Why Some Men are No Longer Attracted To Their Wives by Janet Smith

3 06 2016

No longer attractive

There is an amazing study reported from a book by a man named Lionel Tiger. Lionel Tiger is an anthropologist who studies animal behavior to explain human behavior. Lionel Tiger works with a colleague named Robin Fox, who also is an anthropologist who studies animal behavior to explain human behavior. He works at Rutgers. In the 1960s, as he saw contraception becoming more and more popular, he speculated that male/female relationships would change radically. He did a study in the early 70s that involved a tribe of monkeys. The alpha monkey of this tribe, named Austin, chose three female monkeys to be his exclusive sexual partners. Austin had a grand time with these three female monkeys. Then the researchers injected Austin’s three females with the contraceptive Depo-Provera. Austin stopped having sex with them and chose other female monkeys to be his sexual partners. Then they contracepted all of the females in the tribe. The males stopped have sex with the females and started behaving in a turbulent and confused manner.
Male monkeys at least evidently prefer intercourse with fertile females. Studies also show that males – human males – produce more testosterone when they are around women who have fertile cycles. In fact, men are more attracted to women when they are fertile and women are more attracted to men when the women are fertile.
Once when I mentioned this at a talk in Kansas, a man came up to me and said, “In Kansas, we don’t need studies to show that males are more interested in females when they’re fertile.” He said everyone in Kansas grows up on a farm and we know that when a bull is in a pen with a cow who is not fertile, he is not at all interested. But if the bull is in a barn a mile a way with metal fences in between, the bull will get to the cow when she is fertile.
Tiger speculates that one of the reasons that women are dressing so immodestly is that they’re not attracting men because of their fertility. They have to do sort of bizarre things in order to attract a male. They aren’t attracting them simply by their fertility since they are not having fertile cycles.
Tiger also reports on a study involving tee shirts. The study included two groups of human females, one contracepting, one not contracepting. It also involved a group of males who had been rated for their evolutionary desirability. Men who are evolutionarily desirable are healthy and aggressive and responsible; the other group included those who can’t hold a job, etc. These men all wore a tee shirt for a day. At the end of the day the women smelled the tee shirts. Without meeting the males the non contracepting women chose the evolutionarily desirable males as potentially attractive mates; the contracepting women chose the losers.
Mothers have approached me after my talk and said: “That explains a lot. It explains why my daughter is stuck with that loser.” Other women say, “Now I understand why my son, who is such a marvelous young man, seems to be having trouble finding good young women.”





Marriage is not a compromise by Louise Brosnan

22 05 2016

Marriage is not a compromise

Thirty-five? Or worse, 40, and unmarried? Should a girl give up on romance and settle for someone who will take out the trash?

What does a single woman in her thirties want more than a better career, a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment? According to American writer Lori Gottlieb she wants to get married and have a family. Yes, married. And that is from a liberated gal who is in a position to know. Ms Gottlieb, well known for her humorous commentary on singlehood and dating, has reached 40 with a young son conceived by donor insemination, and in a more serious mood. In an essay in this month’s Atlantic magazine she urges younger women to temper their romantic notions of marriage with a large dose of realism, to forget about Mr Right and “settle” for Mr Good Enough. Because, as she puts it, “if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.”

“Infrastructure.” Hmmm… But I recognise the problem she is talking about. I was a partner in a large professional services firm with a successful career and a substantial salary. I had always wanted to get married and have children but for a variety of reasons I did not meet my husband until I was 36 and then marry when 37. I am now 43 with two boys aged three and five and another child due in May. However, I reached this happy state not by “settling” for a partnership without the warmth of true love, as Ms Gottlieb advises, but by growing into an understanding of what love truly is.

For many women who marry late, I suspect that, like me, it is not a case of settling for Mr Not Quite Right, but of taking time to reach the point of understanding what true love and marriage is.

False romanticism is certainly a problem. In the days before the contraceptive pill, people used to grow out of it by facing up to the fact that sex, marriage and the responsibility of providing for children all went together. Ms Gottlieb and I grew up in an era when separating them was considered liberation, and putting them together again piecemeal by single parenthood and cohabitation was considered a legitimate choice. Delaying the commitment of marriage — a trend that shows no sign of slowing down — prolongs adolescent hopes of finding a “soul mate” with whom one will have an intense emotional and sexual bond. This has become the primary meaning of marriage. Children are then desired to perfect the happiness of the couple.

