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How Romanticism Ruins Marriages

 

How is Romanticism ruining marriages?  The reason is:

“Romanticism by its very essence and its very definition is made of illusions, of whims, of uncontrolled passions, and hypothetical affections for people who could exist only in dream worlds.”

In others words, because of Romanticism, people build their marriages on illusions. Soon, the romantic feelings that were the only “glue” of their marriages start to dissolve.

And many couples sit there and wonder:

“What went wrong?”

First, let us recall some of the kinds of “heroes” and “heroines” of romanticism.

There is the “sensitive” type of hero. He can be imagined as a youth (there is nothing less romantic than fifty years of age) with fine, clean features. His large melancholic eyes are lost in the empty horizon. His hair and clothes are disheveled. His chest heaves with burning aspirations, undefined, torturing, seeking the complete happiness of true love.

But no-one understands him. In the deep recesses of his soul are awesome horizons. There are indescribable desires that need, seek, and beg to be understood by a “sister soul". There must exist in the vastness of this world a being created to understand him. He is searching for her, for only in finding her will he have happiness... And so he wanders sadly through life until he meets her.

Then there is the romantic hero of the “terrible” type. He is morally identical to the previous type, though somewhat different in appearance. He exudes manliness, has an athletic physique, and a rather dark attractiveness, like a character from one of Wagner’s operas. He commands a great fortune, high social status, immense influence, everything, in short, that life can offer... But (and here is the “romance” of the scenario) there is a deep wound in his heart: a burning love, a tremendous disappointment, a weight as heavy and as cold as a tombstone, that will never find on the face of the earth a love that matches his heart’s desires.

Symmetrical to this is the figure of the “heroine". It would not be difficult to find a couple of typical examples.

Black and white photo. Young man in white-tie attire is on one knee before a young woman sitting on a chair in an old fashioned formal gown or wedding dress, with a long skirt fanned around her, large puffy sleeves, and a crown, with hair down. They are holding hands, and both are looking upwards with a dreamy expression. The first is the “delicate” type. She is charming, delicate of soul and body. Any pain and she begins to cry, any abrasion of her soul makes her suffer. Simple as a child, she carries in her heart an immense desire to dedicate herself to someone and to be wanted by someone. She needs to be protected because of her complete fragility, a fragility that is reflected in the meekness of her gaze, in the sweet inflections of her voice, in the refinement of her features, in the delicacy of her complexion.

The other example would be the heroine of the “grandiose” type. A dazzling beauty with the stature and bearing of a queen. She is the natural center of attention, esteem, and dedication. A dominating and fatal presence! But of course, deep in her heart is a hidden trembling, a profound sorrow, a great and hidden pain. It is the bitterness of a past disillusionment, the anxious and hopeless search for someone who truly understands her.

At her feet, poets, dukes, millionaires uselessly groan and plead. She is uninterested. With a gaze that is haughty, yet profound and very sad, she searches far and wide throughout her life for that which she will never find. And what is it that she seeks? It is the happiness of a great love, as she understands love, according to her most “noble” and tormenting aspirations. She carries all this in her heart like a secret and unending flow of blood.

The reader will perhaps smile. Doesn’t all this seem outdated? Could anyone who sees a young man or a young woman passing by in a cheerfully colored car, in this age of levity, recreation, and fitness, doubt that we are light-years away from romanticism? The young man is practical, strong, joyful, seems well set in life, and is full of the desire to succeed.

The young woman is also practical, independent, enterprising, and often avid for action. She is happy with life and wants to live it to the full. So what has she in common with the romantic heroine that moved our grandmothers to tears?

We agree that modern utilitarianism has created a climate of tolerance for marriages that are inspired by cynically financial motives. Nor do we deny that calculations based on careers and social standing influence marriages nowadays much more than before. But if the numerous examples of such marriages today lead us to conclude that this is the general rule, we would be greatly mistaken.

“Sentiment” remains very influential despite all the utilitarianism. And if we analyze this sentiment we will see that it is simply a very superficial up-dating of the old romantic themes.

In our democratic age, distinguished and exceptional characters are no longer acceptable. Today’s “hero”  is the popular guy, and the damsel is the “glamour girl". These popular guys and glamour girls are all exactly the same as so many others. The mechanization of modern life forces them to be less outstanding than the “heroes” of yesteryear, and with fewer of those endless wanderings of the mind.

All this somewhat restricts the effusions of imagination and sentimentality. But these restrictions notwithstanding, when it comes to matters of love it is always the same sugary sentimentalism, the same vague desires. It is the same misunderstandings, the same search for affinities, the same crises, the same desires for affectionate and unending happiness, and the same and chronic precariousness of all these “happinesses.”

To prove this we don’t need a psychological study of second-rate literary and film fare that abounds today and that truly forms the spirit of the masses. I think it sufficient that the reader have just a little bit of common sense to see how just our observations are. In fact, the great majority of marriages today that result from "falling in love" are based on ideas thoroughly imbued with romantic sentimentalism.

And this is the problem. We have some marriages based on mercenary self-interest and others on affection. And those that are based on affection are generally influenced by romanticism. This being so, the stability of a marriage will depend in large measure on how long self-interest or romanticism will enable the spouses to endure one another.

There is no reason to dwell on self-interest; I think it is clear enough. Let us concentrate instead on the influence of romanticism.

