"Affection" and "Emotion" possibly downplayed in marriage?

**Part 1
A few recent things I read got me thinking. First, there was Michelle Arnold’s response here. Then there was Jimmy Akin’s article here.

I understand why they answer the way they do. Jimmy is correct to say that losing that feeling of affection in a marriage in no way determines that the marriage was always invalid. That’s an important point. Michelle is making a similar point.

[quote=Jimmy Akin] Emotions are simply not determinative of marriage bonds, and thinking that they are leads to needless worries and anxieties.

[quote=Michelle Arnold]Affection draws a couple together and can help to sustain a couple during difficult times, but it is not in itself a purpose of marriage.

They are making this point because it is incorrect to say that when an emotional bond wears and there are hard times, that it might mean the marriage was never valid. I agree with what they say–as far as THAT goes. But…

I have to take issue with the downplaying of this emotion and affection.

I do believe it is a big part of marriage, if not inalienable from the ideal of marriage which God created.

I think I can reasonably infer that an emotional bond is part of God’s plan and that when it is lost, it is merely indicative of a problem that needs solving. No, the problem doesn’t suggest that the marriage never existed. It tells you you need to fix something, as you’ve strayed from what I really believe is the ideal.

Why an ideal? Please see Part 2.

**Part 2:
Why an ideal?
Let’s take the case of an arranged marriage. These things take place in societies where God’s plan for man and woman has been reduced to a rather cold, social and business contract. There is serious doubt as to whether couples really freely choose to enter into marriage. Okay, possibly they can live up to the “love one another” part, as long as partners desire one another to go to heaven. Gotcha.

What does an emotional bond do, though? Like Michelle says, it is extremely helpful in getting couples through rough times. It is the emotional bond that operates for you on a subconscious level, to tell you that this person is not my blood, but he or she is my family. Emotion is natural, and in the case of marriage, it is nature’s way of creating familial bonds between two non-related people which blood relatives also (ideally) instinctively have.

You cannot intellectually bond with someone, i.e.: “This is my wife so I have to take care of her when she’s sick” without constant threats to the stability of the marriage, temptations toward resentment, strains on the attitude towards the division of labor, etc. Children, who thrive on emotional attachment, are very stressed when they are in a household without affection. If anything, you could say even children know that this is important. Even if children receive affection, they are stressed when there is none between their parents.

You can spiritually bond with someone, but how you can have a valid spiritual bond when emotion and affection were never there in the first place is beyond me. It’s not just “icky”; it’s even theologically problematic.

Imagine the first night, the wedding night. Two people who do not love each other–and are not even attracted to each other–must “make love”. What nonsense. “I’m not attracted to you, but I want you to go to heaven and that’s enough in the way of the department of love. Let’s consummate our marriage now.” Tell me, what woman in the world is going to enjoy that experience?

God created us to be attracted to the opposite sex for a reason, and affection is a big part of relationships. I don’t believe that He gave us feelings of affection and attraction as mere temptations to overcome. I can’t believe that, when such things help marriage be as it seems it was meant to be–to create a sense of exactly what you are–family.

In the case of a woman, unattracted to her new spouse, on the marital bed: The Church does teach that men are responsible for pleasing their wives in this way, to the extent that they can. Sex should be unitive. The idea is to give to one another and that includes pleasing one another.

Where sex is reluctant from day one and performed only out of “obedience” because one perceives no other choice, and where enjoyment is likely impossible, and even revulsion is felt, we have a word for this: Rape. Mere “intellectual consent”, is not enough. “He’s my husband now, and I have no choice. I have to, because he ‘reasonably’ requests it.” It’s not reasonable to request someone to have sex with you if she is repelled by the idea, for one thing. And rape victims give one type of intellectual consent when given two choices: have their throats slit or be raped. That’s not real consent. The issues of sex lacking the proper unitive aspect and the mutual pleasure are too theologically problematic.

