Philosophy of marriage notes


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Philosophy of marriage notes

  1. 1. Way back in 1993, when the award winning movie “Beauty and the Beast” was stillpopular, I attended a Conference on Youth Violence. The teenaged speaker, BrianAtkinson called people out of the audience and dressed them up in costumes to actout the story of this old fairy tale. It was uproariously funny, but there were a lot ofgood lessons to be learned. No wonder Michael Medved, the conservative Jewishmovie critic, stated in Sneak Previews: “The best movie I have seen this year. Period.The best for adults. The best for kids.”The theme of Beauty and the Beast is based on the concept of the Four Loves,masterfully described by C.S. Lewis in his 1960 classic "The Four Loves". English isunique because it only has one word for Love, whereas Greek was more precise. Welove our children, our wives, our parents, a good meal, our money, classical (or rap)music, our country and we love sex. And God is Love. Certainly we are not talkingabout the same thing! Or do we fallen humans distort love in different ways? Lewisdiscusses four different categories of Love. They are: Storgē (affection, or familiallove), Philia (friendship, or brotherly love) Eros (or affective love: often, but notalways sexual) and finally Agape, (unconditional positive regard). But Agape is morethan that: it is the kind of selfless love that God demonstrated when he sent his Sonto die for us. 1
  2. 2. Storgē is the first love we experience as infants: when our diaper is too wet, or thetummy hurts, something responds to our cries and brings warm comfort and security.It is marked by affection and nurturance. Anyone who has held their new born babyknows the powerful emotions and even hormonal responses that it calls forth. Thislove is powerful enough to motivate an exhausted parent to wake from a warm bedand feed a hungry infant or nurse a sick toddler. Older siblings may also experiencethis kind of love for younger relatives, and even extended families are aware of theStorgē love that grandparents, aunts and uncles can have for their younger relatives.The main driving force in Storgē love is the family ties: sharing the same blood.Nevertheless, children, who have only experienced Storgē love will display it withplaymates, and eventually with mentors or surrogate parents like Big Brothers orSisters. 2
  3. 3. In the story of Beauty and the Beast the Storgē love between Belle and her fatherMaurice is delightfully portrayed. The townsfolk thought both of them somewhat oddbecause they just didn’t fit in: Maurice was a visionary inventor, and Belle lovedbooks. But since they were family, they didn’t care that they deviated from societalnorms: they loved each other sacrificially and were mutually supportive andencouraging. 3
  4. 4. Belle worried about her father and went searching for him when Phillipe the horsecame back with an empty wagon. When she found he was imprisoned shevolunteered to take his place. Upon gaining his freedom. Maurice tried to motivatethe townsfolk to free his daughter from the dungeons of the Beast. When he couldget no support he feebly tried to rescue her by himself, nearly dying in the attempt. 4
  5. 5. Impressed by the intensity of Belle’s Storgē love, the Beast relented and allowed herto go to her father’s side and nurse him back to health. She even took on “themedical establishment” who were trying take poor old Maurice (who they thoughtwas demented) out of his comfortable home and put him into an insane asylum.There is an inherent imbalance of power in Storgē: One person must do all the givingand the other must do all the taking. In the case of a sick child or a feeble, elderlyparent, this is inevitable. But when a marriage is based on Storgē and yet bothpartners are equally capable of caring for each other, this kind of love is immatureand can become toxic. Power must be kept in the hands of one and not the other. Aman who is looking for a woman to “mother him” the way his mother did will notexperience an invigorating and vitalized marriage. In the same way, a woman whowants her husband to spoil her like her father did, but give nothing in return, cannever enjoy a fulfilling love.John Bradshaw has much to say about the wounds caused by role reversal, whenchildren feel obligated to parent their parents. This is very damaging to a young childwho has to care for an irresponsible parent who is incapacitated by depression orsubstance abuse. But as people are living much longer nowadays, caring for one’sparents is has become a pressing issue. Some would call this a form of co-dependence. Thomas says “Sacrifice has taken on such negative connotations thatpeople fear being a ‘codependent’ more than they fear being perceived as selfish.”Storgē is confusing. 5
  6. 6. Even the Bible challenges us to move on between the immature characteristics ofStorgē love. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasonedlike a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1Corinthians 13:11 Like a garden, a marriage that is not growing and maturing is dying. 6
