Do married couples that stay together feel truly close to one another? Do they achieve true, lasting, personal intimacy? The following is based on Dr. Sri's book, Men, Women and the Mystery of Love. The picture on this other side of the divorce line is not a pretty one.
Studies have shown that most couples do not feel as if they are married to a close friend. In fact, only about 1 out of 10 married couples in America say they experience emotional intimacy in their relationship. A great marriage is not one that simply stays together.
A great marriage is one in which spouses experience deep personal communion with each other.
We want marriages in which people 10, 20, 30 years into their married life can say, "I love my spouse more now than I did when we were first married. For Pope John Paul II then Karol Wojtyla the key to personal communion in married life is mutual self-giving love and the accompanying sense of responsibility for each other as a gift. Indeed, this theme of responsibility is so important that he put it in the title of his book about love, marriage, and relationships between men and women.
The book is not called simply Love, but Love and Responsibility. What is this responsibility? That's what we will explore in this reflection. Think about what happens in betrothed love. In our last reflection, we saw that the fullest sense of love involves two people giving themselves to each other. And this self-giving is nothing less than a total entrusting of one's self to the other person a surrendering of one's own preferences, freedom, and will for the sake of the other.
This means that in betrothed love, my beloved totally gives herself to me. She freely and lovingly gives up her autonomy and commits her will to the good of our marriage and the good of our family. Therefore, since my beloved completely entrusts her life to me in this unique way, I must, in turn, have a profound sense of responsibility for her for her well-being, her happiness, her emotional security, her holiness.
As Wojtyla explains, "There exists in love a particular responsibility the responsibility for a person who is drawn into the closest possible partnership in the life and activity of another, and becomes in a sense the property of whoever benefits from this gift of self" p. Here, Wojtyla offers a standard for love that is counter-cultural: "The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is" p.
Notice how he didn't say the more powerful the emotions , the more powerful the love is. The true measure for love is not how much one enjoys being with his beloved or how much pleasure he receives from her. Authentic love is not so self-centered, constantly looking inward at my own emotions and desires. Rather, true love looks outward in awe at my beloved who has entrusted herself to me, and it has a deep sense of responsibility for her good, especially in light of the fact that she has committed herself to me in this way.
In order to help us better appreciate the crucial role responsibility plays in a relationship, let's consider the two aspects of self-giving love. On one hand, there is the giving of self : My beloved gives herself to me and I give myself to her. On the other hand, there is the acceptance of the other person : I accept my beloved as a gift that has been entrusted to me, and she accepts me as a gift.
Wojtyla notes how in betrothed love there is a great mystery of reciprocity in the giving and the receiving of each other. In fact, he makes a very intriguing statement about this: "Acceptance must also be giving, and giving receiving" p. How is acceptance giving? In other words, in what sense is the acceptance of my beloved an actual gift to her?
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" Gen. Because sin had not yet entered the world, Adam did not struggle with selfishness. Thus, he loved his wife not for what he could get out of the relationship a coworker in the garden, companionship, emotional pleasure, sexual pleasure, etc. Rather, he loved her for who she was as a person.
He accepted his wife as a tremendous gift that he would treasure and care for. He had a profound sense of responsibility for her, and he always sought what was best for her, not just his own interests. He never did anything that would hurt her.
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Put yourself in Eve's shoes. Imagine having a spouse like that! Imagine how she must have felt being totally accepted in this way. Indeed, having a husband joyfully receive her as a gift and love her for her own sake was a great gift to her , for now her longing for personal communion could be fulfilled.
Adam's total acceptance of Eve provided her with the security she needed to feel safe enough to entrust her heart, indeed her whole life, fully to him without any fear of being let down. In other words, his committed love and acceptance of her fostered in her the trust that makes emotional intimacy possible. This is the key to personal communion in marriage. Central to his argument is the contrast between the personalistic and the utilitarian views of marriage and of sexual relations.
Love and Responsibility: Beyond the Sexual Urge
The former views marriage as an interpersonal relationship, in which the well-being and self-realization of each partner are of overriding importance to the other. It is only within this framework that the full purpose of marriage can be realized. The alternative, utilitarian view, according to which a sexual partner is an object for use, holds no possibility of fulfillment and happiness.
Wojtyla argues that divorce, artificial methods of birth control, adultery pre-marital sex , and sexual perversions are all in various ways incompatible with the personalistic view of the sexual self-realization of the human person.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the book is that Wojtyla appeals throughout to ordinary, human experience, logically examined. He draws support for his views on the proper gratification of sexual needs, on birth control, and on other matters, from the findings of physiologists and psychologists.
His conclusions coincide with the traditional teachings of the Church, which invoke scriptural authority. His approach ensures that non-Christians also can consider his arguments on their own merits. In no other book does the Pope emerge more clearly as an independent thinker. This book is a high-minded rejoinder to the sexual revolution. Be the first to submit a review on this product! Doors in the Walls of the World. Add to Cart Add. Faith and Politics. The Spirit of the Liturgy -- Commemorative Edition. A Catholic Introduction to the Bible.
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The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality. Paul Quay, S. New Testament. On Human Life. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. Made for Love. Michael Schmitz.
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