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Sarah Young. In the second chapter of the Book of Genesis we are told that when the world was in its freshness of new beauty and Adam was master of it all, God saw the need of making a companion for him. One thing was lacking: "for Adam there was not found a helper like himself" and "it was not good for man to be alone"; and so God made Eve. Strange as it may seem, falling in love means searching and finding in another, the partner who will make it easier for you to fulfill your destiny and realize God's plan for yourself. At least, that is one conception of love. A clear-cut definition of love is not as easy to find as one might imagine.
Few encyclopedias even carry the word. They devote pages to economics, art, and music, but ignore love. The writers of books on marriage either avoid giving a definition of it or frankly admit that it is indefinable.
The inimitable George Bernard Shaw when invited to contribute to a book on marriage replied: "No man dare write the truth about marriage while his wife lives. There may be as much "dare not" as "cannot" involved in this complex matter. The gifted St. Thomas Aquinas had no inhibitions on the subject and boldly declared that "to love a person is to wish him well. True love's the gift which God has given To man alone beneath the heaven. It is not fantasy's hot fire Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly; It liveth not in fierce desire-- With dead desire, it doth not die.
It is the secret sympathy, The silver link, the silken tie Which heart to heart and mind to mind In body and in soul can find. To Scott, then, love is a composite thing which, laying hold upon one's nature, binds it with another in secret sympathy. Like grace, the effects of love are easier to treat than its nature.
Love, like death, is the universal leveler of mankind. It is nature's motive and reward. It is only natural that since love was to be the mainspring of man's existence it would be the very thing Satan would endeavor to counterfeit. Thus true love, like every genuine thing of value, has numerous imitations.
The cruel task for many is to sift the wheat from the chaff, to distinguish the true from the false, the precious metal from the slag. There is but one thing against which genuine love is helpless and that is time. Love is like wine in that age improves the good and sours the bad.
If we are to accept modern songs, novels, the radio, and movies as our criteria, we shall believe that love comes at first sight and with such a crushing force that one is powerless to resist. Such, however, is not the case. If love were always to strike like lightning, then no one would be safe. Your mother might be smitten by the paper boy and your father by John's Other Wife.
Momentary attraction must not be confused with love, for love needs time. Love at first is fancy, then there follows admiration, joined with respect and devotion. In this melange of emotions there occurs, sometimes, violent agitation, but more often there is a gentle simmering, a confused but agreeable mingling, until gradually all becomes transfused into a vital feeling called love.
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Since so much depends on love for abiding happiness in marriage, it stands to reason that a comprehensive understanding of what real love is takes on paramount importance. There is nothing so misunderstood and no word so abused as the word '"love. Ignorance of the development of love, as well as the multitudinous forms love takes, makes for the misunderstanding of it.
A great many people imagine that all children are born with an innate love for their parents and their immediate family; that, later, puppy love develops; and finally that they will quite naturally go through the process of dating, courting, and then marry. Would that it were quite so simple! Under the most favorable conditions everyone's love life develops through five stages.
The first stage comes in infancy when, as Dr. Vladimir G. Eliasberg, a psychology professor at Rutgers University, says, we begin by being narcissistic--that is, lovers of ourselves.
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Next comes our love for our Parents--then a love for our playmates--then a crush on a companion of the same sex for example, a girl's crush on her teacher --finally, as teen-agers, we show the usual interest in the opposite sex, with thoughts of finding a life mate and marriage. During any one or all of these stages, external forces may hinder or help the growth of love. Let us examine some of these hindrances or helps in detail. For instance, in the first stage of narcissism, a child in the normal home learns to depend upon its parents and finds it easy to transfer some of its love from itself to its parents.
In those homes, on the other hand, where the child is definitely not wanted and lacks love, that child is a cheated individual and because he is not loved he refuses to love in return. In order to acquire a fine personality, a child must feel himself a worthy and wanted member of the family. A child needs to feel secure. Without security he is cheated, and a cheated child is a future delinquent. Parents who really love one another and who are considerate of one another and avoid harshness naturally provide the best background for the child's security.
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The shrewish, nagging, domineering mother will stunt the growth of a child's life. The proud, arrogant, sawdust-Caesar-like father, who rules his home with dictatorial edicts, will set a pattern for his child's later love life. Knowingly or unknowingly, we become like those with whom we live and associate. Another extremely important matter in the growing love life of a child is the proper attitude toward sex. The vast majority of children will grow up, choose a mate, and find in marriage the fulfillment of a real vocation.
How successful this venture will be will depend upon a sensible sex education in the home. Growing up in a home where there are condemnation and embarrassed looks when the child asks the normal questions about sex and questions concerning life's beginnings, as if it were something terribly unclean and sinful, tends to make of it a personality problem. Curiosity is merely whetted by such mid-Victorian attitudes and the child will seek information elsewhere. Parents actually warp a child's sex life by their attitude of evasion or embarrassment when sex is mentioned.
It suffices to say here that the best Catholic authorities assert that parents should avoid the extremes of prudishness on one hand and vulgarity of detail on the other. Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical letter "On Christian Education of Youth," pointed out the duty of parents to instruct their sons and daughters in sex matters when they are requested to do so by their offspring. Sex questions should then be answered directly and reverently. The way in which parents handle this problem may affect their children and their children's children for generations.
Still another way the love life of a child or teen-ager may be permanently affected is that by which a selfish mother or father resents sharing the child's affection with friends and playmates. A mother who emotionally ties a child to her apron strings does that individual a great injury.
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Obstacles placed in the way of a child's development in normal friendships can later turn out to be a real booby trap. Parents should endeavor to develop in their children, from early years, a wide range of friendships with other children of both sexes. The mother who boasts that she is her "son's best girl" and who is eternally berating all girls as flirts, and who, to her daughter, pictures all men as "wolves," does her offspring a disservice.
The teen-ager's normal adjustment may be impaired or irreparably damaged by such conduct. Let us now consider some of the different manifestations of love. There is, as we all know, such a thing as a deep love of country; there is the love in friendship such as that which existed between Jonathan and David and between Our Lord and Saint John; there is filial love such as exists between a child and its parents; there is romantic love such as exists between two lovers; and nuptial love-- that which exists between a man and his wife.
Common sense tells us that in each of the above cited examples, the love is different. For instance, the simpler love in friendship is more or less restricted in external expression, for while there is genuine esteem and deep regard, we do not kiss or fondle all our friends. Again, the love that exists between members of the family, while much more demonstrative, has definite natural limits. A mother will have as deep and abiding a love for her child as she has for her husband, but the difference lies in the fact that her love for her husband is flavored by sexual attraction.
The romantic lovers will love their parents, brothers, and sisters, but the love between themselves is the sexually flavored variety. And sexual attraction is a normal, natural, healthy desire, created by God Himself, without which few men and women would desire to marry and have children. Frankly, without sex attraction the human race would soon die out.