I knew a woman who was married to one of the most wonderful men ever. We all loved him. He was kind, gentle, self-less, a great husband and a great dad.
This woman, and I shall call her Susan, and her husband, and I shall call him Martin, had three beautiful, well-disciplined and loved children. They were about 12, 9, and 6. Then, Susan got cancer. She deteriorated quickly from a rare cancer which caused her to lose the use of her legs. She was confined to a wheel-chair at thirty-five or so. Martin took care of her. He got the best home care. He loved her. He brought her to Mass and prayer meetings. He brought her to her treatments and to healing Masses. He was devoted. He then took time off work and helped with everything, including helping with the children.
But Susan was not happy. She had expectations for her marriage and her relationship with Martin. She became angry and bitter. She could not come to terms with her suffering.
Martin did. For better, for worse, in sickness and in health....
For the last two or so years of her life, Susan was daily unhappy, angry, bitter, sad.
Marriage was a disaster for her. Life was only a trial. She hated everything. She hated Martin's love.
It was clear that her idea of the sacrament of marriage had been based on pleasure and personal enrichment. The idea that the sacrament of marriage would lead from eros to agape to caritas was an ideal she could not accept.
She never got past eros. She died very unhappy, making life very hard for those around her.
Martin understood agape and caritas. He never complained.
Several years after the death of Susan, Martin met Delia. They got married and were very happy.
The only reason I knew Martin had suffered in his first marriage was one comment-"It was hard sometimes." But, we all saw her bitterness.
Martin suffered for his wife Susan's inability to be married, to be grateful for a loving husband who cared for her. She could not accept suffering as part of the relationship. She resented his love.
I hope she found peace. I do not know.
But, if marriage is not taught as a sacrificial act of self-denial, expectations grow larger than life.
None of us know how a marriage will evolve. Physicality is simply not enough. It is not "everything". We are our bodies but so much more.
We are to be like Martin, living saints, putting the other first in all things. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses so that we can cope honestly and courageously is part of maturity, part of love.
Susan did not accept agape. She did not accept caritas. She could have been peaceful at death, instead of bitter. She could have grown to love Martin and to love her own life, as God had chosen it for her.
Marriage is a mystery. ToB destroys the understanding that love is a mystery.
ToB takes away the mystery of our physicality. It destroys intimacy.
We need to be taught intimacy. Susan did not know how to be intimate without sex. She could not love without her body. She was trapped in her own limitations, not seeing how she could transcend those.
Marriage helps us transcend our limitations. Love transcends sex and can flourish without sex.
Love is more sublime than sex.
To be continued....