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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 September 28, 2020

We must practice modesty, not only in our looks, but also in...

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September 28

 

We must practice modesty,
not only in our looks, but also in our whole deportment,
and particularly
in our dress, our walk, our conversation, and all similar actions.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Wenceslaus

The jealous brother stabbed the king and held him down as ot...

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St. Wenceslaus

Wenceslaus was born near Prague in the year 907. His father was Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and his mother, Dragomir, a pretended Christian, but a secret favorer of paganism. One of twins, Wenceslaus was raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla, while his brother, known as Boleslaus the Cruel, was raised by their mother. Jealous of the great influence which Ludmilla wielded over Wenceslaus, Dragomir instigated two noblemen to murder her. She is said to have been strangled by them with her own veil. Wratislaw died in 916, also at the hand of assassins, leaving the eight-year-old Wenceslaus as his successor. Acting as regent for her son, Dragomir actively opposed Christianity and promoted pagan practices.

Urged by the people, Wenceslaus took over the reins of government and placed his duchy under the protection of Charlemagne’s successor, the German Henry I. Emperor Otto I subsequently conferred on him the dignity and title of king. However, his German suzerainty and his support of Catholicism within Bohemia were vehemently opposed by some of his subjects and a rebellion ensued.

After the virtuous monarch married and had a son, the king’s brother Boleslaus, seeing himself displaced from the direct succession to the throne by his nephew, joined the rebellion. At the instigation of their mother, Dragomir, Boleslaus conspired with the rebels to murder his royal brother. In September of 929, Boleslaus invited Wenceslaus to celebrate the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian with him. The king accepted, and on the night of the feast, said his prayers and went to bed. The next morning, as Wenceslaus walked to Mass, he met Boleslaus and stopped to thank him for his hospitality. Instead, the jealous brother stabbed the king and held him down as other traitors killed him. King Wenceslaus’s last words were addressed to his brother. “Brother, may God forgive you!” His body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of the murder.

Three years later, having repented of his deed, Boleslaw ordered the translation of his brother’s remains to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague where they may be venerated to this day. The martyr-king is the patron of Bohemia, Hungary and Poland.

Photo by: Ales Tosovsky

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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