  7. 7. Philia is the kind of love that encompasses friendship. Friendship is often based on theperception that your friend is similar in many ways. Thus we have friendships based oncommon interests: we make friends at clubs, the workplace, the gym or church. Our time isspent sharing common interests and encouraging common values. If we seek friends that arenot like us, it is perhaps because they possess some qualities that we covet: musical talent,athletic prowess, intellectual ability or even self discipline. By associating with them, we hopethat some of those “qualities” will somehow rub off! Some people only look for mates in theirimmediate social circle so that they can continue the camaderie they experienced beforemarriage: it seldom worksAs children mature beyond the childish experience of Storgē and discover that the oppositesex doesn’t have “cooties” they may suddenly find that they have found a special friendwhose presence they find intoxicating. This is what we call puppy love or infatuation. We allknow that this is a very fragile and transitory relationship. Gary Thomas writes: “Infatuationcan be an intoxicating drug that temporarily covers up any number of inner weaknesses.”Actually the infatuated lover can only see those qualities that are either similar to his orqualities that he wished he had. By its very nature, Philia tries to ignore those qualities thatthey don’t like (they plan to change them later). While friendship does involve some mutualgive and take, it is easily threatened by differences in appearance, values and opinions, andeven ethnicity. While it is possible for Philia to bridge those barriers, it is more challenging.Many happily married people announce that their spouse is “my best friend.” While this isnoble, marriage has the potential to be so much more. As we age, and bodies begin todeteriorate, the activities that defined friendship may gradually become more difficult: thecouple who enjoyed the camaderie of long hikes together will suddenly be stressed whenone partner becomes unable to take part. 7
  8. 8. In the movie Gaston may have been the villain, but he was the hero that thetownsfolk admired and tried to emulate. With his physical prowess, aggressiveness,and hunting skill he had the potential to be a good provider. He was the popular lifeof the party and everyone lifts a glass in his honor. Relationships based on Philia likeparties. They all agree on everything and so they are willing to work as a team. Theyconspire with Gaston to persuade and even try to manipulate Belle into marryingGaston. When the town’s safety is threatened by the information that some Beasthas stolen away one of their citizens, they rally behind Gaston’s crusade to conquerhis rival and rescue the object of his affections.Church communities have a natural tendency to be made up of people who aresimilar in background and socioeconomic status. It is strengthening to marriages andyoung families to have friends who are going through the same struggles and havesimilar interests. But those very groups have a tendency to shut out those who theyconsider as “different” or behave in different ways. Gaston’s buddies thought Bellewas weird because she was always reading books. But worse, they considered herfather crazy because he was always trying to invent something. When people likeMaurice who are considered “different” turn to the community for help, they areoften ignored or ridiculed as Maurice was. The main goal of Philia in marriages andcommunities is to maintain the status quo. Philia does not have the resources torespond effectively to different needs and changing needs, which occur in everymarriage. 8
  9. 9. Brian Atkinson nicknames Philia “label love”: people can become objects to belabeled and then classified and sorted. A relationship based on Philia cannot toleratemajor differences, and it can’t adjust to differences. Philia as the basis of a marriage isbound to run into difficulties, because the gender differences between man andwomen are present. A Philia love remains secure when roles are rigidly adhered to, soa relationship based on Philia tends to be a rather traditional one.Labels have a tendency to alienate: “co-dependent”, “single parent”, “dysfunctional”or “liberal” set up walls to communication. In a marriage based on Philia, theapplication of labels such as “just like a woman”, “bipolar”, “whiner”, “lazy”,“careless” can be used to force the partner into repressing uniqueness and complyingwith an expected role: usually the role the person played when the relationshipbegan. But people grow and change and seldom remain the same forever. Philia canhinder individual growth. A marriage based on Philia love will soon founder whenthey discover how different they really are. A common complaint is “why can’t you belike you used to be?”Philia is the basis behind hero worship and idolatry. But our heroes and idols havefeet of clay and will disappoint us some day. If they are blindly followed, they can leadone astray. The exclusivity of Philia can lead to labeling people with derogatory nameslike “nigger”, “drunken Indian”, “welfare refugees”, “perverts”, or “infidels”. CorruptPhilia can be the basis for all organized violence: gangs, terrorists, and even war. 9