There is some truth in these ideals, of course, but they have lost their proper relationship and in the process have made marriage increasingly difficult to achieve. This is much more of a problem for women than for men, since women live in shadow of their biological deadline for having children — something most are unwilling to do without the benefit of marriage. Given that nearly a quarter of women in the United States are unmarried by age 34, Ms Gottlieb is addressing a real problem. But her solution — a team-mate who “takes out the trash, sets up the baby gear, and … provides a second income” — is tragic. It reduces marriage to mere pragmatism and the single life to one with no positive potential. It completely misses what I believe is the real answer to today’s marriage dilemma.

For many years I was like most young women and had an immature understanding of marriage and all that it entails. I was (and still am) a romantic and thought that marriage would be a surreal experience where I was madly attached to my husband and would of course be the centre of his universe. Over time I realized that this was an extremely self-centred way of looking at a friendship which would be the cornerstone of marriage. I began to understand that a relationship of this kind needs to take place on different levels.

Love is a single reality with different dimensions that are needed or emerge at different times. One dimension is necessary to attract a person to another, but this becomes less necessary over time and especially as one matures. This is eros, or the “madness” that intoxicates, displaces reason and drives a person powerfully toward another. It is the central theme for movie romances and modern sitcoms.

But for all its thrills, this dimension is not enough. In fact, on its own it becomes an obstacle to the maturing of the relationship. We see this played out all the time. Love is reduced to its caricature, to the amount of gratification that each can take from it. Bartering begins: “I’ll do this if you do that.” “I will stay with you as long as the sparks last.” “If you love me you will let me do what I want.” “I won’t have children with you until I have had my career and spent my youth.” “You can have children but I am not going to let this cramp my style”. “I will absorb all you can give to me, your good humour, good looks, money, sensuality but I am not prepared to give you anything back.” It destroys the relationship or at worst leaves spouses in a permanent adolescent-style union.

The other dimension is the reaching out of one person to the other. It is a love that is, indeed, ecstasy — not a momentary sensual intoxication but an exodus out of oneself, seeking liberation through giving oneself to the other. It is a journey toward authentic self discovery and happiness. This is played out in different ways: the sharing of hopes, dreams, values, desires, sorrows and disappointments, successes and failures, laughter and tears, and of our sexuality by pleasure giving and childbearing.

I learned through a long process of maturing that I almost always ignored the second dimension when I thought of marriage and assessed a prospective spouse. Although the example is superficial, it was like shopping for a Ferrari when what I really needed was a Bentley. One would soon lose its appeal, especially as I aged and found the rough ride of a sports car uncomfortable in certain weather and on some roads; the other would prove exciting and durable under any conditions, have plenty of room for others and fit any environment.

I learned that when the two dimensions of love are combined — the thrill of eros and disinterested self giving, in measures that move like waves over time and vary in intensity with the maturity of the individuals — love achieves its true grandeur.

For many women who marry late, I suspect that, like me, it is not a case of settling for Mr Not Quite Right, but of taking time to reach the point of understanding what true love and marriage is. In the process, many will have made choices that affect their situation — some good, some bad, some indifferent — and these choices will affect other decisions that a woman can make as she ages. Nor should we forget that the single life is not necessarily a choice between loneliness and endless dating, but can be embraced as a lifestyle with its own unique opportunities for love and service.

In my case, having reached a deeper understanding of love and marriage I actually started looking for an entirely different, and in all ways far better, spouse. For others this may mean rekindling relationships with those they previously dismissed, for others it means looking for different things in a man. For single mothers it may mean looking more intently for the second dimension (even if it is made more difficult by the demands of motherhood). For some who have already married it may be a time of lamentation: “If only I had known what true love is.” For most it is seeking what always was authentically best.

Lori Gottlieb has been honest in admitting that most women still want “a traditional family” and that the current obsession with soul mates gets in the way of realising this goal. But in her desperation to get there anyway she is willing to sacrifice the very bedrock of marriage, which is true love between the spouses. The result, in her case, would not be a traditional family at all but, in her own language, a completed “construction”.

If only she had been brave enough to inquire into the nature of true love and not dismiss it in a throwaway line (“whatever that is”) she might have done her sisters a real service. Instead, she has tried to persuade us that love can be put in brackets while we persist in our twentieth century habit of getting what we want. Perhaps few people will be swayed by her argument; certainly, no-one will be helped.

I momentarily stress each time I think of the mistakes I could have made in choosing a spouse with my earlier immature understanding of love and marriage. Instead I psychologically pinch myself each time I think of my husband and how much I truly love him and, with our children, of how perfect we are for one another.





Culture of Divorce, Culture of Death by Anthony Esolen

21 05 2016

Divorce

It was a quiet room in a hospice, the only sounds the muffled pumping of oxygen, and the softer and slower breathing of my mother-in-law, Esther, as she lay a few hours before her death. Her husband, Herb, stood by the bedside, stroking the gray curls on her forehead, a slight gesture. It seemed to wave away 50 years of sorrow and disappointment and strife, leaving only the love he felt for her in the beginning, like a seedling under the ruins of a city.

