An excellent article reminding those who are contemplating marriage on what to look for and those who are already married on what they can do to rekindle love.
Romantic love is such a subtle thing that human intelligence must be assisted by divine grace to be able to discern the true from the false. Few realize that true love is, as defined by Webster, “a desire for and earnest effort to promote the welfare of another,” and not simply another name for external manifestations of affection and sex satisfaction.
Nuptial love that is built on passion alone is doomed to failure. Almost all passions are temporary by nature. We know from experience that the passion of anger, for instance, is rarely able to be sustained at a high pitch. Once we “get even” with our enemy, the force of the rage is spent.
The same is true of love as a passion, for from this point of view the chief pleasure is in anticipation and once its object is attained it may wane and even pall. Marriage must be built on a much firmer basis.
A happy marriage depends on one’s early education in what real love is and what it is not, and what its end and object are. A happy marriage depends too on one’s capacity during courtship to discern true love from mere infatuation. Love whets the appetite; infatuation leaves hunger still.
“Love hath its seat
In reason and is judicious,”
says Milton, while infatuation directs action without reason and precludes judgment.
Love is a learned quality; infatuation is a play of humor in the blood. Infatuation can even be a one-sided affair, but not so, love, for as the Italian proverb says, “To love and not be loved is time lost.” One strives in vain to light a cigarette from a dead coal.
A doctor of medicine, a close friend of mine, and I were discussing a young man, a problem child, in whose case we had both become concerned. I ventured to suggest that what really ailed the boy was that “he had a touch of love.”
“You ought to know better than that,” said the doctor. “Love is like diabetes. There is no such thing as a touch of it. You have it or you don’t have it.”
Granted that one knows when he or she is in love, is there no infallible way of telling the genuine from the unreasonable facsimile? I’m afraid not, but I hasten to say that you can be morally certain your love is true and genuine if you find gentleness, beauty, refinement, generosity and intelligence and a reciprocal love made up of all these qualities and one that outdistances your love, day by day, month by month.
What? No sex? Yes, indeed, but when two persons are really in love and that love is genuine, the sex feelings are so controlled that, without realizing it, they find great pleasure merely in being in one another’s company.
Newell W. Edson of the American Social Hygiene Association, in a pamphlet entitled “Love in the Making,” has listed the following signs as indicative of true love:
- A genuine interest in the other person and all that he or she says or does.
- A community of tastes, ideals, and standards with no serious clashes.
- A greater happiness in being with this one person than with any other.
- A real unhappiness when the other person is absent.
- A great feeling of comradeship.
- A willingness to give and take.
- A disposition to give fair consideration to the other party’s judgment.
- A pride in the other person when comparisons are made.
- A wealth of things to say and do together.
Mr. Edson neglected to mention something that I consider a most indicative sign of love, and that is a willingness to sacrifice oneself for another–to sacrifice something prized by the giver.
Sacrifice stimulates love while expressing it. It was Antoine deSaint-Exupery, I think, who said: “The mother gives nourishment from her own body for her child. By her giving she creates her love. To create love we must begin by sacrifice. Afterwards it is love that makes the sacrifices. But it is we who must take the first step.”
Emerson sums up the whole problem in his own inimitable way as follows: “All that is in the world, which is or ought to be known, is cunningly wrought into the texture of man and woman:
The person love does to us fit
Like Manna, has the taste of all in it.”
Upon parents, teachers, and clergy alike falls the grave obligation of forewarning and forearming teen-age youths against the folly of permitting themselves to “go steady” during high-school years.
Youth must be taught the dangers of this procedure well in advance of its actuality, for once the love-bug gets them they become blind to reason and deaf to admonition. Teen-agers must be shown that the wisdom of nature must be respected and that ventures into love demand maturity–physical, intellectual, and emotional maturity.
The bird does not leave the nest until its wings are grown strong enough to carry it. The chrysalis does not tear open until there are wings to take the tiny insect aloft. Teenagers likewise ought to wait until they are of proper age before going steady or being allowed to do so.
My experience with adolescents has been that under ordinary circumstances, they react favorably to logic. For instance, few teenagers would let themselves fall in love during their highschool years if they knew that more than sixty-nine per cent of those who were madly in love during that period of their lives did not marry the object of this youthful affection at or after the age of twenty-one. This proves simply that a person at twenty-one has a different sense of values than at, say, sixteen or seventeen.
No, youth would fail to condemn the folly of a sixteen-year-old lad who had set his heart on a red convertible coupe and had gone so far as to have a car salesman give him several road demonstrations, but who at the same time had no money to buy a car, no money for its upkeep, no place to keep a car, and, lastly, couldn’t drive a car.
Now, applying the same reasoning to steady company-keeping by minors, it is easy to point out the utter folly of permitting themselves to fall in love until they are old enough to distinguish real love from mere infatuation; until they are mature enough to assume the complex and responsible duty of parenthood; and until they have the income sufficient to establish and maintain a home.
Teenagers should ponder the wisdom of the words of Owen Felltham, who warns that “love is never lasting which flames before it burns.”
A person may not vote until his twenty-first birthday has been reached. Now, this legislation was enacted simply because the politicians felt that anyone younger lacked mature judgment.
Anyone who is too immature to vote is too immature to choose a life partner. There are physical reasons also involved in such a decision. The Germans, according to Julius Caesar, ruled that the act of reproduction in marriage was not permitted to anyone under twenty-one without incurring infamy: and to this he attributed the great strength and fine stature of that simple people.
But is it possible to keep from falling in love? It is, if kissing and petting are not indulged in, no endearing terms expressed through little intimacies, no gifts exchanged, and no confession of love made. It’s just as simple as all that.