Above all, we need to emphasize that romanticism is essentially frivolous. It eagerly presupposes the greatest virtues in the “heroine” or the “hero", but in the final analysis these virtues count for very little in the survival of mutual affection. Sentimentalism is generally very forgiving of real moral defects, ingratitudes, injustices, and even outright betrayals. But it does not forgive trivialities!

So for example (and let’s take our examples from the flesh and blood of real life), it will be a ridiculous way of snoring at night, it will be bad breath, or it will be any other small human misery that can kill romantic sentiments without any right of appeal. Romantic sentiments which, it must be remembered, have turned a blind eye to the most grave reasons for complaint.

Now, daily life is a fabric woven of trifles. And there is no one who does not have some that are rather difficult to bear. Because of this it has already become commonplace to talk about the disillusionments that come after the honeymoon. “After this period", someone once told me, “my wife didn't deceive me, but filled me with disillusionment.”

Painting of Romeo and Juliet kissing on the balcony. Romanticism by its very essence and its very definition is made of illusions, of whims, of uncontrolled passions, and hypothetical affections for people who could exist only in dream worlds. Consequently, in a short time the feelings that were the only psychological basis of marital stability begin to dissolve.

Naturally, persons in this state do not go to the bottom of things. They do not understand how totally unattainable their desires were, and purely and simply assume that they made a mistake. They thus conclude that they can yet find in someone the happiness that this marriage did not give. Accustomed to living only and exclusively for their own happiness, accustomed to seeing happiness exclusively as the gratification of sentimental diversions, such persons will judge their life incurably ruined -- unless, of course, they are able to satisfy these illusions in another way.

Moreover, they will judge equally ruined the lives of all the many other people who fell into the same “mistake", so divorce will become as absolutely necessary as the air they breath.

What impression will a serious argumentation against divorce, reinforced by the cold language of statistics, possibly have on a person in this state of mind?

Accustomed to mental wanderings, but not to thinking, this person detests any form of argumentation, above all when it is serious. The mere language of numbers seems ridiculous to such a person. And to talk to this person of the sociology of marriage and love will seem to him about as shocking as speaking of the most technical aspects of botany to a poet who is entertaining himself by admiring the beauty of a flower.

Thus one can see that those who uphold the Church’s traditional teachings concerning the indissolubility of marriage would strike the wrong target by trying to use argumentation based on morality or on the common good with people who are only interested in their own individual happiness in a world of dreams and fantasy.

And here we approach the end.

In the final analysis, romanticism is sheer egoism.

The romantic does not seek anything but his own happiness. He can only think of love in the sense that the other is an instrument for his happiness. He desires this emotional happiness so much that if free rein is given to his sentiments, they will jump all barriers of morality, will ignore all considerations of the common good, and he will brutally satisfy his instincts. And nothing is built on egoism... especially the family.

It is necessary, therefore, to begin a tremendous anti-romantic offensive. It is necessary to explain the fundamental difference between Christian love (charity) and the romantic sentimentalism still in fashion. It is necessary to explain that Christian love is something imbued with the supernatural, full of common sense and balance; profoundly pious, authentic and generous. It triumphs over all wild wanderings of the imagination and the rebellious senses, and over the sensual, egotistical love of unrestrained passions.

It is false to imagine that true Christian spouses are the heroes of a romance who by a happy coincidence build an authentic marriage, according to Canon Law, as a preliminary step to the mere satisfaction of their passions.

As long as sentimentalist-romantic concepts influence the outlook of engaged couples, every marriage will be precarious, because it will be built on the soft, shifting, volcanic ground of human egoism.

It is commonly said that the family is the basis of society. But, as Saint Augustine teaches, there are two societies: the City of the Devil is built on the love of self to the exclusion of God; the City of God is built on the love of God and neighbor to the exclusion of self.

Marriages based on romantic sentiments and egoism are not the foundations of the City of God.

 


 

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 12, 2020

“Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the...

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July 12

 

“Know you not
that you are the temple of God, and
that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
(1 Corinthians 3:16)

St. Paul the Apostle


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. John Gualbert

Meeting his brother’s murderer in a narrow alley, he was a...

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St. John Gualbert

John Gualbert or Giovanni Gualberto, was a Florentine nobleman who one day, meeting his brother’s murderer in a narrow alley was about to slay him when the culprit, falling to his knees, implored mercy with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross. It was a Good Friday, and Gualbert, suddenly reminded of Jesus Crucified, embraced the man and forgave him.

Going on his way, John entered the monastery of St. Miniato where he knelt before a crucifix. As he prayed, the crucifix miraculously bowed his head in thanks for John’s act of generosity. Struck to the heart, Gualbert sought the abbot, asked to be given the religious habit, and was ultimately accepted.

He later left St. Miniato with a companion, looking for a more perfect way of life and founded, in Vallombrosa near Fiesole, a new order based on the primitive, austere rule of St. Benedict adapted to the particular circumstances of his time.

He was known for his zeal but also for his mildness, and for making the burden of discipline sweet. In his humility he never received even minor orders. He zealously fought simony, which is the sale of ecclesiastical posts.

His order grew and monasteries multiplied, which were a blessing to their regions and especially to the poor, as no beggar was ever turned away empty handed.

Popes sought his wise counsel, and Pope Alexander II testified that the whole country where he lived owed the extinction of simony to his zeal.

John Gualbert died on July 12, 1073 being eighty or more years of age. Pope Celestine III canonized him in 1193.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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