I have been writing a series of blog posts titled, “The Pathway to Love,” discussing how to navigate the relationship pathway when discerning marriage.
My first post dealt with self-esteem and loving yourself. My next post had to do with truth as a core foundation of love. Then, in Stage 1 on the Pathway, we looked at the power and beauty of attraction along with some of the pitfalls.
Now our discussion will examine engagement and marriage over the next several posts. In my last post, I discussed “Love as Desire,” where we long for another person of the opposite sex “as a good” for ourselves (in the words of Pope John Paul II). Now, in Stage 3—“Love as Goodwill”— our love grows deeper, and as it grows deeper, it turns more from self-focused to other focused. Pope John Paul II teaches that “Love as Goodwill” doesn’t long for the other person as a good, but it longs for their good. It seeks wholeheartedly to serve them and do what is good for them!
Goodwill is the essence of true love. It is quite free of self-interest and cares more for the other person than oneself. This is the sure tell sign whether a love is real and deepening.
The opposite of love is selfishness… and lust (which is inherently selfish). Lust is always and forever the opposite and enemy of love, even in marriage. Lust seeks to take and to receive pleasure for oneself, even at the expense of the other person.
Love, on the other hand, seeks to give and to make the other person happy, always striving to do what is good for the other person, even when it’s a sacrifice! Sometimes, our sexual urges or emotional neediness flare up, and there is a strong desire to use another person, even a spouse. This is a struggle, and sometimes a constant one. But the more true love there is, the more you will care for that person’s heart and soul, and try to protect it at all costs, the more you will struggle to overcome your selfish inclinations. (For more on sexual struggles in relation to love, see my last post on “How far is too far: A Different Perspective,”).
Most people don’t intend to be selfish, of course, and the struggle to get over ourselves is something that needs continual work and purification. Marriage will certainly help us in this regard, but the more we can do some of that legwork before marriage, the better. Marriage is all about giving! It is a complete self-donation, a giving of yourself to your spouse, and vice versa. This is the essence of marital love. It’s both sides giving 100%. And, if both sides are giving 100% to each other, then both parties are also receiving 100%.
Love is mutually reciprocal! That is important. It is not one person giving everything and doing all the work in a relationship (or even a majority) while the other person sits back, makes empty promises, and gives little in return. Love is not a one way street in relationships.
As a side note: I personally dislike when people ask me, “Hey, where’s your better half?” I always want to respond, “I’m not a half of a person. I am a whole person, and my wife is too.” Alas.
So, to recap. Marriage is not two halves giving 50%. It’s about two people giving 100% of their lives as a gift to each other! True love, by its very nature seeks to give, and to give generously, even when it’s a sacrifice. Love doesn’t just long for another person as a good, but it longs for their good. It desires to give to them, to sacrifice for them, and to do what it right for them—for their body, mind, soul and emotions.
Does true love demand much sacrifice? Is the road to true love difficult? Yes, and yes, but it’s all worth it! And, that is what makes it true, beautiful, powerful, and lasting.