Ovid, a writer in ancient times, said “Love gives place to business. Attend to business and you will be safe.”
It is a wise thing to have a few, good, well-founded principles to guide you when about to choose a mate. One of those principles should be that beauty of face and figure will not be the sole motivating factor in your choice.
Remember that “you can never tell the depth of the well by the length of the handle on the pump.”
A ready smile, a bright mind, a pleasing personality, a courteous manner are all more important than a pretty face. All the flaunted beauty of certain screen actresses and actors has not served so well in keeping them happily married.
To those who are intellectually, physically, vocationally, and emotionally mature enough to fall in love, we say emphatically that enduring love is ever built on virtue which cannot be seen in the other person at once.
Long acquaintanceship–one to five years–has better prospects than “love at first sight.”
Above all, we remind them that many more qualities than the severely practical go into the composition of married life and home building. Abstract traits are beautiful and indispensable, but:
“Will the love that you are rich in
Build a fire in the kitchen
Or the little god of Love turn the spit, spit, spit?“
Flour is the chief and most quantitative ingredient in a good cake, but flour alone won’t make a cake. You also need baking powder, salt, sugar, shortening, eggs and milk, a lot of sifting and mixing, a smooth batter, and just the right amount of heat.
Love is the chief ingredient requisite for a happy marriage but not the only one. A good many other things go into the making of a happy marriage, especially in these modern times with changing attitudes. Speaking of recipes, here is an old grandmother’s recipe that has a lot of wisdom in it:
“When once you have made your selection, let it remain forever settled and give your entire thoughts to preparation for domestic use. Some wives keep their husbands in pickle, others in hot water.
Even poor varieties may be made sweet, tender and good by garnishing with patience, well sweetened with smiles and flavored with kisses. Wrap in a mantle of charity, keep warm with a steady fire of domestic devotion. Serve often with peaches and cream. When thus prepared, husbands will keep for years.”
But getting back to our main topic–love–most readers will agree wholeheartedly with what we have stated thus far. There will be perfect agreement with the tenet that a person ought to know what real love is and be so well grounded in the knowledge that the true can be easily detected from the false.
Sound advice, all this is, for those who have not yet entered holy wedlock, but what about those already married who find the fires of love reduced to but smoldering embers, if not, as some protest, gone out completely?
To such persons we say that were it not within the power of man to “will to love,” there would be no solution to such a problem and most marriages would rarely remain happy for more than a few years at best. That it is not impossible to foster love for one’s husband or wife is being proven daily by thousands of thoughtful men and women who, while disillusioned as to the fitness of their match, nevertheless have forced themselves to look for the good and noble in each other, with the amazing result that a new understanding and respect has grown up between them.
No matter who it is, there is some loveliness in everyone that lurks undiscovered, and patient, kindly exploration will render it easily discernible and upon this a new comradeship can be born and fostered.
Always remember that the great bridge that now spans Niagara Falls first began with the spreading from side to side of a tiny wire. The wire was used to haul across a rope and at the end of the rope was a heavy cable, and so on until a bridge was begun that today supports the traffic of trains, cars, and honeymooners.
The point is that someone had to will that a bridge be built across Niagara Falls and from that will flowed the determination that provided the means for overcoming what appeared at first to be insurmountable obstacles.
The same holds true in marriage, and while one or both parties may not experience all the rapturous moments of happiness that they might have had had they chosen their life partner more wisely, consider that few marriages are a tale of uninterrupted bliss.
That everyone has within him the power “to will to love” is proved by the fact that in certain countries, in the past, there was no free choices of mates, and yet such a deep sense of the duty of loving was taught in the home–and not only a great and high sense of duty but the grandeur of loving–that the husband and wife usually managed to make a good job of mutually respecting one another.
So successful was this sort of thing that some wag–Lyttleton or Shaftesbury, I think–said: “Marriages would be happier if they were all arranged by the Lord Chancellor.”
The person who says, “I do not love my wife or my husband any more,” acknowledges simply that “the will to love” is absent. Such a person lacks good sportsmanship too, for a good sport will take pride in succeeding in every adventure, and marriage is one of life’s chief adventures.
Morton puts it this way: “In love, as in religion, faith worketh miracles.”
Whatever you do, give love time. “Love,” says Blucher, “is the river of life in this world. Think not that ye know it who stand at the little tinkling rill, the first small fountain. Not until you have gone through the rocky gorges and not lost the stream; not until you have gone through the meadow and the stream has widened and deepened until fleets could ride on its bosom; not until beyond the meadow you have come to the unfathomable ocean, and poured your treasures into its depths–not until then can you know what love is!”
And the measure of love? Mrs. Browning gave the world a wondrous formula:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use,
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith;
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
There is every reason to believe that all the ancient Jewish customs were observed at the marriage in Cana. If that be true, Our
Blessed Lord and His Virgin Mother witnessed a most significant reminder of the fragility of love.
According to custom, from time to time during Jewish wedding feasts, someone would put somewhat of a check on the joyous festivities by shattering the wine glasses of the happy pair. The idea was to remind the bride and the groom that all felicity is subject to instability, and that love, like a glass once dashed to the ground, could be shattered into a thousand pieces–and were repair possible, the cracks would always show.
In this, as in so many other ways, the lessons of Cana are tremendous and Cana Is Forever.
“Your most powerful ally in your noble struggle for decency is your religion. It takes you by the hand, guiding you over the pitfalls that beset your way, and puts your feet safely upon the paths that lead to the sunlit mountain peaks of nobility of character and purity. Not only does it make clear the moral law and supply sanctions for its observance, but it offers you aids to carry out that law.” -Clean Love in Courtship, Fr. Lovasik https://amzn.to/2rk4yFl (afflink)
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