Levels of Love In Marriage by Javier Vidal-Quadras

15 09 2015

Level of love

It usually helps married people (especially after the first 5 to 7 years of marriage) to bear in mind that in married life each spouse gets to know the other at different levels, through a gradual process, learning what true love means.

a) Physical attraction

This is usually the first impulse in matrimonial love. There are married couples who think they can remain at this level. The result is harmful; this inability of transcending the level of sensations and converting it first into a deep feeling towards the other and then into a full love, inevitably leads to treating the person as a thing, an object. The effect is easy to predict: if I’m no longer physically attracted to you, then I’ll have to look for someone else who does give rise to that attraction within me. There is nothing wrong with the level of physical attraction. The mistake is to consider it the essence of married love, and to want to go no further. Love, in fact, starts at this stage, but does not end there. It is not the final goal. It is a level that has to be surpassed, or rather still, enriched by the following levels that give it meaning and raise its significance, making it fully human.

b) Falling in love

The next level is falling in love. This makes us say, beyond mere physical attraction, “How good it is to be with you!” It is a higher level than the previous one, which it raises up and ennobles. The spouse’s personality, his or her moral qualities, and way of being are discovered and appreciated more and more. There are couples who settle for this phase of agreeable, even intoxicating, feeling. But herein lies also its limitation, so to speak. One rejoices in the feeling of love, instead of falling more deeply in love with the other. Then, as with the previous level, when this feeling disappears, we think our love has died out and we are tempted to replace it with another that will make us regain the feeling we have lost. Falling in love is good and needs to be nurtured throughout married life, but it is not the end of the journey, nor is it the essence of love. We have to go deeper.

c) Loving with the will

This is the fully human level, the level of the intelligent, free will with which one decides, going beyond the sensations and feelings they may awaken, to love one’s spouse and dedicate oneself to making him or her happy. A will, so to speak, that takes hold of the heart and leads it where we want: to the person beloved, at every moment, and in all places and circumstances. It is a will that affirms, “I love and I want to love more and more.” As a writer of classic literature has said, “I did not marry you only because I loved you, but so that I could love you more each day”. Married people have to build up the future of their married love day by day.

Marriage is a “promise” of love and not only a “pact” or agreement. “Nowadays we often encounter a weakened or pact-based version of love which includes the idea that it might only be temporary. In practice this approach means abandoning promises: nobody wants to make a commitment with respect to a future choice, since love is understood as an arrangement, in which one expects that there will always be benefits.” (R. Yepes)


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