I realized that there were love problems when my wife's best friend was married. I remember driving her and her new husband to the airport hotel after the wedding reception – they were on their way to Jamaica the next morning. As they got out of the car in the hotel driveway, some guy who’d had too much to drink was stumbling out of the hotel and, in seeing them in their wedding garb, spluttered something about how marriage was a waste of time or something to that effect. I thought “what a nice thing to tell a couple on their wedding night!”
That night, I vowed to always tell young couples how amazing Marriage was. Of course, I wasn't married at the time so what did I know? Except I couldn't see how Marriage could be anything but amazing - if you marry the right person, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances and at the right time in your lives. How could it not be amazing?
Well, now, I've been married for over 20 years and have been in a relationship with the same woman for almost 30 years. I am not a marriage expert; I am not a psychologist or psychotherapist; I’m no Dr. Popcak; I come to you with my own personal experience.
Most importantly I am very interested in the concept of LOVE. Because when Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and love one another as He loved us, Jesus commanded me to love God and love others. If I am to follow his command, I better know exactly what He means!.
Let me preface this making a short trip aside: Annulments
I am very happy that the Church changed how we review the nullity of marriages.
There are so many people who are suffering because they entered into “marriage” without real consent, without knowledge or understanding of what they were consenting to (I’ll tell you some stories another time) and they believe that they are stuck. There are others whose marriages have ended and they believe that they can’t receive Communion. Nothing can be further from the truth.
There are also people whose first marriage is not valid but have not sought the help of a Marriage Tribunal because they don’t know they have that option or because it’s too hard and painful to go through the process. The Church is making it easier for these people to find healing. (to read more about annulments, click here.
Of course, the first option is to enter into a Marriage with full knowledge and understanding of what it is and what you are consenting to. This is why we need to put more effort into preparing couples BEFORE they get married and accompany them as much as possible during their Marriage, especially in the first years.
I believe that the main problem with people entering Marriage for the wrong reasons is a misunderstanding of that word: LOVE.
So what is love?
And there are many reasons why the concept of love has been diluted: our culture; who we are; our individualistic views; our experiences and especially the language we speak. English is generally a very specific language, but when it comes to love it really falls short: I love my wife and I love my children, I love God and my friends, I love my country, I love my dog and I love my car and l love pizza. Clearly these are not all the same.
In Spanish, it's a little better. We have 3 ways to say “I love you”
- Te quiero: Commonly used to say I love you, it’s a friendly, fraternal love (although it literally means, "I want you")
- Me gustas: Which is not really love at all but means I like you and
- Te Amo: Reserved to romantic love and God; sometimes used between parents and children.
Even these three fall a bit short. I don't think I love my wife the same way I love God and certainly not the same way God loves me (although I should try – read my whole “Deacon-structing Marriage
It's all Greek to me!
From what I understand, Greek is probably the best language for having different words for different kinds of love. This is what I understand them to be: agape, eros, philia and storge. (Again, here is where I appeal to any of you who know more on this subject than me – I welcome your comments, especially if you speak Greek!)
is the purest form of love. Let's say it's the love of God or God's love.
Eros is passionate love. I am going to call it sexual love.
Philia is brotherly love. The kind you have with a good friend (Think, Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love).
Storge is the kind of love parents have with their children
Now, I would even divide these further. I can see Eros being split in two:
Sexual love and romantic love: romantic is a bit deeper than sexual. They sometimes go together, but not necessarily always. Platonic love is also a part of this - except I'd say that Platonic is not based on any reality; it is a dream. Platonic love is being in love with the idea of someone.
Storge: I will divide it in two: Paternal and Maternal. Not to be sexist, but there are certain qualities that we associate with Fathers and others with Mothers - for e.g. we may say that providing for a family is a paternal quality and nurturing a family is a maternal quality. Not to say that fathers can't be nurturing and mothers can't be providers. So I would say that there are some qualities to love that are “paternal” and others that are “maternal.”
So that leaves us with seven types of love. Come back next week
to explore them deeper.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: