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Document Details :
Title: Eclairage psychologique sur le mariage d'amour et ses conditions de réussite
Author(s): VERGOTE, Antoine
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 3 Issue: 2 Date: Autumn 1997
Psychological observations on marriage for love and the conditions for its success
On the basis of empirical observation the present study starts from the belief that the psychological factors operative in marital love are double-edged: able both to determine the success of a marriage and in pathological manifestations to pre-programme its failure. This ambivalence is acutely evident in Western civilisation, where marriage for love has been raised to the ideal form of marriage, and made a focus for virtually every human longing for happiness. In addition to this culturally and religiously complex phenomenon there is also a sociologically demonstratable gap between public life and private love life, whose negative effects must not be underestimated.
In a first step the meaning of human sexuality for love is studied. Neither the sex instinct nor a pre-programmed pattern of behaviour is fundamental to human love. It arises and grows out of desire conditioned by drives in an integrated ego and is the locus of an independent pleasure which is sought for its own sake. Sexual desire and erotic phantasies are necessarily a part of human love, but in the ideal case and in the case of the marital relationship these should be supplemented by the element of love as friendship (the sharing of common interests).
On further reflection we see that sexual love consists in a dynamic union of forces and tendencies held in tension. Their poles are opposed and they can be dissociated, but only to the prejudice of sexual love itself: these include tenderness and aggressivity, joyful giving and sensual possessing, longing for union and respect for otherness. The parental image is of prime importance in developing and maintaining this (pre-reflective) union in tension.
Specific to love is the admiration that lends to sexual love its human qualities, but it can all too easily lead to idealisation. Imaginary ideal pictures must gradually be taken apart (perhaps through a reinvigoration of sexual desire), for otherwise love can mutate into indifference or hatred, the passion which is its exact opposite.
In conclusion, it is important to distinuguish human-sexual love (in marriage) from divine agapè. It is precisely in a Christian context that there is the danger of an idealisation of love, where sexual love is overlaid with the connotations of agapè. Nevertheless, desiring human love must be supported and perfected by Christian agapè.