Skip to comments.How Does Idealism Negatively Affect Marriage?
Posted on 09/26/2017 7:27:04 AM PDT by Salvation
Those who seek to strengthen Holy Matrimony and stem the tide of failed marriages propose many remedies, among them better catechesis, improved marriage preparation, and greater emphasis on the sacrament in sermons. All of these are fine ideas and necessary steps, but lets also ponder a deep but often unexplored root of the trouble with marriage today: idealism or unrealistic expectations.
Although we live in cynical times, many people still hold a highly idealistic view of marriage: that it should be romantic, joyful, loving, and happy all the time. It is an ideal rooted in the dreamy wishes of romantic longing, but an ideal nonetheless. Amor omnia vincit! (Love conquers all!) Surely, we will live happily ever after the way every story says!
Heres the problem: Many want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal. Yes, many are wandering about thinking, I still havent found what Im looking for, to borrow from a U2 song.
There is no such thing as an ideal marriage, only real marriage. Two sinners have been married. A man and a woman with fallen natures, living in a fallen world that is governed by a fallen angel, have entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Like the graces of any Sacrament, those of Holy Matrimony are necessary not because things are wonderful, but because they are oftentimes difficult. Marriage is meant to sanctify. Like baptism, it offers graces that unfold gradually. The graces unfold to the degree that, and at the speed with which, the couple cooperates with Gods work.
It takes a lifetime of joy and challenge, tenderness and tension, difficulty and growth, in order for a husband and wife to summon each other to the holiness that God gives. Some of Gods gifts come in strange packages. Struggles and irritations are often opportunities to grow and to learn what forgiveness, patience, and suffering are all about. These are precious things to learn and to grow in. Frankly, if we dont learn to forgive we are going to go to Hell (see Mt 6:14-15). Even the best marriages have tension; without tension there is no change.
This may not describe the ideal, happily-ever-after marriage, but it describes the real one: full of joy, love, hope, and tenderness, but also sorrow, anger, stress, and disappointment.
The real problem does not necessarily come from our ideals about marriage, which are good to strive for, but from the fact that we conceive of these ideals within a hedonistic culture.
Hedonism is the doctrine that the chief goals of earthly life are happiness and pleasure. (The Greek word hedone means pleasure.) In the hedonistic view, any diminishment of pleasure or happiness is the worst thing imaginable, a complete disaster. Many insist on a kind of God-given right to be happy and pleased. Even some devout Christians fall prey to these exaggerated notions and excuse some selfish and sinful behaviors by saying, God wants me to be happy doesnt He?” When the Church (or an individual) suggests that someone should do what is difficult, they react, not with puzzlement, but with downright indignation, as if to say, How dare you get between anyone and what makes him or her happy!
Our notion of an ideal (happy, fulfilling, blissful) marriage is seen through the lens of hedonistic extremism. If the ideal marriage is not found, many feel a needa perfect rightto end it in search of greener pastures.
This is just more evidence of our instant gratification culture that is used to Rush shipping, Buy it with one click, and Download now. If the ideal marriage is not evident very soon, the disappointments and resentments come quickly.
There is a saying that unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments. How quickly unrealistic notions of the picture-perfect marriage are dashed on the shoals of reality.
Somewhere, not only in the Churchs marriage preparation programs but also in our work of assisting personal formation, we need to teach that unrealistic expectations are ultimately destructive. Our ideals are not the problem per se; we must become more sober about our conception of these ideals through the lens of hedonism and instant gratification. Growth takes time. Life moves through stages. Marriage is hard, but so is life. Cutting and running from the imperfect marriageas some do rather quickly todayis not the solution. Sure enough, one imperfect marriage leads to another and perhaps yet another.
In the past, even the relatively recent past, people tended to stick things out, to work through some differences while agreeing to live with others. We would do well to regain something of this appreciation that earthly life is a mixed bag, that there are going to be challenges. Marriage is no different. Though we may idealize it, we should be aware that we are setting ourselves up for resentment and disappointment if we dont balance it with the understanding that marriage is hard because life is hard.
Clearly there are many other problems that contribute to todays high rate of divorce, but an overlooked root is the expectation of an ideal marriage. Yes, many want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal. (We would do well to remember that in a world full of adults behaving like this, it is the children who really get a raw deal.) This is a deeper and less discussed cultural root of our divorce problem, a deep wound of which we should become more aware.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
We don’t call this world a “vale of tears” for nothing.
Primal Loss by Leila Miller.
Every Catholic couple considering a divorce needs to read it.
I think I’ve seen that reviewed. The literature is very clear about how hard divorce is for children, even when, as in cases of abuse, it’s objectively the best thing to do.
It all goes back to this thing called liberalism.
It all goes back to this thing called liberalism.
Hey, according to the NY Times and the liberals you have this all wrong. Marriage is a “privilege” not available to most of the poor and middle class.
As such Marriage and anything that challenges it is probably just some form of cosmic Karma. (/sarcasm)
I once heard the most important thing a husband can do for his marriage is to keep a simple phrase in the back of mind: So what?
My wife has always commented.. “If you want to know your faults, get married.” I just smile in response....
My parents divorced when i was twelve years old, i don`t really know if it affected me or not, they fought all of the time so it was just as well.
Mon hated Dad so every thing was his fault, they divorced in 1948 and i do not remember ever having any resentment for either one of them.
But who knows? maybe that is why i do not believe in divorce.
The greatest impact on children of divorce is their inability to trust LOVE in relationships.
That is emphasized again and again in this book of the children’s first hand experiences.
In the work that I do, I can tell if the parents got divorced, who the child lived with, and who they blamed for the divorce, just by walking through the soul of the grown up child of the divorce.
The absolute worse case was when a couple from my church divorced and their young son shot and killed himself. Both the parents and the children were great people. I knew them all very well and it was a shock to all.