The couple is put into an impossible situation. It might work if the woman imagine’s its someone else to whom she is attracted, or if she perhaps momentarily degrades her husband in her mind as just a sexual instrument. These are desperate and evil solutions.

Again, this kind of thing seems to have no place in God’s plan.

We’re getting into dangerous territory when we consider the good old days of arranged marriages (a lot of them probably forced) without criticism, and do not give our God-given emotions their due when they are only helpful to us–and necessary. Many such marriages like those described above, are likely invalid in God’s eyes.

I think you’ve over shot the mark here. A woman or man whogive theslves to their spouse out of a sense of “obligation” though they might not “feel” attractive or attracted at that moment have hardly been “raped”.

Your also making a big assumption in assuming that because a marriage has been arranged that their is no attraction or affection.

Though that may be the case in some circumstances I’d bet this is not the norm in societies where such arrangements are the cultural norm.


[quote=clmowry]I think you’ve over shot the mark here. A woman or man whogive theslves to their spouse out of a sense of “obligation” though they might not “feel” attractive or attracted at that moment have hardly been “raped”.

Your also making a big assumption in assuming that because a marriage has been arranged that their is no attraction or affection.

Though that may be the case in some circumstances I’d bet this is not the norm in societies where such arrangements are the cultural norm.


Thanks for your ideas. To clear up the consent aspect, I’d like to learn how this type of reluctant–reluctant from day one–marital consent is different to the kind of “consent” rape victims “give” when they only have two choices: be raped or killed. Both seem to be merely an intellectual type of “consent” because the person involved is trapped, and I do not call that true consent–not when the very idea is revolting to them. And I contend that it is also not complying with a “reasonable request”, because where there is true revulsion from day one, then the request is not reasonable. Two people entering marriage have a responsibility to ensure that sex between them is not a revolting and reluctant affair so that they both able to fully consent to the marital act. I don’t mean, “I have a headache” means you’re raped if you reluctantly have sex. I mean “This has revolted me since day one and I can’t get used to it and fully consent to this because I’m coerced by the [false] idea that I am validly married and, consequently, must give in,” is a strong indication that the marriage in fact *must not be valid.
I know that not all arranged marriages lack affection and attraction, but I used such cases to make a point: That is, that emotion is God-given and integral in marriage and should not be downplayed. Without a willingness to acknowledge this, we do have cases of forced (and invalid) marriages that should never have taken place. Such couples are in a hopeless situation. For example, we might have a man whose responsibility, among other things, is understood to be pleasing his wife, when he cannot do this. We might have a woman who perhaps is unable to fully consent to relations *because her emotions prevent her from giving true, full consent at any given time. *Not just when she has a headache, not just when she is having a blah moment and not feeling attracted, but when the very core of the marriage is a farce lacking what is needed for two partners to give themselves entirely without undue coercion since day one. In this case, the marriages are just that–coerced–even though people do play along and get married when they are coerced–but this kind of coercion to marry is a grounds for annulment in the CC despite the fact that people let this happen to themselves (i.e. they don’t really consent by virtue of their playing along).

This very thing seems to hint at an ignored principe–that emotion and affection certainly are in God’s plan and should not be downplayed. It just becomes a matter of when the CC will come out and say it explicitly.

There is also the idea that we can do what is “right” despite it being unpleasant or unplanned. This, when it benefits another, is charitable. Clint Black has a song that says, “Love isn’t something that we feel, it’s something that we do.” It is not a complete reflexion of what I am saying, but it is close.

No marriage has affection at all times. Love is a voluntary action of taking the other’s best interest, in the face of many alternatives. Not very romantic, eh?

[quote=Karen10]T… To clear up the consent aspect, I’d like to learn how this type of reluctant–reluctant from day one–marital consent is different to the kind of “consent” rape victims “give” when they only have two choices: be raped or killed. …

it seems to be a world of difference between “do this or die” and “do this or I’ll ask a second time” :eek:

[quote=Hawthorne]There is also the idea that we can do what is “right” despite it being unpleasant or unplanned. This, when it benefits another, is charitable. Clint Black has a song that says, “Love isn’t something that we feel, it’s something that we do.” It is not a complete reflexion of what I am saying, but it is close.

