Love and falling in love: building family happiness from the courtship.

An author from the Middle Ages says that love is the essential gift and that everything else that is given to us without deserving it becomes a gift by virtue of love.

To love someone means to want his/her good. Aristotle already said so. To be infatuated is something else. Ortega y Gasset said that infatuation is an emotional impact which is produced when one meets a person and is captivated by him/her. But infatuation is not love. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for love.

When a young man wants to know if he really loves his girlfriend he has to ask himself a question: Do I want the best for her, even though that might be uncomfortable for me? Am I willing to think of her good before mine? If the answer is yes, then he does love her. If he hesitates, then there is an important part of selfishness and quest for himself in his supposed love. Likewise, when we want to know if someone loves us, we only have to ask ourselves if that person wants our good above all. When in a courting couple one of them gives up what he/she really wants for the good of the other, and this is done reciprocally, the other person becomes the meaning of his/her life. And then, only then, commitment appears. We fall in love, whether we want it or not, because infatuation is involuntary. But we only love if we really want to do so. Because for love we need an ingredient that is like a magic wand that turns into love what infatuation proposes to us. And that magic wand is the will.

We cannot get married just because we are infatuated, since we could be infatuated with anyone we meet. In each case, we have to carry out a rational analysis of the person who is the object of our infatuation. The most important thing is to get to know that person and discover if we have essential affinities, that is, the same way of seeing life in its deepest sense. If we have the same ideals. And if we have compatible characters.

In a sentimental time like ours, these ideas may seem contrary to the mainstream. But if we think properly about it, many of the marital failures have their origin in a lack of knowledge of the other, for having had a courtship and a marriage with a clear communication deficit.

Talking to the other is the way to get to know him/her, calmly, with time, with hours ahead. I could not find a better and more beautiful way to explain it than «The Little Prince» by Saint-Exupéry. In the chapter where he meets the fox, he proposes that they be friends, and the Prince asks him: «What does it mean to be friends?», «To be friends means to establish ties» answers the fox, and he explains: «On the first day, you will sit far away and you will stare at me. Then you will come closer and closer until you are able to sit next to me». The fox sits next to him once he has gained his trust, when they have become friends. This is how a sincere relationship begins, one that lasts forever. This is also the beginning of that form of privileged friendship, which is marriage. Later, in the book of Saint-Exupéry, the Little Prince speaks of love when he speaks of his rose. And he says that his rose is unique because she is the one he has watered, cared for, sheltered behind a screen and protected from caterpillars. Because she is his rose. And he admits that the time he has “lost” for his rose, taking care of her, makes her as important, as unique, as our husband or wife is unique when we have decided to give him/her our life.

“Love is entrusting the walls of one’s heart to another inhabitant”. This is what Anna’s character says in The Jeweler’s Shop, a very profound play by Wojtyla.

Today we have an added difficulty in achieving that goal, which are the screens. It is not uncommon to enter a home and find each member of the family concentrated on a different screen. Communication requires turning off the screen, looking one another straight in the eye, and putting our full attention on the other, which is the most important thing at that moment.

That attitude and those habits are essential from the courtship, which is the moment in which love begins to be built. Thus, we will discover if the other is the appropriate person to share with us the path of life, to create a family. And we will be able to experience the enormous joy that comes when we discover that we will never feel alone again, that there will always be someone by our side who loves us and who, despite the difficult moments, has given us his/her life forever. And we have given him/her ours too.

Micaela Menárguez Carreño

Director of the Official Master's Degree in Bioethics at the UCAM SPANISH | ITALIAN