Many of us have been there and done that, perhaps many times, too, and we continue to see that in many young people who are desiring love, constantly seeking for romantic relationships! They want what they have seen on the Hallmark Channel or Hollywood movies of a butterfly, sweet, romantic, and passion-filled love. They want to experience what those #relationshipgoal pictures portrayed on social media. They want their relationships to be like those that are posted on different outlets that make one says, “Awe!” Unfortunately, all those things are not real and they have not seen that around them. What they have seen is contrary to those popular stories, testimonies, portrayals, movies, or images that many begin to think that true love and marriage is a sham and lie. Slowly, those thoughts seeped into their subconsciousness and make one’s social relationships shallow, distrustful, temporary, casual, benefit-based, and hurtful.
Sadly speaking, there were so many perversions and false thoughts that were introduced to our society in making us think that it is better to cohabitate so that one can take time to think about relationship and marriage before making the big commitment. These so-called reports and experts argued for greater relational stability by asking people to take marriage with greater caution with new social freedom and radical experimentation projects. While these thoughts were at first divisive as they go against the traditional model, but slowly they gained grounds and became normal as people think that they need to take time to try things out before the long-term commitment. Hence, those social experimentations became normal, so now things that are relationship-centered are often grounded in the long-term, at times indefinite, “try-out” and testing stage. That is why marriage is no longer needed since many are now fine with having pseudo-marital relationships.
As a matter of fact, this experimental and noncommital approach has greatly affected our society because it sows doubts and distrusts of genuine relationships. We have become more divisive, vocal, and angry as social individuals, and many parts because of the lack of family foundations and formations. Many sociologists begin to make strong statements and calls for the strengthening of family values, parental relationships, and strong families because the health of a nation can be judged and seen by the strength of its families. How we treat others, see our colleagues and peers, understand personal and social duty and responsibility, learn about self-giving sacrifices, as well as important relational skills are learned within our familial relationships. We learn much about love by how we see how our parents love one another, willingly choose to forgive, will the good of the other, and care for their spouses when there seems to be no incentive, benefit, or hard to do at times.
For many people, marriage is no longer essential because it has become something aspirational. People only want to get married when all the economic factors line up in their favor, when they feel that they are financially ready or able. Since the contraceptive “safe sex” agenda has become a common understanding and practice, people can have their sexual urges satisfied without the need to get married and start a family at a young age. We have heard it over and over again that it is necessary and important for one to slip on a condom or be on the pills as a way to practice “responsibility” while still able to enjoy the sexual pleasures with one another. Since we have perverted the understanding of responsibility, it, in turn, affects our understanding of intimacy. Fornication, extramarital, hookup, or whatever words we want to use, and sexual exchanges are now casually expected and become the norm. There is no more right or wrong as long as both sides agree and consent.
Yet, all these shallow and perverted understanding of intimacy and the hopeless search based on false romanticism have caused our young people to keep chasing one relationship after another, but they are really never happy. Most, if not all, relationships begin well with good intentions. Both sides often like to impress and care, filled with hope and aspirations. They often think that physical satisfaction and attraction are the gauges of happiness. However, hedonism is short-lived and very temporary, and when it quickly adapted and get satisfied, it only sees things in the light of mundane redundancy and boring repetitions. Couples then begin to fill their lives with the joyless thoughts, living, and bearing of problems, constantly moving from one thing to be solved or taken care of after the next. Intimacy, as they know it with physical or hedonistic exchanges, ceases to exist and it becomes a hellish reality to embrace. They either end up moving on to the next relationship, falsely hoping for someone or something better, to stay because they are too tired, scared, or invested too much with the current one. Yet, this way of thought and repeated patterns have caused our young people more distrust and doubts about love, intimacy, and relationship. Marriage is no longer a viable option because they cannot see it in their own failed, broken, or hurtful relationships.
We have made this down spiral way of thought and created this hopeless reality of love through our own disbelief and negative talks about marriage. I remembered people who kept telling me when I was a seminarian, “You shouldn’t get married! It’s horrible and burdensome! I wouldn’t do it again if I can. You’ve got a better life than us!” I mean, who would want to be married after hearing repetitions of similar negative talks and statements about marriage? Who would believe that marriage is worth living if they do not hear from their parents, family members, and love ones that it is worthwhile? When was the last time one hear someone who is married talked about their struggles and challenges in marriage, but ended the conversation with, “But we wouldn’t have it any other way!”? I believe our young people need to hear it more often and see real-life examples of the Sacrament of Matrimony, not just false cinematic and picture-perfect portrayals of romanticism or the perverted version of shallow intimacy and fake love.
If we stop believing that marriage is worthwhile, we will live from one problem to the next without joy, love, and commitment. If we do not believe in the Sacrament of Matrimony, we will end up treating it as a burden and joyless reality. Blessed Charles of Austria, the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Servant of God Zita, had many struggles due to the political instabilities and violent times of World War I. However, they never lost their devotion and love for each other. They never forgot the importance of their marriage, focused on leaving a legacy, not of gold or riches, of love for their children and subjects to strive and imitate.
On the day before their royal wedding, Charles said to Zita, “Now let us help each other get into heaven!” They knew of the importance of the sacrament, especially the sacramental grace to fulfill their promises to fulfill their vocation and state in life, aimed at the ultimate destination of heaven. As a matter of fact, the couple engraved inside of their wedding rings the Latin inscription, asking for the intercession of the Mother of God, “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix — We fly to thy protection, O holy Mother of God.” They learned that their marriage made them united to one another, no longer two “I’s” with “my” or “your” job and responsibility but “our” to help, care, teach, and serve their children and subjects. Even in the midst of many royal responsibilities, having to face many hard decisions, atrocities, sufferings, and problems, they knew their marriage and family were the top priority. They never stopped loving and praying for each other when difficulties arose. They remained faithful to each other even in their exile. When Charles died at a young age due to pneumonia, he said to Zita, “I love you endlessly!” She remained a widow and wore black clothes to signify her mourning for the rest of her life. She never stopped loving him until her own death.
While it is important that we encourage our young people to take the time to discern, reflect, and pray about the Sacrament of Matrimony, we need to remind people to remember that relationship is worthwhile. We need to remind them that relationship is important and meaningful, that we should not exchange it for something shallow, perverted, and false because of failed and shallow human relationships. Hence, the only way to overcome these repeated failures and destructive patterns is to ground our self-donating, life-giving, sacrificial, personal, and intimate love on God because we cannot love one another by our own self-will. Only in understanding that marriage is a divine vocation can we be humble enough to turn to Him who loves and teaches us how to love. Only in God and through His loving grace outpoured can we learn to make decisions to love when problems, temptations, and challenges arise. Our faith teaches us that marriage is not just a luxury, an aspiration, or a convenient choice but a necessary reality, because it can be at times an unappealing and inconvenient choice to a hedonistic world. Without healthy families that are grounded in loving relationships, we would not have a healthy, life-giving, strong, stable society. In marriage, we truly learn how to love, sacrifice, forgive, and will the good of one another because the Lord willed ours, gave His life for us, forgave us when we sinned, and loved us eternally. When we understand the beautiful gifts of marriage, especially the special call to help each other get to heaven, it becomes a gift from God to be given, received, shared, and enlivened in our very own lives.