  10. 10. Eros includes, but is not limited to erotic, sexual love. It is essentially a love that says:“I love you because my make me feel good.” The tavern floozies cling to Gastonbecause he is “such a hottie”, but the hunter in him distains their affection: he lovesthe chase more than the catch. This is the essence of the cheap love portrayed inHollywood romances. It can be a powerful motivator: both for good and evil. Since itwas implanted by the Creator, we cannot condemn it as inherently evil. Without thedriving force of sexual attraction, it is doubtful if any person would volunteer tosubject themselves to the painful burden of childbearing. God put sexual desirewithin us so we could obey His command to our first parents: “Be fruitful andmultiply.”Gary Thomas has studied how the church has struggled with the power of sexual lovefor 20 centuries. The general assumption was that to become truly holy, one had tobecome an ascetic: a priest, nun or monk who took vows of chastity. It is significantthat none of the holy persons that were recognized and canonized by the Romanchurch were married. Yet those ascetics spend lifetimes in sexual and physicalmortification to try and achieve spiritual experiences that would make them “feelgood.” Recently, there has been a move towards a more balanced view: and sexuallove is not necessarily devoid of spirituality. This was already well known to theBiblical writer of the Song of Solomon, who reveled in the physical beauty of hisbeloved and the delights of sensuous love. 10
  11. 11. In the movie, the lover motivated by Eros was the handsome and powerful Gaston. Not only was he admirable forhis physical prowess, he knew it and admired himself. Whole libraries of books have been written on improvingself-esteem, but Gaston didn’t need to read them. But he could have used some lessons in humility andconquering narcissismDespite Gaston’s overdone conceit and bragging about himself, he does not seem unrealistic. Our world is full ofbraggarts and the marketplace encourages them. Hero worship is aggressively promoted by our culture: whetherit is Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or Oprah Winfrey. They seem to get everything they want (whichcauses us to want it too) Superstar status overshadows and camouflages their very obvious moral failures andcharacter defects. By their example of temporary marriage, they make light of perseverance and fidelity andpromote early divorce. Gary Thomas says: Evaluating your marriage so soon is like trying to eat a cake that’s halfbaked. In fact some experts suggest it takes from nime to fourteen years for a couple to truly ‘create and form its’being”. (Mary Ann McPherson Oliver, Conjugal Spirituality: ThePrimacy fo Mutual Love in Christina Tradition,Kansas city: Sheed and Ward, 1994 quoted in Thomas, 107)Despite the fact that in psychology and psychiatry, excessive narcissism is recognized as a severe personalitydisorder, there does not seem to be much scholarly interest in studying it. A new name for a narcissist is“metrosexual” where narcissism and consumerism come together. The post-modern challenge is to becomeattractive to both sexes. The British soccer team captain David Beckham is the poster boy for narcissism. MarkSimpson says: For some time now, old-fashioned (re)productive, repressed, unmoisturized heterosexuality hasbeen given the pink slip by consumer capitalism. The stoic, self-denying, modest straight male didnt shopenough…(BUT) given all its obsession with attractiveness, vanity for vanitys sake turns out to be not very sexyafter all.”Gary Thomas tells a story about a famous actress who spent up to five hours a day in the gym to refine her bodyenhancing surgery in preparation for a movie where she would appear naked. (213) He notes that people “putmore effort into changing physically than changing internally by growing in godliness.” (216) Our bodies havesomehow become marketable commodities like garments.While women have long been considered vulnerable to narcissism and focusing on their outward appearance, itseems males have now joined them The biblical injunction in this post-modern age applies equally to men andwomen: ”3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearingof gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle andquiet spirit, which is of great worth in Gods sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4) Physical bodies fade (and sag). The quality ofcharacter that creates inner beauty is eternal. 11
  12. 12. Eros when thwarted is not prepared to suffer. Thomas says: “Romantic Love has noelasticity to it. It can never be stretched; it simply shatters. (15) When the object oflove does not make the lover feel good any more, the response can get ugly: such selfseeking love will quickly turn to jealousy, anger and manipulation to get what itwants. When his plans are thwarted, Gaston even sinks to manipulating Belle to sayyes by throwing her beloved father into an insane asylum.John Bradshaw says: “When sex is disengaged from awe, reverence and mystery(healthy shame) it becomes a sickness of soul and falls into the hogpen of spiritualbankruptcy.” (269) 12
  13. 13. Eros can be described as “Gillette Razor blade love”. Just as a fresh, sharp razor bladefeels good when it is new, it soon becomes dull and is thrown away and replaced witha new one. But humans are not like things that become obsolete. Eros overlooksinner qualities and only values the attributes that make them “feel good”. Thomaswrites: ….good marriages work hard to preserve a sense of romance. But the ideathat a marriage can survive on romance alone, or that romantic feelings are moreimportant than any other consideration when choosing a spouse, has wrecked manya marital ship. (14) 13
