Recently, while topic shopping, I came across a site called Marriage Builders. It is the work of Dr. William Harley, who seems to be a one man corporation when it comes to writing about and discussing marriage. He has a decidedly Christian bent to his work, although I’m guessing he’s not Catholic. At any rate, having read a number of his articles, they are consistently well-reasoned and well-written. I recommend you bookmark the site, as there is a wealth of material available to those interested in the subject of marriage.
After our Valentine’s Day Marriage on Tap event, one of the best ever, I was hunting for articles on the myths of marriage and, while having discovered several good ones and many not-so-good ones, I came across one of Dr. Harley’s articles on the subject of unconditional love in marriage. Please follow the link, for the article contains some controversial thoughts with which many of you may disagree.
I recall a parish mission some years ago at which the speaker asked the audience to list everyone they loved in the order in which they loved them. Along with many of the attendees, I put my wife Nancy at the top of my list, followed by my kids and The Holy Trinity. Now, please don’t let my poor writing skills confuse you into thinking that hundreds of men put Nancy at the top of their lists; they put THEIR wives at the top. 🙂 The speaker went on to explain that we should ALL have God at the top of our lists, that God’s love for us is unconditional and therefore of a higher order than the love we feel for our spouses.
Dr. Harley’s article supports the notion that God loves us more than we love one another, but takes on the notion of its being unconditional. Discussing this with Nancy, she flat out disagreed with him, arguing that God’s covenant is not a contract, citing several verses from scripture, and basically taking advantage of my lack of knowledge of the Bible. She agreed with the author and with me that spousal love is not and should not be unconditional, that if I were to come home from work everyday and beat her senseless she should not continue to love me as she does. Again, being better at this stuff than I am, she cited Thomas Aquinas, who famously argued that the nature of love is willing the good of the other for his own sake, which describes God’s love for us, in that God does not need us. God gets nothing in return for loving us. And this despite the fact that we may, using our free will, choose not to love God in return, which does nothing to diminish his love for us. This, in turn, suggests that it is, unfortunately, possible to be loved by God and to also go to Hell.
Where was I? Right, unconditional love in marriage, which seems to belong on one of the many lists of marriage myths that clutter up the internet. Please pray on this and discuss it with your spouse.
Nice post Bruce! Denise McGonigal Director, Adult Religious Education
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church 14598 Oak Ridge Rd. Carmel, In 46032