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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 May 25, 2020

“I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace...

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May 25

 

“I will take away
not the grace but the feeling of grace.
Though I will seem to leave you
I will be closer to you.”

Our Lord to St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Pope St. Gregory VII

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cri...

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Pope St. Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand in Tuscany, Italy. Little else is known of his early life. Hailed, historically, as one of the greatest of the Church's pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all time, his name, Hildebrand, meant “bright flame”. Those who hated him, which were many, interpreted the name as “brand of Hell”.

Hildebrand was a Benedictine monk, for a time living in Cluny, from whence he certainly gleaned the monastery’s ideal of societal reform.

As a cleric, he became chaplain to Pope Gregory VI, and a few years later, under Leo IX was made Cardinal Deacon. A man of outstanding energy and insight, Hildebrand became a power in Rome. It is greatly due to him that the practice of electing popes through a college of cardinals was established.

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cried out for the holy genius who had helped steer the Church for twenty years, “Hildebrand for Pope! Holy Peter wants Hildebrand, the Archdeacon!” Once before the holy monk had eluded the tiara but this time a proper college of cardinals, seconding the popular cry, induced him to accept an honor duly his.

Hildebrand assumed the name Gregory VII, and threw his energy and zeal into a continued reform, especially fighting simony (the sale of ecclesiastical posts) and clerical incontinence.

He confronted Emperor Henry IV head- on about his practice of choosing men for ecclesiastical positions. On meeting with dogged resistance, the pontiff finally had recourse to excommunication which drastically curtailed the proud monarch’s power, ultimately bringing Henry on foot to the Pope at the Castle of Canossa. Because of Henry’s rebellious obstinacy, Pope Gregory saw fit to leave him out in the cold for three days before receiving and reinstating the royal penitent.

But Henry failed to make any true personal reform and alienated his princes who elected another ruler. Still, he later rallied and went as far as electing another Pope, a Clement III, calling down upon himself another sentence of excommunication. He also attacked and entered the Eternal City in 1084, which forced Pope Gregory into exile. Henry had his protégée “pope” crown him Emperor. Ultimately repelled by an army fighting for the true pope, the Emperor Henry left Rome, but complications sent Gregory VII again into exile, this time to die.

His last words before his death were a summary of how he had lived, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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