  14. 14. Agape love loves a person just the way they are. It is the highest and noblest love.According to C. S Lewis, it is not a love set apart from the other varieties of love, but afulfillment of them. This love comes from Jesus Christ: St. John said:"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as anatoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought tolove one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives inus and his love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:10-12C.S. Lewis says that “this primal love is Gift-love. In God there is no hunger that needsto be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.” the very reason God createdhumankind was to love them and give to them. “Divine Gift-love in the man enableshim to love what is not naturally lovable; lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, thesulky, the superior and the sneering.” But the root, the well from which this Agapelove springs is the ability that humans have to love God Himself. 14
  15. 15. When Belle tries to escape from him, the Beast bravely protects her against a pack of wildwolves, which attack him instead. Beast has “fallen in love” with Belle, but he lets her go tocare for her ailing father. An anonymous proverb states: "If you love something let it go, if itcomes back to you it’s yours, if it doesn’t, it never was.” He subsequently falls into thesuffering of depression, which is made worse by Gaston and the townsfolk storming his castleseeking to destroy him. But his selfless love has captured Belle’s heart, and she runs to hisside weeping while he writhes in pain from the near fatal wound that Gaston has inflicted.Charles Lindbergh’s wife Anne stated:“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would bewise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience,love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”Brian Atkinson gives an example of Agape. Bill, a US Marine whose face and arm was blownoff by a grenade in Viet Nam is in hospital where several veterans were being treated fordevastating injuries requiring plastic surgery. His wife visited him and assured him of herundying love and promised to stay with him: she told him she would be angry with him if hedied! But other men in the ward were told by their wives that their marriage was over. Theysoon died, but Bill had a reason for living. Such devotion and Agape love is live giving.Unfortunately, the reality is that many marriages founder when touched by disfigurement,disability or sickness. Nearly three quarters of terminal illness patients are deserted by theirspouses. Very few people take seriously the public vow they made during their weddingceremony.“to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, insickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part; according to Gods holyordinances.” 15
  16. 16. The story delightfully unfolds as Belle’s interest begins to grow due to the Beast’sefforts to win her approval despite his horrid looks, his uncouth mannerisms and lackof social skills. His effort to love and win her love begins to transform him. The Beasthad an advantage over most men, because he knew there is a time limit or he willlose all. Too many marriages have ended in divorce because one partner (usually theman) procrastinates on the necessary changes he needs to make. He thinks he willget around to it some day. He knows he needs to learn better communication skills,spend more time at home instead of the office, go to the marriage counselor or justget up off the couch and exercise to become more physically fit. However, God said inGenesis” My spirit will not remain in human beings forever for they are corrupt”.Genesis 6:3 (TNIV) Similarly, spouses may also get tired of waiting for the relationshipto improve and suddenly the invisible line is crossed and irreparable harm has beendone to the marriage. So they leave. 16
  17. 17. The climax of the story occurs when Belle finally at the last minute expresses her lovefor the Beast just before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose. In the story, theugly, repulsive Beast is transformed into a classic, handsome prince.Although this is a fairy tale legend, it contains a timeless truth. True Agape lovetransforms. The path to Agape love may not be easy, but the results are worth it. Itinvolves a dying to oneself and living for the good of the beloved. 17
  18. 18. Francis de Sales told a young woman:“The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other.It is a perpetual exercise of mortification…From this thyme plant, in spite of the bitternature of its juice, you may be able to drawn and make the honey of a holy life.”Agape love is best demonstrated by the example God gave us in sending his Son intothe world to conquer death for our salvation: But God demonstrates his own love forus in this:“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, ifindeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans8:17-18 (NIV) 18
