I have found myself very often of late reevaluating positions I have long felt certain about. There are many issues on which I formed a singular and strong opinion that has persisted for many years unchallenged. But all it has taken is often one simple comment to force a rather radical new look at my thought; in this case, I am thinking of the relationship between romance and friendship.
Since my high school days I have largely held to the position that one ought to date only after a strong friendship is established. This was based on my things, not the least of which were the discussions are high school youth group had about relationships. At the core it seemed somewhat silly to me to aim to spend your whole life with someone you hadn’t previously found to be good to be around without the fickle attraction.
A recent project of mine has been something of a study of friendship as guided by my spiritual director, particularly C. S.Lewis and Aristotle. During a talk my director said, more or less, to keep in mind that the ideal women to marry is she who will be a good wife, mother to my children and, in the best phrase, someone with whom I would like to form a domestic Church.
This recently renewed phrase spoke to me very powerfully. I have always liked the idea of the family as the Domestic Church but it had never occurred to me to think about my spouse as my copartner in founding this new part of the Church. My the very act of marrying we develop a goal that will unite is for the rest of our lives: our domestic Church.
Lewis uses the image of friendship as two people looking at a third thing side-by-side. It is this third thing that unites them through thick and thin. But romantic love always has an important toward-each-other component; in fact, this turn is at it’s heart. The existence of that third thing is unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental to romance. It allows the couple to ignore the deeper humanness of each other while focusing in the distance (I am reminded of a couple I know who, at least to outward appearances, have a relationship based entirely on rock climbing. I do not know what will sustain them in twenty years).
My spending my energy on pursuing a friendship-turned-relationship I have interfered with my capacity to develop a relationship-qua-relationship. The focus has been so much on those third things that I have forgotten to focus on the other, my co-foundress of the domestic Church. Only by properly viewing her in this exalted role can I hope to approach the idea of marriage well.
These are only preliminary thoughts on what is sure to be a contentious issue for myself and perhaps for others. I am tempted to run back to my former position but the blossoming beauty herein threatens to overwhelm any refuge I may have had. Hopefully this will give others a few thoughts that they may point me along a deeper path.