 

He could have abandoned her years before — not for another woman, but for what the world calls peace. Dad is not a Catholic, so he had no Church precept to warn him against divorce. He didn’t need any. “You never know what you’ll get in life,” he put it to me once. “You have to do the right thing, because if you don’t, you’ll probably make things worse.” So he never left, and at the last moment of Esther’s life he was there, fulfilling a patient vigil, his eyes red with weariness and loss.

“Moses allowed our forefathers to present their wives with a bill of divorce,” said the Pharisees to Jesus. “For what cause do you think a man may put away his woman?”

 

Consider them the pundits of that time, eager to learn whether on this matter of public policy the preacher from Galilee would position himself on the left or the right. Would he agree that you could divorce your wife for burning the soup, or would he hold out for a far narrower range of grounds — adultery, for instance?

 

But Jesus rejected the terms of the question. “Moses permitted you to divorce,” he said, “because of the hardness of your hearts; but it was not so from the beginning. Therefore you have heard it said that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. So I say to you that any man who puts away his woman — I am not talking about fornication here — and marries another, commits adultery.” He concludes with a stern admonition: “What God has joined together, let no mere man put asunder.”

 

We may be too familiar with these words. They should strike us with the same shock that once silenced the Pharisees, or enraged them, when the Lord reached back behind all the history of the Israelites, behind the Temple and the kings and the judges and the tribes, behind even creation itself, as He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Here alone, in this discussion of marriage, does Jesus answer a question about good and evil and human life by appealing to the time before the Fall. “It was not so,” he says, “from the beginning.” It was no part of God’s plan for innocent mankind. It can be no part of God’s plan for man regenerate in Christ.

 

Jesus has presented to us two potent truths, each unbearably alive and full of import for fallen man, yet leaving it to us to connect them. The first has been celebrated joyfully by Pope John Paul II: Man and woman are made for one another. Our bodies, our very souls are stamped with a nuptial meaning, and in the embrace of man and woman, an embrace that in God’s providence can bring into being a living soul, we recall our innocence in the Garden, and we share in and anticipate the wedding feast of the Lord. The second? We were not made for sin and death, for alienation from one another and from God, our life. That too was not so from the beginning.

 

Make the connection. Culture of divorce, culture of death.

If any man had cause for procuring a divorce, short of adultery and mayhem, my father-in-law had it. Esther was a difficult woman to live with. Over a trifle, as when we should leave for the diner, she could go into a towering rage, then storm off to her bedroom, her face set like flint, certain that she was right, that she was ill-used by everyone, and woe to my wife if she tried to reason with her. “Gram’s on the warpath,” she’d say. She could jest about it then, nervously, but when she was a girl she didn’t dare bring any of her friends to the house, for fear that her mother would cause a scene. Hers was a lonely childhood.

 

What caused this habitual anger, I can’t say. Perhaps a deep insecurity, a hunger to be loved; her own mother was by all accounts a tyrant in the household. When Esther returned home with Herb from their elopement, her father said to him, “If you can live with her, more power to you.” And she was her father’s favorite.

 

For a few years they lived together happily, in unlikely conditions: quarters for married midshipmen at a naval base in the Bahamas. They always spoke about that time with wistful humor. The poverty was something they shared and couldn’t help, so they took it in stride, and made jokes about how much they grew to hate bananas. Esther was also one of those women who genuinely enjoys the company of men, and whom men will treat with a big-brother jocularity and kindness. Those years were good for them.

 

Then they settled down in New Jersey, where they would live most of their lives. Dad is a sharp man and a hard worker, holding down two and three jobs all his life before he retired. But for a while money was tight, and though Esther grew up with eleven other children in a rented house with an earthen floor, or maybe because she grew up in such straits, she never learned any measure in her spending. She was one of the most generous people I’ve known, lavishing my children with Christmas presents, but she spent on herself, too. She wanted nice things they could not afford. So she upbraided her husband about his pay, and went to work herself.

 

My wife was born then, and maybe all would have been well had Esther been able to trust her husband’s industry and thrift, and had she not been afflicted by a painful condition that compelled her to have a hysterectomy. It was a severe loss. In her frustration she took a job at a monstrous candy mill, working at rotating shifts, two weeks in the day, two weeks in the evening, two weeks in the dead of night. The body never accustoms itself to that; it is always sleep-deprived. So she took to having a nightcap before bed. Then she fell in with some cynical companions at work who also liked to drink. Soon she was an alcoholic.

 

Many readers will be able to fill in the details. She was impossible to predict; sometimes ingratiating, sometimes as unappeasable as rock. She would throw cups and dishes about the kitchen. Her fists were not idle. She’d shut herself in her room for days of terrible silence. She insisted on separate bank accounts, throwing it in Dad’s teeth that it was her money, that she made more than he did (for a year or so this was true), and that she could spend it as she pleased. My wife cannot remember when they shared the same bed.

 

But to her credit, Esther recognized that Dad was a terrific father, and in her own way she was true to him. Nobody else dared criticize him — but she would humiliate him publicly. He didn’t care, or didn’t let on. They could unite only in their love for their daughter, whom they showered with gifts, partly to compensate for their inability to give her what she wanted more than anything, namely love for one another. Finally, when she was 15 and presumably capable of surviving the blow, her mother approached her with bad news.

 

“I can’t take it anymore! Your father and I are getting a divorce.”

 

But divorce was still rare in those days, and my wife hadn’t entertained the possibility. It was as if someone had told her that her little world, so fraught with suffering, so fragile, yet so beloved, would be smashed to bits. She broke down in bitter tears. Her mother backed away, and God would bless her for it. The word “divorce” was never uttered again.

Divorce destroys a world; it smothers an echo of Eden. What was the Fall, if not man’s first attempt to divorce? “Where are you, Adam?” calls God in the cool of the evening. “You haven’t come out to meet me as you used to do.” Adam is steeped in shame. He doesn’t want to be seen. Consider the unselfconsciousness of little children who parade naked in front of their parents, because they sense no separation; they feel themselves to be at one with mother and father. Only later, with a growing sense of separate identity, and a growing loneliness, does the child wish to hide. Adam is hiding not because he is naked, but because he is alienated from God, and it is that separation that causes him to look upon his nakedness, an emblem of his own being, with shame.

 

But the severance could not end there. When Adam and Eve admit their guilt — a graceless and skulking admission — they chisel the fissure more deeply, divorcing themselves from one another and from creation. “It was this woman you gave to be my help,” says Adam. “She gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Eve passes the blame in turn. “It was this serpent you created! He tricked me, and I ate the fruit.”

 

What can we expect should follow? The very earth shuns us. The ground shall bear thorns and thistles, and in the sweat of his brow must man eat his bread; the woman will bear children in pain, and will have to submit to the domination, not the loving headship, of her husband. Their children grow up in separate pursuits — Abel a shepherd, Cain a farmer — and in envy for a blessing he lacks and does not sincerely desire, Cain slays Abel, not in rage, but in cold malice. When God accosts him, as he once accosted Adam, we see in Cain’s reply that the fissure has widened into a chasm. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he sneers.

 

There you have the motto for a culture of divorce. Cain’s words assume that the brother, the parent, the spouse, the neighbor is not worth keeping. What to do with one who obstructs my will, or casts a pall over my daydreams? If I can get away with it, and if I am angry enough, I put him away. No matter. Around any house or barn there’s plenty of noisome matter to be buried, shoveled over, cast into a pit, or burnt. We rid ourselves of the sights and smells.

 

Cain begins in Genesis a saga of family strife, occasioned by lust or greed or envy. Lamech is a multiple murderer, and proud of it. Men begin to take several wives. Lot listens to his grumbling men and separates from Abram, taking that fateful left turn toward Sodom. After Sarah finally conceives a child, she cannot bear the sight of the woman she had encouraged to become Abraham’s concubine, so she forces her husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert. Though God would bring forth good from her guile, Rebecca causes deadly enmity between her sons when she tricks Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob and not Esau. Jacob’s uncle Laban tricks him into marrying Leah, whom he does not love, and then extorts seven additional years of work from him in exchange for Rachel, whom he does love. The intense rivalry between the two sister-wives causes a rift in the family between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, whom old Jacob favors. One of those sons, Joseph, is hurled down a well by his brothers, then sold into slavery.

 

If heaven is filled with life and light, a wedding feast to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb to his bride the Church, then hell, as C. S. Lewis imagined it, may be the Great Divorce, a realm of alienation, whose “citizens” detest even the thought of a city, and who wish, in an endlessly fissiparous parody of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to move further and further away into the outskirts, to put as much distance between themselves and God (and their neighbors in damnation) as possible. Dante saw it too: One of the traitors in his Inferno, fixed in ice up to his head along with all the others of his ilk, defines his neighbor simply as that one “with his head in my way to block my sight” — a head that will annoy him for all eternity, and that he would gladly lop off if he could, with no more compunction than if he should swat a fly.

