a greater and nobler basis for happiness.
Depend on your will, not on your feelings
The essence of love resides in the free will. The will may be stimulated to love freely by feelings and emotions. Love can be real and genuine without feelings if it is faithful and loyal, self-sacrificing sacrificing and cooperative, and manifested in word and, more often, in deed. All this can be accomplished without a great deal of intense feeling.
All human love undergoes changes and varieties in feeling. This does not affect the motive of love residing in the will. The feelings of love ten years after marriage are not the same as they were on the day of marriage, and yet the love can be true and sincere.
Duty is more important than feelings: loyalty to duty is fundamental in life; feelings are secondary and can, when the sense of duty is strong, be brought into satisfactory, if not perfect, agreement with the requirements of duty.
If your sense of duty is uppermost in your mind, contrary feelings will never grow into hatred. Duties do not lose their force and obligation when opposed by contrary feelings; hence, a situation cannot become intolerable.
People with some background of self-discipline seldom become victims of intolerable difficulties. It is important to check feelings that are contrary to duty from the very beginning, so they will never become strong.
Therefore, do not count too much on feelings of love as the only inspiration to fidelity throughout the years, but rely primarily on the conviction of obligation created by the vows you made in the marriage ceremony.
Nevertheless, feelings should not be neglected in your marriage, for it is possible to smother and destroy all the natural feelings of love. The sense of duty must always remain, but without any normal feeling, or with a feeling of revulsion instead stead of attraction, it will be difficult to live up to that sense of duty.
Since love is essentially an activity of the free will, once it is pledged in the marriage ceremony, it can and should, with the help of the grace of God, remain alive and strong forever.
In that sense, it means working for the happiness of each other despite your own feelings and despite the faults and sins of your spouse.
God uses the feelings of love, or a sense of emotional attraction between you, not only to lead you into marriage, but also to make carrying out the duties of marriage easier and more rewarding.
You surely have one desire in marriage: to make the love that has drawn you together endure forever.
Love is destroyed only by a free act of the will. Your love for your spouse dies only if you really want it to die. Even then your love can be revived by doing the things necessary to promote love. Love is not dead even if strong feelings are absent.
Women generally remain romantic long after their wedding; men usually do not. Most women would like their husbands to be as obviously affectionate after ten or fifteen years of marriage as they were during courtship.
The best attitude to adopt toward the idea that your spouse does not love you is to look at it as a petty annoyance and try to dismiss it as one would dismiss an unwanted temptation. Add to that a determination to keep busy, preferably in some form of service to others, especially to your family.
Permit yourself as little time to brood and worry as you possibly can. Idleness and introspection are dangerous. You can overcome this danger if you intensify your spiritual life by such practices as daily Mass and Communion, frequent prayers, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and the cultivation of a childlike confidence in God’s Providence and goodness.
If you begin to think that life is destroying the love you once had for your husband, you must rekindle the spark if you can. If a true love ever existed, it can be restored and increased. Your union is a permanent one, and you must not allow it, for want of love, to head toward estrangement and separation.
You can recapture even a lost love by daily tending and constant watching for little opportunities to show your love. Your love will grow as your eager efforts increase.
Genuine love is a rational attraction, mutually shared, between two persons, that is not contrary to God’s law or to one’s own good of soul or body. It is a special inclination to do good for another, spiritually or physically, and to share all good with that person.
Such love is rational, because it must be under the influence of the mind and will, which together direct it to what is not contrary to God’s will or to the good of the person loving as well as of the person loved.
Love is not simply a blissful state that you fall into; it is an unselfish virtue that lifts you out of yourself. It is, above all, the desire to give – body, mind, and heart – to each other without out reserve. Unless you are willing to give yourself completely, unless the first emphasis is on giving rather than on getting, you are not truly in love.
Love is the desire that you and your spouse have to spend the rest of your lives together and to work out your salvation together.
The principal reason for unhappiness in marriage is the failure to love. Love is one of the noblest passions implanted by God in human nature. St. Thomas says that “to love is to will that good should befall a person.”
Your love is genuine if it has God for its foundation; then it is an aid to reaching God.
Love is a thing of the spirit more than of the flesh. When love shows itself only in the flesh, it may be more lust than love. Religion alone brings out the full attractiveness of a human being. It alone provides the motives, actions, and practical precepts for the practice of the virtues that appeal most strongly to the love of another. Religion makes human beings higher and nobler than brute animals.
Genuine love will patch up differences and make marriage happy, provided religious motivation, self-sacrifice, prayer, and work are given their proper place in your life. Genuine love is enough for a happy marriage. Love is not one-sided, but reciprocal.
The love between husband and wife is the root from which grows perfect love between father, mother, and child. You must love each other before you can love your children perfectly.
“One day at a time. This is very important. Very often we exhaust ourselves going over the past again and again and also our fears about the future. But when we live in the present moment, we mysteriously find strength. We have the grace to live through what we encounter today. If tomorrow we must face more difficult situations, God will increase his grace. God’s grace is given at the right time for it, day by day.” -Fr. Jacques Philippe, The Way of Trust and Love http://amzn.to/2wGXpkw Painting: Scent of a Rose by Sheri Dinardi (afflink)
Here, Baroness Maria Augusta Trapp tells in her own beautiful, simple words the extraordinary story of her romance with the baron, their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, and their life in America.
Now with photographs from the original edition.
Most people only know the young Maria from The Sound of Music; few realize that in subsequent years, as a pious wife and a seasoned Catholic mother, Maria gave herself unreservedly to keeping her family Catholic by observing in her home the many feasts of the Church’s liturgical year, with poems and prayers, food and fun, and so much more!