Does the Catholic view on marriage increase tension among spouses?

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The greatest challenge of any relationship is simultaneously the source of its beauty, value, and mystery. Here, I am talking about tension. I am not speaking of a psychological or muscular concept, rather a very deep and human one. I have in mind, for example, the tension that results from looking into the eyes of another. It is an experience that pulls at you, demands that you abandon your self-enclosed egoism and recognize the existence and value of the other.

Yet, you realize as well that you too have value and are by no means forfeitable. Both you and the other have a value that cannot be denied nor ignored. How to respond? How to withstand the inward draw towards oneself and the outward draw towards the other?

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You can’t choose one; you must choose both. To abandon one or the other means death. Ignoring the other so as to satisfy one’s selfish caprices means death. Forfeiting oneself in a blind offering towards the other results in death. The Catholic path is the path of tension: embracing two realities that mutually attract a force upon the other without ever nullifying it.


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Today’s culture, on the other hand, so apparently enthralled with the idea of diversity, is ironically appalled by the reality of it. The existential tension that is necessary for any relationship worth having has been designated as “stress” and considered something to be avoided or medicated.

“Differences” then, such as sexual ones, have been transformed into ephemeral expressions of the will. Everyone should be able to “will” differently without really being so. What many fail to deduce from this perspective is it’s drastically contradictory position, one completely opposed to diversity: we are really all the same, anyone that says differently is intolerant.

This is what we call relaxing the tension and the result is a society founded on the pure fluidity of values and identity, something like a body without a skeletal structure that slumps to the ground. It appears to be a more conciliatory and convenient path than the one of tension explained beforehand. In reality, it is a path of surrender, a path of despair: we abdicate from our humanity, from our identity, because we are afraid and unwilling to support the tension.

Love can’t handle tension

There is a fundamental presupposition at the bottom of all this: love can’t handle tension. Differences necessarily compete and cause conflict; they aren’t complementary. As such, the goal becomes diluting or removing them. There is an attempt to change the rules of the game, to conform them to how we would like them to be, to what makes us more comfortable.

From a Catholic viewpoint, however, diversity is the fruit of God’s will and for this reason, Catholics love diversity!. The origin of diversity is love which is designed to enter into a relationship of harmony and complementarity. The greatest obstacle isn’t so much the fact that we are different, it is the fact that we are sinners who try to deny or manipulate these differences according to our egoism.

Our Faith demands of us that we go to great lengths to understand this diversity in the light of God’s plan to marvel at it, to respect it, and to respond to it in obedience and love. Apply all this to the relationship between a man and woman, taking into account each one’s spiritual, psychological and physical characteristics, and you will discover the Catholic teaching on marriage.

About Garrett Johnson

Garrett Johnson has written 373 post in this blog.

Born in Texas, I fell in love with evangelization when I was 18. A former NET member and a Franciscan University of Steubenville Alumnus, I am now living in Rome and studying for the priesthood.

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