But Herb and Esther never departed for that gray city that promises much and delivers nothing. They stayed with one another; they endured. They kept their vows. “Son of Man,” said the Lord God to Ezekiel as he stood before a valley of dry bones bleaching in the desert sun, “tell these bones to rise.” And from those vast dead sands they did arise.

 

Not immediately. They sent their daughter to college, and after years of wandering in the academic wasteland, joining a tent revival, falling away, brought closer to the Lord by a rabbi, a musician or two out at heels, a good old girl from Tennessee, a motorcycling professor of Milton, and a lover of Crashaw, she ended up in North Carolina, where we met; and I had left my own footprints over many a desert mile. Each of us became the instrument by which the Lord brought the other one home. We fell in love; we worshiped together at Mass. At our wedding, our priest delivered a sermon on the Song of Songs, and on the righteous souls in Revelation, the communion of saints whose robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

 

I have a picture of Herb walking down the aisle with my wife. He looks embarrassed, as if he couldn’t tell how he had come to be there. He had been raised in an evangelical church. His father, a sternly righteous man, took the faith seriously, but imparted little of the joy of it to his children. Herb’s churchgoing did not survive the Navy. Esther, meanwhile, had been raised with hardly any religion at all. She may have attended a Dutch Reformed church for a few years as a child, but her parents paid so little attention to it that they failed to have her baptized. By the time we were married she had given up drink for good, and the AA meetings she attended may have turned her toward the Bible; or maybe she had turned on her own. In any case, though she was ashamed to be found in a church on Sunday, she read a little of the Bible every night, in secret.

 

I don’t know if, except for marriages and funerals and an occasional Easter long ago, Herb and Esther had ever been in a church together. I do know that our marriage, and our increasing steadfastness in the Faith, made them happy. They suddenly had something new to unite them. If they could not love one another, or at least not admit to it, they could together love my wife and me, and then the little girl and the little boy we brought them — the only grandchildren they would ever have. Esther was a hard woman, but she had also the corresponding virtue of loyalty. If you hurt someone she loved, she might never forgive you, but if you loved the one she loved, her heart would swell in gratitude. Now she and Herb had unexpected reasons to be grateful to one another. They could tattoo their house with pictures of the toddlers, who adored them in their turn, as was just.

“God is not the God of the dead,” said Jesus to the Sadducees, whose hearts were too cramped to believe in any resurrection, “but of the living.” To accept divorce as a way of death — no way of life — is to deny the very being of God as revealed by Jesus. It is to say that love can, or should sometimes be permitted to, die utterly. But had God so acted toward us, all this universe would have winked out of existence at the first sin of Adam. With every sin we commit, we pretend to sever ourselves from the fount of our being, as if we were lords of life and death; yet should God respond to us in kind, we would find the divorce complete, and would fall into the nothingness of everlasting loss. But He does not do so, and at the last moment, like the thief on the cross who joined the others in their jeering, but who then thought better of it — and maybe it took the torment of crucifixion to wake him — we may turn to Christ and hear him say, “This day you shall be with me in Paradise.” Christ did not put away that dying criminal. So much the better for us, who are all criminals, dying.

Esther too was dying, though nobody but my wife noticed it. “Something’s wrong with Gram. She remembers things that never happened.” Old age, I supposed. Esther did not look like she was about to depart. She still fought mercilessly with her husband. She still squandered her money, though it had been many years since illness had forced her to retire from the factory. She still raged against how badly everyone treated her. She still slammed the door to her room, to hide, to be miserable; and, at night, to open her Bible, though she never talked about it.

 

But she was suffering a series of small strokes, as we learned much later. These strokes compromised her memory and her ability to get things done around the house. Herb never complained. He’d always been handy, and now he began, unobtrusively, to take on chores she could no longer perform, sweeping and vacuuming, loading the washer, tending the garden, along with all his old chores and his hard work, post-retirement, at his auto junkyard. The strange thing was that as Esther’s memory faded, so did her rumination upon all the wrongs she thought people had done to her. Weakness wore away the edges of her anger.

 

All this took more than ten years. It was punctuated by times of madness, when she would storm out in the dead of night and pound on a neighbor’s door, because a “strange man” was in her house — her husband; or when on a snowy Christmas night she forgot that she was visiting us 250 miles away, and insisted that she was going to walk home. I had to sleep in front of the door to bar her way. But in general she was softening, mellowing. When, after his open-heart surgery, Herb could no longer take care of her and she had to move to the county home, she was pleasant to the nurses and the beauticians, and would brighten up whenever anybody came to see her. Herb visited her three or four times every week, which was as often as her condition could bear, wheeling her down to the solarium where they would talk with other patients and visitors for the whole afternoon.

