Excerpt from “Love and Fidelity in the Family”
Love is beautiful as well as those emotions and passions which accompany it. I decided to separately treat the case of true love and infatuation because it may make the previous discourse more difficult. It is important to understand how the human heart works (by heart I do not mean the organ but the “heart” which is used to metaphorically speak of the soul, as when you say “with all my heart I believe/love). The primordial fall introduced three principal disorders in man, viz. (i) the disorder in communion between man and God, (ii) between man and the rest of creation and (iii) ‘between’ man and himself. This last one is the reason for the many “malfunctions” we perceive in us. Many things went wrong in man, which the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has come to heal. Our perceptions deceive us, we cherish and trust the wrong people, we purchase fake products, and we mistake someone for another person, to name but a few.
I firmly believe that true love is love for the PERSON, not love for a quality in the person. You cannot love him because he is fair, classy, rich, and intelligent. However, these things may help strengthen the love we have for people, but they must never be the primary bases of our love for them. When love bases itself primarily on a quality, it is not true love. Again, some fall in love with an experience they had of a person rather than the person. He fell in love “at first sight” when he saw her smile and wave a friend goodbye; that instant he feels “she’s perfect”. Yet others’ loves are actually prompted only by sex drives, nothing else is of greater importance than the body; sexual attraction is to them the ultimate. What happens when she stops smiling? What happens when she is too old for sex? Does love die then?
All these things are good (experience we have with people, sex etc), when kept in their right places. The mistake we often make is not having any of these feelings and thoughts. Of course, there should be something about your fiancée you love; her smile, laugh, voice, step etc. I believe that if there is nothing like this in you, then maybe you are not in love at all, because these things renew the love we have within our hearts. The problem rather is that we ‘absolutize’ the wrong things; we make mere servants our lords.
Our take-home is that whenever our love is impersonal or based on some fleeting feeling; something changeable, then we are not in love at all. Infatuation builds itself on something fleeting; something momentary; something changeable. True love on the other hand is built upon something somewhat immutable; a person. Much as we rightly say a person changes, however it is his qualities that change, and no one or two qualities in him is him. So the bottom line is when we love qualities in a person, we are not loving the person for the person but for what the person possesses and this is the mistake.
With Fulton Sheen, I believe that we all carry a sample of our loves in our hearts. So that when we see the “Right One”, we go “That’s it!” Nothing can equal Love. But infatuation breeds disturbance and unease. Immaturity is the primary cause of being infatuated. Some jump into relationships before they are mature enough for such; before they are old enough and ready to be married. Jumping into relationships causes great danger to the emotional development of people, as it may stunt the full development of a person’s emotional life. What is a primary/secondary school girl/boy doing with a lover? Good God! This is disturbing. These are the people who in future find marriage unhappy; they are also the people who find fidelity difficult. God cannot be mocked, everything has its own time; stretch it beyond its point, and someone gets hurt. I do not wish to discuss this further as I have not written this book for children.