The feeling that is not everlasting cannot be called “love”
I’d like to begin with the statement that true love never ends! The feeling that is not timeless doesn’t have the right to be called “love”. When discussing family issues with senior high school students, I usually start by giving the definition of “love” and of “falling in love”. Love is when “two become one flesh”, when two people come together and their souls unite into one flesh. Falling in love differs from love. Falling in love is merely a process of love being conceived but not quite developed yet. In fact, “falling in love” causes an emotional outburst and is experienced much more dramatically than love itself.
How does a relationship between a young guy and a young girl develop with time? On the first date the heart is thrilled with excitement, the breath is caught and the mind is blurred… The second date… The third… The fifth… after the tenth the heart is not so thrilled anymore and the breath isn’t caught so much but the relationship is in the process of a further development. The next stage – the first tender touch, he holds her hand and it seems as if a lightning bold rushes through their hands and bodies. Again, the heart is trembling, the breath is caught from the excitement and the mind is unclear… A week or two later the touch doesn’t stir the blood that much. The next step – the first delicate embrace, he holds her by the waist… The heart is thrilled with excitement all over again, the breath is caught, and the mind is blurred… Still, one gets used to embraces very easily. Then the first kiss comes… again you get elated …
During the first two-three months you are constantly making new discoveries, experiencing new emotions and feelings. And both of you think: “There! That is love! It’ll last forever!” But in very deed it is far from being the truth! So you come to kisses, and what is next? Hey, that’s the limit! There is no way further. Actually, there may be one more way - falling into sin but in this case there would be also no way. At this time comes the disappointment: “Love seems to have ended!” But love didn’t end, it just never came. It’s just that the flood of new emotions has stopped, the feelings have cooled down and “falling in love” (but not ‘love’) is developing into something else, something much deeper.
Thus, true love can be explained as a state of mind (the two in one flesh) and falling in love is just a feeling, though à very strong one indeed, but still it is not a real state of things.
Let us draw an analogy between these two feelings. Imagine you had an accident and got hurt. You spent a whole year in a hospital unable to walk. At last, things are on the mend – you are recovering. You are happy because you know that soon you will be able to walk again and although you can’t walk yet you are still overfilled with joy. This is one state of your mind. Now, let’s compare this state of your mind to another one: at last you are out of bed and you can walk again. You’ve been walking for a whole month. Do you think that you still will be overfilled with joy and go ecstatic with every step you take? Hardly so. Now the walking is just something common for you. If you can go to a bathroom on your own there is no reason for a wild enthusiasm, is it? The same is with love. When you are in love you are carried away by your feelings; but after some time your sensuality goes away little by little, workaday life begins but love is still there within you. If you can walk it means you bear little resemblance to a bed patient. You are a different person now. Therefore, if you come to love it means you are different, you are not just in love but you love truly and deeply. It’s different and you are different now.
There is one more thing to mention: the feeling of falling in love can be different as well. We can distinguish its levels. There is the only word in Russian language to define the relationship between man and woman. This word is “love”. In other languages there are different words for this notion, they give definitions to different aspects of love. For example, in Greek there are three words meaning love denoting three levels of it: “Agapi” – sacrificial love, “Philia” – love-friendship, “Eros” – sexual desire. According to the Church doctrine, there are three levels in a human being: spirit, soul and body. In compliance with this, we can indicate three levels of being in love:
1. Spiritual level (Agapi)
2. Level of soul (Philia)
3. Body level (Eros).
The perfect love in a marriage doesn’t have any levels as it includes all of the aspects of a human being when two become one flesh.
The lowest case is when relations begin with a sexual attraction. Here appearance plays a key role. It is obvious that there is a risk of losing the feeling of infatuation.
It is much better when the marital relations begin with the attraction on both the soul and body levels. In such case there is a desire to touch the soul of a person, to get to know him or her better, to build a relationship based on mutual interests. All of this draws people together, they become intimate friends and their souls get closer and closer. However, at best, marriage should begin with attraction on all levels, that is to say it’s necessary to strive to become a part of another person, which is not possible without self-sacrifice.
To realize what a spiritual level is we should revise the fundamental ideas “to be” and “to have”. They define the very depth of one’s attitude to life and other people. One of the female orthodox psychologists always asks her patients a question, “What did you want when you were going to get married: to have a wife? to have children? to have a comfortable house? Or did you want to be a husband? to be a father? to be a master of the house?” In the first case there is a selfish will to possess something and in the second – a commitment to change yourself for the sake of other person.
This longing to be something for other person is a spiritual impulse people should ideally have before they decide to marry. It is this desire that plays the most important creative role in building a new family. If only just this desire is present it is enough for creating a family. That’s why the tradition of a pre-arranged marriage was so popular in the past. If a man has a strong wish to become a good husband and a woman – a good wife, then soul and sex appeal doesn’t matter that much. Choosing a partner among all others becomes of no importance because one doesn’t have to be tormented with doubts such as “Whom shall I choose as a life partner, this one or that one? What if I made a mistake and he/she will turn out to be a villain?”.
At this respect “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm would be a very useful book to read. This book addresses some of the issues mentioned above and teaches us that a problem of love is not the problem of choosing the spouse but the very ability to love.
Sure enough, if you want to have a good wife you may look for one a long time but you might never find a perfect match. However, if you want to become a good husband you can be the one with any wife. So, whatever wife you have be sure you are a good husband – that is it!
I’m sure (and my confidence has been proved by experience of some families) that if young people have this background they will soon gain both a deep soul devotion (Philia) and resolve all the problems in intimacies (Eros) in spite of differences in character and breeding. For example, if a girl was raised up by a single mother and had never seen the right relations between man and woman, as a rule she will either have problems in overcoming the feeling of constraint in love relations or she may form her own image of these relations based on mass media ideals. In addition, it will take her a long time to build the right love relations. If a boy, as a child, had lack of father’s influence he often acquires a female way of behavior in family. It will definitely take him some time to learn how to make decisions and be responsible for them. Despite all this it is possible to overcome all difficulties (it usually takes about 3-4, sometimes 5 years) if you have an aspiration not only to get but also to give something to your partner. Therefore, we can conclude that not every infatuation can turn into a true love in a marriage. Very often some feelings appear to be “a barren flower” but life in a marriage, as such, also might not be able to generate love. If you think that after have gotten a marriage license you can automatically get love you are mistaken. Falling in love is just a seed and this seed should have a bud of love – an aspiration to become husband or wife. If one doesn’t have that bud, feelings will fade away eventually.
Priest Ilia Shugaev
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