 

Esther could be most kind when she wanted to be, and could accept kindness too, but for much of her married life she would not accept it from her husband. Now, as she grew more helpless, she was glad to accept it from him, and he gave it without stint. She called him, in a moment of tenderness and lucidity, her “savior.” She was not far wrong. His most important act of kindness he performed just before his operation and her entering the nursing home. He’d become friends with a local Presbyterian minister, a genuine believer in Christ. Now he knew that Esther was too ashamed to admit that she hadn’t been baptized. He also knew that if he were to suggest a baptism, she would reject it in anger and hurt, and that would be the end of that. So he told everything to Pastor Forbes, and invited him to visit now and then, so that Esther would get to know him. Then the subject might come up unbidden, or certain suggestions might be made. So he did; and, not long before the time would pass when she could reasonably make any decisions she would remember, without any prompting she asked to be baptized. A few days later, Pastor Forbes baptized my mother-in-law, a frail old woman but at last a daughter of God, in her own kitchen, christening her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

We in a culture of death hunger after life, but on our own terms, and at the expense of others, even at the expense of their lives. But some of us will only begin really to live when we have lost all capacity to pretend that we are our own. That is one of the meanings of Jesus’ mysterious saying, that unless we become like little children, we shall not enter the kingdom of God. Esther now entered that childhood, and Herb was there, to feed her, to wheel her about when she could no longer walk, to talk to her even toward the end, when a massive stroke had left her still wishing to speak, but unable to form more than one or two intelligible words.

 

And he was beside her those last few days, making sure, if by some miracle she regained the ability to swallow, that the hospital staff would not abandon her to starvation. He would not allow them to hasten her death with morphine, prescribed less often to alleviate pain than to soothe the onlookers and free the doctors and nurses from the ennui of a natural death. We watched by turns at the bed of the dying woman, not because we believed there was something magical about squeezing out each breath from the clamp of death, but because it was the right thing to do. She was going to die, but we didn’t want her to die alone. The dying life was a mystery. It was not our place to abandon it, to cast it away as inconvenient, as trash, as we are urged to do to so much else in our barren lives.

 

How can we know what fleeting notes of grace came to her in those last hours? If God wills, who can obstruct Him? After nearly 53 years of struggle and disappointment, yet 53 years of faithfulness and duty, Herb stood by, never divorced. The Lord God, against whom she had sinned the more mightily, never turned from calling her back to Him, and as a child of over 70 years she finally answered that call.

 

What keeps people from believing that a good God loves them and desires never to be parted from them, unless they themselves should flee that love? Look in the mirror, and see the cause of despair in others. Do not repeat the words of the great divorcer at the bottom of hell, who says in his loneliness and misery, “I am my own, I am my own.” Say rather, “I am a wayward child, and the one I am called to stand beside is a wayward child.” Do not dare mull over your “quality of life” and your “fulfillment” — wrapped in a shroud of deadly self-regard, while the Lord of life, who dies to bring you to life, gasps for His last breath on the cross above. If anyone had grounds for divorce, He had; no one ever loved as deeply as He, and no one was ever betrayed as He. You, reader, have betrayed Him shamelessly, as have I. Yet He remains faithful, and waits for us, to bring us life:

 

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

 

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a contributing editor for Touchstone magazine. He has translated and edited Dante’s Divine Comedy, in three volumes, for Modern Library (Random House). This article originally appeared on January 15, 2008.





How many rings are there in a marriage? by C. Moynihan

19 05 2016

 

how many rings

An old riddle told at weddings goes like this:  How many rings are there in a marriage?  The answer: three.  The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then the suffering.  All of you married couples gathered here at this service will be able to identify with this, I am sure.  As for Ethel and Sung Yi, they have only been wearing the first one, and are just about to get ready to put on the second one.  But in my own reflection about the truth of marriage and the marital union of husband and wife, there are really many rings that one will have to encounter and wear.  I now present the first category of these rings.

In the first stage, which is the stage that courting couples begin to find their partner in life.  This is the Engagement ring period– the pairing, the luring, the alluring, and the pampering.  This is the time when the woman and man are on their best behaviour and try all the tricks in the book to win the heart of the future spouse.  And of all days in the calendar, today, Feb 14 is the day when all stops are pulled and the ace that is kept up the sleeve is used.  Of course, florists and chocolatiers make a killing today, but that is another story.

The second category of these rings is in the period that Ethel and Sung Yi are about to embark on.  It’s the wedding ring, where the following rings are also encountered – caring, dearing, and endearing, and followed very closely will be the siring, and labouring which is the start of mothering, fathering, and the demands of childrearing.

