Choice of a Marriage Partner - IV
by Fr. Gerald Kelly
Self-Sacrifice and Sex Attraction
Selfishness is a terrific barrier to a happy marriage. A person who would have a favorable count on the first two points would, in all likelihood, not be selfish. Nevertheless, one should make a definite check of the prospective companion in regard to his thoughtfulness of others and his power of self-discipline. These few questions may be added to the foregoing as a means of making a more definite check on this important element of marital friendship:
At his home (each should know the other's family) does he show thoughtfulness of parents and brothers and sisters and do you get the general impression that this is ' the regular thing? What little kindnesses, not only to you but to others, have you noticed in him? When he is wrong does he admit it, and try to make up for it? Does he easily and graciously pass over others mistakes? Does he look for sympathy too much? Can he give sympathy willingly, or does someone else's trouble always bring out a greater trouble of big? Is he emotionally grown up; at least does he show that he knows his temper and jealousy and such things ought to be controlled?
As we said at the beginning we do not consider this set of questions mechanically perfect. It is intended merely as a tort of running examination to help one cheek up on the various things that pertain to friendship as it should exist in marriage. Many of the points mentioned are not in themselves important; the general picture that is created by the various answers is very important. A prospective bride or groom would do well to take advice from parents and good friends. They are on the outside and can be more objective, and they have very much at heart the question of a happy marriage.
There is one final point we should like to mention before leaving the subject of marital friendship. Perhaps we can best express it by telling what happens year after year in the novitiates of religious orders. Fine young men and women come to those novitiates bent on serving God with their whole souls. Gradually the ideals of the order begin to unfold before them, and to most of them at some time or other, there comes the depressing thought: "Oh, I can never get that high, not with all my faults." Then they learn an important lesson of their religious life: the order does not expect them to come to the novitiate as saints ready-made. It expects them to bring certain necessary qualifications for leading the life and a willingness to strive toward the ideals of that life. That striving will go on until death.
Marriage is not different, The various questions indicated here give a sort of conglomerate picture of the perfection towards which married people must be willing to strive. Neither party should expect all these characteristics to be present in a high degree at the time of marriage. But each ought to have the beginning of them and be willing to improve. And one of the supreme joys of their married life will be their mutual effort towards the perfect adjustment of all that pertains to their lives. A genuine willingness to improve is a guarantee of success.
Usually an examination is hardly necessary on this point; sex attraction is present or the parties would not be thinking of marriage. The more common difficulty is not to learn whether sex attraction is present, but rather to keep it under proper control. However, there are cases in which people make the mistake of thinking that Platonic friendship is enough for marriage, or they go to the other extreme and think that mere physical attraction is enough. Neither is enough. One must have at least the tendencies we described when we spoke of personal sex attraction. For instance:
Has your love an exclusive tendency about it, No that other boys or girls are ruled out I You need not be crude about it or go around insulting others just to show you care for only one, but you ought to notice a decided centering of your heart on this one. And have yon a tendency to feel jealous over this one party? Here again, the jealousy itself should be overcome, but the tendency is a good sign. And do YOU chafe when you two are separated I It is not a good thing to spend the time mooning or writing love letters, but it is a sign of sex attraction to be inclined that way. And do you want to kiss and embrace, or be kissed and embraced? There is absolutely no need of practicing these things, but the prospect should not be an unpleasant one. We always encourage reserve in kissing and embracing, and that in a good thing, even for engaged people; but the lack of the inclination would be a bad sign from the point of view of marriage. And finally, do you feel a growing tendency towards oneness of life; do you want to take complete possession of the beloved and give yourself completely? If these inclinations are present, then the necessary element of sex attraction is present, and all that is needed is to keep this attraction of your heart from running away with your head. But if the love of the head is also present, and you are both old enough, and other circumstances of time and place and finance are favorable, then, as the old saying goes--let the wedding bells ring out.
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Copyright © Gerald Kelly. Reproduced with permission of Fusion International. All rights reserved.