No marriage has affection at all times. Love is a voluntary action of taking the other’s best interest, in the face of many alternatives. Not very romantic, eh?

Certainly love means doing what is right despite it being sometimes unpleasant or unplanned. Within valid marriages, we go out of our way to do some unpleasant things which are charitable and the right thing to do.

But we don’t do *everything *that is unpleasant or forced upon us because it *must necessarily *be the right thing to do, by virtue of its unpleasantness. That’s because unpleasant things aren’t always the right things to do, or the charitable thing to do, either.

If this were so, then the Catholic Church wouldn’t say that coerced weddings are grounds for annulment, for one example. You can’t say, in this case, that “This wedding is a work of charity and the right thing to do even though the couple doesn’t want to do it, and it is unpleasant for them.” When we have a situation like this, the Church declares the marriage invalid.

So from just that one example we can see that “unpleasant” ≠ (necessarily) “right”.

Likewise, you cannot infer that sex being had in the context of coercion–and not full, true consent from the day of the wedding, is “the right thing to do”. This coercion is much like the coercion of a shotgun wedding, which the Catholic Church would annul. It’s the same type of coercion a rape victim is under when she makes the choice to be raped rather than be killed–and it’s not full consent.

Since this lack of full consent would have always existed, the validity of the marriage becomes very very questionable–the way things were supposed to work has been impossible from the beginning. There is no emotion and affection even in the beginning, which seems to be necessary to have complete consent to be married and have the kind of marriage in which you can fully consent–at least generally–to please another person and let them please you.

[quote=steveandersen]it seems to be a world of difference between “do this or die” and “do this or I’ll ask a second time” :eek:

They’re actually both quite serious matter. It’s more like, “do this or die” and “do this or neglect your marital duty, which is serious matter”. :slight_smile: Made all the more complicated when the marriage is a farce and nobody’s aware of it!

I agree with Michelle and Jimmy’s expositions on the subject.

Love is an act of the Will. It is one of the two principle actions of the spiritual soul-- knowing and loving… intellect and will.

“Love” is an act of the will, more properly termed Caritas… charity… I think the pope’s new encyclical is timely and Caritas was an excellent topic to take up as his first encyclical. Love between spouses, eros, is discussed in his encyclical.

I really am not following your argument too well at all. It seems inconsistent with church teaching on marriage. No one denies that affection and care towards ones spouse is a good thing. It is not the main thing.

Your “coersion” tangent also seems to be problematic, or at least confused. You are basically stating that any marriage that is arranged, or any marriage that is not based on “emotion” and “affection”, is de facto coerced. This is not true. Arranged does not equal coerced. It could be, but it is not by definition. I know several people who are in arranged marriages, and they are quite happy. Arranged marriages often work precisely because the character of the person was considered by the parents, rather than the “emotion” of the couple. Emotions can often lead to poor choices.


You do realize, don’t you, that the Church always condemned forced marriage and considered it invalid? I’m not sure how you can compare the consent necessary for a sacramental marriage to the “consent” of a rape victim under thread of death. OK, that’s not quite true-- I can see how you can do it, I just strongly disagree.

I haven’t read the articles in question. I absolutely agree that emotions are important in marriage, and insofar as arranged marriages didn’t take the inclinations of the parties into consideration they were indeed abusive.

But I think you have rather a caricature of arranged marriage. If you read letters from the early modern period (my own specialization) you can see the complex negotiations that went behind middle and upper-class marriages (and on the whole I think lower-class people had more freedom, not less, to choose their spouses). Yes, family interests played a huge role, but young people were also agents (men far more than women, admittedly), scouting out prospective spouses and then talking to relatives and go-betweens, or anxiously hanging around to catch a glimpse of someone the family had recommended as a good match. And so on, and so forth. It wasn’t some kind of robotic “marry this person or else.” At least not most of the time, as far as I can see. Attraction did play a role, as did affection.