After the honeymoon, after the children, and when the everydayness of things set in, and most of all, t is very easy for the marriage to enter into the next set of rings, where life becomes tiring, and boring.  If left unaddressed, and when there is little communication, spouses can become daring, and start wandering, meandering, steering and veering away from one another.  They may also begin touring and the whole marriage may be very enduring.

When that stressful stage is still left to develop on its own accord, the next set of rings is the most painful to wear.  Hopefully, Ethel and Sung Yi will never get to wear this set.  These are the times of sparring, firing, swearing, hollering, which often leads to injuring and tearing, and sadly, may even include clobbering, hammering and devouring.

When things get to this stage, repair is not only difficult, but because communication is already so bad, and perhaps even non-existent, many couples do not carry on.  And so we have the high divorce rates of modern day.  In today’s forum we can receive very good and sound advice, but I feel that the Christ aspect, as expected, is missing.  And this is what must make a sacramental marriage like this one so different from other non-sacramental marriages.

A sacrament is visible sign of God’s love made present to the community and to each other as husband and wife.  It is Christ who joins the two of you together.  He must come between you and it is he who bonds the two of you strongly.  The stronger you hold on to Christ, the stronger your marriage will be.

If you make the mistake of letting go of Christ in your married life, and live your days without Christ in prayer and seeking his wisdom and strength in handling situations, you will be letting go of the very source of your peace and happiness in marriage.  It’s as if Christ is the one who is holding your hands together.  If you let go of him, you will be letting go of your safety line to stability and being steadfast in your commitment to one another.

Because it is only when Christ is recognized as being the VIP in your marriage, you will enter into the last set of rings.  These are the rings that make a marriage meaningful and last.  These rings are the remembering of marriage vows, encountering one another and Christ, adoring, unfettering of burdens and guilt, the correct ordering of priorities, correct hearing, shouldering each other, load-bearing one another’s inabilities, and catering to each other’s weaknesses.  With true empowering, honouring, and proper God-fearing, will you be the true witnesses of a sacrament as wonderful as this.

C.  Moynihan

 

 





Recovering Matrimonial love By John & Joann Ooi

16 05 2016

John and Joan

They say, love is blind. Marriage is the eye-opener.
What do you do when you don’t like what you now see?

Joann:
The eye-opening may take place soon after marriage, when the heady emotions have subsided. Or with ‘distractions’ such as focusing on career or raising the children, it may come many years later.

John:

When you don’t like what you see, it is timely to rediscover some old truths. And what are these?

We were created by God for a purpose, to share the joy and happiness of Heaven with Him eternally. This means that in our journey through life, we are invited to love God more each day and thus grow in holiness. For those of us called to the vocation of marriage, this love of God is expressed primarily through our spouse and family.Click to continue reading





“I’M A DIVORCED AND REMARRIED MOTHER, PLS DON’T CHANGE CHURCH TEACHING .” by Luma Simms

4 11 2015

Luma sims with Family

The day my soul became Catholic was the day I found out that as a divorced and remarried woman I could not receive Communion. Tears of sorrow and joy flowed. Sorrow because I had by then grasped the truth of transubstantiation, only to find I couldn’t consume, and joy because at last we found the ground of real authority—his Church, the one he founded, the one tasked to keep all he taught her Apostles.

I came to Catholicism from Calvinism. That’s a tough row to hoe if there ever was one. It was that prescient and beautiful encyclical Humanae Vitae which softened my heart to the Catholic Church. After that, I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to hear what the Church believed in her own words. And so I kept reading—Theology of the Body, Familiaris Consortio, Mulieris Dignitatem, and Church documents significant to those of us coming from the Reformed tradition.

Because I had been divorced, and because another family member recently left his marriage after forty-three years, our children had many doubts and questions about marriage. One day around the dinner table one of the kids voiced their anxiety, stating in our presence that “you never know” if both mom and dad will be there for you as you grow up.

This clued us in to how deeply they had been affected by our choices and the culture that made them possible. As Christian parents we were keen to bring up our children in a Church unwavering on marriage. The Catholic Church offered a rich and beautiful doctrine of marriage in all its fullness, especially as a picture of Christ’s marriage to his bride, the Church. This vision was slowly leading us to consider the Church’s other claims.

But there’s more to coming to the Catholic faith than theological reading. As any convert can attest, there are many ups-and-downs during the journey: Struggling with doctrine followed by insights from magisterial passages coupled with Scripture, feeling still and alone followed by being overwhelmed by the presence of the saints before us, crying out to God for His presence and having Him answer in the Blessed Sacrament. Many times I woke up in the middle of the night thinking: How can I be considering Catholicism? But then in the morning at daily mass praying the liturgy, I experience the profound presence of God, even though I do not take the Eucharist.

