June 10, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Marriage should always be the name of The Life Game

Cynthia DewesJune used to be known as the prime month for weddings. Maybe it still is, but if so it is harboring a minority event these days. Cohabitation with people of the opposite sex outside of marriage is now the favored relationship, according to the latest statistics. What do we make of that?

Of course, we who believe in sacramental marriage are saddened. For us, marriage means the thoughtful choice of a life partner. It involves both a public and a private commitment to be faithful to the other in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad … well, you know the rest.

None of us can be self-righteous about this phenomenon because it occurs in every family that I know, including my own. But it saddens us because these couples don’t know what they are missing. Marriage gives a sacramental gift of grace.

Not only is our marriage commitment for life, but also it is life-giving in every possible way. Giving physical life to children is a major expression of married love. So is the emotional life that the marriage partners give to each other and, in turn, to their children. This life-giving love then expands to include friends and others. It leads to a peaceful and functional society.

Some modernists say that marriage is just a piece of paper, and that they don’t need legal and religious baggage to be committed to another person. Some see the high rate of divorce or the acrimony that they have experienced in their parents’ or others’ marriages and are afraid to marry. They may love someone, but think they can’t take the chance to lose that love by marrying.

Some believe that their personal freedom is limited by marriage. But in a truly life-giving marriage, it is just the opposite. The partners are freed by marriage to be themselves in every way. They live in the affirmation and support of someone who loves them and respects them—so much so that they declare it publicly. It’s a trust arrangement, just like the love between God and us.

Cohabitation, in my opinion, is a use arrangement. Men get a sexual partner, a housekeeper, a co-payer of the bills or maybe even a mother for their children—providing they want some. Women get a physical protector, a financial supporter, someone to baby-sit the kid(s) while they work or perhaps a good-looking catch to show off to girlfriends.

If this sounds like a harsh assessment, that’s because it is. We only have to hear the daily news to learn of all the “boyfriends” who abuse their partners or kill their children in a rage. We realize that the “sexual freedom” now prevalent is the opposite of the freedom in a marriage. Rather, it frees men to be irresponsible and women to be used then discarded, and it frees both men and women to be prey to sexually transmitted diseases.

Because it is life-giving, marriage is also a forward-looking arrangement. If there are children, there is the natural anticipation of them growing and blossoming, and becoming married lovers and parents themselves. There is always the next thing to look forward to together, to share opportunities for whatever they value. There is the pleasure of seeing one’s relationship deepen, and in experiencing the growing devotion of the beloved as they transform from lover to parent to companion to caregiver.

Unfortunately, some marriages fail and that’s a fact. Still, we must continue to seek marriages that truly reflect God’s marriage with us.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: