Love is a captivating word. It electrifies a person, attracts attention, kindles hope, provokes expectations … But just what is love anyway?
When one speaks of love, most people think of their own feelings. These feelings are obviously associated with another person, and this person obviously seems to be someone significant. However, this is only to the extent that he or she is the cause of those very feelings … In such situations people are deeply convinced that it is exactly those feelings and sentiments that decide what true love is.
What happens next? Various surveys have indicated that the majority of young women who experience this sort of love think of a long-term relationship, that is, marriage. However, it’s important to recognize that it’s not the same with young men. Young women need to be aware of this. In a certain sense they have to be the ones to enlighten their boyfriends, specifically in preparation for marriage. One young husband expressed it beautifully: “I am indebted to my wife for everything that I am.” He was aware that the love his girlfriend had for him had made him a better person, and he was grateful for that.
As for marriage, it’s worth considering how the film industry to a huge extent portrays failed, broken, or betrayed marriages. It requires some analysis. There is a certain truth in this. Do you know many marriages in which the spouses truly love each other? Don’t you know unhappy marriages, and even some that have broken up? However, you mustn’t overlook the reality that there are still good marriages and families, and some that are actually very good. They may often live in very meager circumstances, but they are still characterized by joy and happiness.
When we regard love only as a sensation, so that even though it might unite a man and a woman, they will still in reality both be focused on themselves
Questions will arise such as: even though the difficulties in marriage are a reality, where do these problems come from? Why does it happen like this? Does it have to be this way? Didn’t the couple love each other sincerely when they began their joint life together?
The problem comes about when we regard love only as a sensation, so that even though it might unite a man and a woman, they will still in reality both be focused on themselves. They are concerned with and consumed by their own experiences, which ultimately discolors the entire relationship. Feelings are experienced powerfully, and the life of a person who is absorbed with this kind of love becomes fundamentally different. And what position does the beloved person occupy in his or her lover’s view? He or she is obviously treated like someone important, even very important, but only because he or she is the source of sensations and experiences. Very often a girl and a boy will mistake their sexual closeness for love because it provides them with experiences that they grow to need, without recognizing that love also concerns the other person, his or her future fate, and potentially the fate of a conceived child. There are many literary works that portray this bitter delusion! Can this kind of love become the basis of an enduring union between a man and a woman? After all, one can always find someone new who can also become a source of experiences that may be even more interesting. This kind of love demonstrates all the characteristics of an attitude which focuses on owning something.
One young husband expressed it beautifully: “I am indebted to my wife for everything that I am.” He was aware that the love his girlfriend had for him had made him a better person, and he was grateful for that
Various authors of books which concern sexual issues and are addressed to young people talk about love in the same way that it is portrayed in films, songs, or popular stories: love is a sensation or a feeling. As a consequence, the reality of gender is also portrayed as a source of interesting experiences. If the reader accepts this uncritically, and submits to being misguided, he or she falls into a trap. It will be difficult for him or her to build a good marriage. This kind of love, and these kinds of attitudes towards sexuality are not a good basis for building good, enduring, pleasant bonds between a husband and wife, and subsequently between parents and children. In this case they are too concerned with themselves. They look after their own interests, whereas true love, as St. Paul writes, “does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)
The building of lasting bonds which will lead to a peaceful and joyful life together requires a love of another kind: a love that sees in the beloved someone who is so important that it is worth dedicating your entire life to caring for his or her wellbeing. Benedict XVI wrote about this kind of love, saying: “this … expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.” (Deus caritas est, 6)