Since I cannot now receive the Eucharist, it is through spiritual communion that I am kept spiritually fed by the Lord. This act of willing reception is not, as some may think, second-class communion. Far from it. To believe so is to diminish one of the ways Christ feeds his people, as Hans Urs von Balthasar warns in his book, Prayer:

For spiritual communion is by no means merely an act of longing for the reception of the Lord under the sacramental signs; much deeper, and more properly, it is the act of prayer of a living and understanding faith, by which it enters into living communication and communion with Christ, the eternal and living Truth.
Balthasar wants to impress upon the reader the objective reality of spiritual communion. It is not the absence of something but the presence of him. I don’t get to pine or indulge in self-pity during the distribution of the Eucharist. And God forbid I should become angry with my priest or the Church for not giving me Communion. As Archbishop Charles J. Chaput put it during the 2014 Erasmus lecture, “none of us are welcome on our own terms, in the Church we’re welcome on Jesus’ terms. That’s what it means to be a Christian, you submit yourself to Jesus and His teaching. You don’t recreate your own body of spirituality.”

Before you feel sorry for me, remember that the Church didn’t do this to me. I did this to myself when I disobeyed my God by walking away from my first marriage. Was I young and immature? Yes. Were there circumstances that drove me to such drastic measures? Sure. And yes, I am currently pursuing a Decree of Nullity, trusting God for a just decision. Whatever the outcome, I can not, and will not walk away from the Church for standing firmly on the teachings of Christ.

Some people may be shocked at the idea of submitting to a church that tells me because I’m divorced and remarried I can’t take Communion. But unless it can be shown otherwise, any tampering with Communion for the divorced and remarried will corrupt the doctrine of marriage, and—by diminishing the image of the Church as bride of Christ—debase the Church.

I have run to her for shelter. I now pray—for my sake, for my children’s—that the Church will not waver.

First Published in First Things





Did I Marry the Right Person? Denyse O’Leary

1 06 2015

Unhappy woman lying in couch

A woman asked a common question. She said, “How do I know if I married the right person?” I noticed that there was a large man sitting next to her so I said, “It depends, is that your husband?” In all seriousness, she answered, “How did you know?”

Let me answer this question because the chances are good that it is weighing on your mind. Here is the answer.

Every relationship has a cycle. In the beginning, you fell in love with your spouse. You anticipated their call, wanted their touch, and liked their idiosyncrasies.

Falling in love with your spouse was not hard. In fact, it was a completely natural and spontaneous experience. You did not have to do anything. That’s why it’s called “falling” in love . . . because it’s happening to you.

People in love sometimes say, “I was swept off my feet.” Think about the imagery of that expression. It implies that you were just standing there; doing nothing, and then something came along and happened to you.

Falling in love is easy. It’s a passive and spontaneous experience. But after a few years of marriage, the euphoria of love fades. It’s the natural cycle of every relationship. Slowly but surely, phone calls become a bother (if they come at all), touch is not always welcome (when it happens), and your spouse idiosyncrasies, instead of being cute, drive you nuts!

The symptoms of this stage vary with every relationship, but if you think about your marriage, you will notice a dramatic difference between the initial stage when you were in love and a much duller or even angry subsequent stage.

At this point, you and/or your spouse might start asking, “Did I marry the right person?” And as you and your spouse reflect on the euphoria of the love you once had, you may begin to desire that experience with someone else. That is when marriages break down. People blame their spouse for their unhappiness and look outside their marriage for fulfillment.

Extramarital fulfillment comes in all shapes and sizes. Infidelity is the most obvious. But sometimes people turn to work, church, a hobby, a friendship, excessive T.V., or abusive substances. But the answer to this dilemma does NOT lie outside your marriage. It lies within it.

I’m not saying that you could not fall in love with someone else. You could. And temporarily, you’d feel better. But you would be in the same situation a few years later. Because (listen carefully to this): THE KEY TO SUCCEEDING IN MARRIAGE IS NOT FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON; IT’S LEARNING TO LOVE THE PERSON YOU FOUND.

Sustaining love is not a passive or spontaneous experience. It will NEVER just happen to you. You cannot “find” lasting love. You have to “make” it day in and day out. That’s why we have the expression – “labor of love.” Because it takes time, effort, and energy. And most importantly, it takes wisdom. You have to know what to do to make your marriage work.

Make no mistake about it. Love is not a mystery. There are specific things you can do (with or without your spouse) to succeed with your marriage. Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws of relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship will make your marriage stronger. It’s a direct cause and effect. If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable . . . you can “make” love.

Love in marriage is indeed a “decision” . . . not just a feeling.








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