  19. 19. A very meaningful ritual takes place in a Greek Orthodox wedding. The bride and groom arecrowned with laurel wreaths: deliberately similar to the crown of thorns born by our Savior.These symbolize the Martyrs’ crown of glory that they will receive for enduring suffering forthe name of Christ. “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they havestood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who lovehim.” James 1:12 (NIV) Marriage is meant to be a demonstration of God’s self sacrificial love.“Scripture tells us that the husband must love his wife even as Christ also loved the Churchand gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). Just recall Christs words to His followers: “Greaterlove hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend.” Love, then, from the Christianstandpoint, means sacrifice, and self-denial. A husband must take as much care, concern,thoughtfulness, attention, regard and precautions for his wife as Christ takes for the Church.The husbands attentiveness might even have to extend to death itself. For just as Christ wasput to death for His love of the Church, so too the Orthodox Christian husband must yield allthings - even his life, if necessary - for his wife.”The same must hold true for the wife.Gary Thomas writes: “Persistence doesn’t make sense unless we live with a keen sense ofeternity…I promise you, you won’t find one reference to a ‘crown in heaven’ that goes to theperson who had the ‘happiest’ life on earth.”“The ‘paschal mystery of marriage’—the process of dying and rising as a pattern of marriedlife for married people. Each day we must die to our own desires and rise as a servant. Eachday we are called to identify with the suffering Christ on the cross and them be empowered bythe resurrected Christ. We die to our expectations, our demand and our fears. We rise tocompromise, service and courage. 19
  20. 20. Agape love in marriage is not in essence a different category of love, it is a richer quality. It is thefulfillment of the three other loves, which C.S. Lewis calls “the natural loves.” Agape “indicate[s] wheretheir glory lies.”The marriage based on mothering Storgē love, can develop into a “differentiated unity” as describedby the Balswicks. It is a love based more on giving than taking.A marriage that has degenerated into a boring routine of Philia love can be rejuvenated. Stanley et aladvises: When differences arise, the partners need to “stop wearing fig leaves” become vulnerable andbegin meaningful conversation so that intimacy can be restored. Les & Leslie Parrot remind us never toforget the two most overlooked romantic phrases: “I was wrong.” and “Will you forgive me?”A love that is merely romantic eroticism can transform into what Thomas Moore describes as aspiritual marriage:“We find the spiritual marriage not beyond the sensual, but through it, by means of it. The loverexplores the body of his beloved and discovers himself at his source. His partner has brought out hiserotic potential and given it an opportunity for realization; but what is exposed to real love is alwaysthe deep soul, never only what mentality we intend or understand.”Jack and Judy Balswick write; “The free-flowing exchange in which two persons intermingle to form amystical one-flesh union is deeply satisfying emotionally and intellectually and spiritually.” “Agape is patient, Agape is kind. Agape does not envy, Agape does not boast, Agape is not proud. Agape does not dishonor others, Agape is not self-seeking, Agape is not easily angered, Agape keeps no record of wrongs. Agape does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Agape always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 20
  21. 21. While Belle and her prince lived happily ever after, in reality the struggle for Agape love inmarriage cycles throughout life. It is the Christian hope in the resurrection that gives thisstruggle purpose and meaning.Illustrations were captured electronically from the Award winning Disney Movie “Beauty and the Beast” and royalty free postersfrom the Internet Movie Database were taken from the following sources:BibliographyAtkinson, Brian. "The Love of Beauty and the Beast." BC Attorney General’s Conference on Youth Violence (1993).Balswick, Jack O., and Judith K. Balswick. A Model for Marriage : Covenant, Grace, Empowerment and Intimacy. DownersGrove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2006.Bradshaw, John. Healing the Shame that Binds You. Expanded and Updated ed. Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications,2005.Church of England in Canada. Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, Hymn Book Canada. Edited by Synod ofthe Church of England in the Dominion of Canada. Cambridge England ; Toronto: University Press, 1918.Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. London: Collins, 1963.Parrott, Les, and Leslie L. Parrott. 51 Creative Ideas for Marriage Mentors : Connecting Couples to Build Better Marriages.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006."Meet the Metrosexual." in Salon Media Group, Inc [database online]. San Francisco, CA July 22, 2002 [cited 2009]. Availablefrom, Scott. A Lasting Promise : A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage. 1 ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.Thomas, Gary. Sacred Marriage : What if God Designed Marriage to make Us Holy More than to make Us Happy? GrandRapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000.Trousdale, Gary, and Kirk Wise. "Beauty and the Beast." VHS Video (1991).Yancey, Philip. Where is God when it Hurts? : A Comforting, Healing Guide for Coping with Hard Times. Rev & updat , 1Zondervan mass market ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.Young, Alexey. "The Orthodox Christian Marriage." Orthodox America Vol XVII, No. 6, no. Issue 154 (1998). Journal on-line.Available from, 25 June 2009. 21