In defense of arranged marriages throughout history, many of which were quite happy and fulfilling marital unions, I have to say this:

The commitment of marriage is first of all an act of the will: “Yes, I do choose to love this woman for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, until death.” The saying of it may cause us to tear up at weddings, but it’s not an intrinsically emotional statement. It’s a statement of firm intent. One hopes that the parties being married really mean it, and mean it with more than their emotions.

This sort of binding commitment to another person in itself leads to a continuing increase of emotional affection. Emotions follow actions.

This is not to say that people shouldn’t be “in love” when they marry. (Although obviously being “in love” is not enough to sustain a marriage.) It is to say that their feeling of being in love is increased, supported, and sustained, by the commitment.

I’m not sure why you guys are talking about love, by answering me as though I don’t know that love is an act of the will and that sometimes you do unpleasant things which are right, because of this decision of the will. I understand its place in marriage.

I’m talking about* emotion being downplayed.
When there is a wedding of two people where affection is not a factor in the decision to marry, as far as I can see, you can have one of two things:

Scenario #1. Both partners feel no affection but get married anyway, and don’t anticipate possibly being repulsed by this. Affection may or may not eventually develop later into the marriage (and this is usually the expectation society fosters in them).

If the marriage never leads to at least a little affection in the sense that the spouses do feel that they are each other’s “family”, the marriage will endure an unreasonable levels of strain. A marriage which never develops affection such that you feel like your spouse is really “family”, but is rather only someone you “want to go to heaven”, and “someone you live with and have sex with because you’re supposed to”, can expect resentment to take hold, because NOTHING you do will be motivated out of, “He or she is my family and I actually want to do these things for her/him”.

Who in the world says things like, “I’ll go visit my wife in the hospital so I can honor her, because I have to, because she’s my wife”? Bad people in bad marriages who have a shred of decency left might think such things, but such is a marriage which failed to achieve the level of affection, sympathy, and compassion for one another which the couple had hoped to reach. Not very ideal, is it.

Humans were made to emotionally bond–not least of all with your chosen spouse for life. In an arranged marriage, I know that it can eventually develop, but I don’t see that people can reasonably take such chances.

Arranged marriages are often predicated on the* assumption* that couples can and will develop the affection they need to feel as though they are really family. However, things do not always develop this way, so, if we’re going to be searching for principles to go by, planning a marriage with no affection at the foundation is to take a very imprudent risk. Sexual attraction can and does wane at times, but that’s not nearly the issue you get when there is no affection. Affection tells you, “He/She is family.” Affection is more constant and it helps keep families together who otherwise might break.

Scenario #2. Both partners feel no affection but do the deed anyway, because they promised to please one another, and at least one of them HAS been repulsed by the idea of sex with their “spouse” from the very beginning. It is very hard to see sex with someone for whom you feel no affection–let alone attraction–as something somebody can reasonably request of you. The prospect is horrific. Unreasonable requests for sex do not need to be granted. “I cannot stand the thought of sex because it’s too emotionally torturing” is just as valid as, “Honey, this flu has me feeling awful today, I can’t.”

Yet Scenario #2 occurs quite frequently. I’ve read so much about this happening in parts of the world that I concluded it’s a given that there is a terrible risk when people who do not have affection marry one another. Since it’s not even possible that there can be mutual pleasurable relations–or any completely mutually consensual relations at all–the validity of such a marriage is at stake.

Distraught spouses in Scenario #2 marriages aren’t able to give full consent; rather, they are coerced by the internal and external pressures, like a gunshot groom or a rape victim, such as “I have to do this, I have no choice”.

Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say that a Scenario #1 marriage which failed to achieve any level of affection is still okay, because there is “Love” in the sense of the kind of affection-free love you are at the minimum, expected to have. Now:

When planning an arranged marriage, what would help you to not end up with a possibly invalid Scenario #2 marriage? What ignored factor could prevent an invalid marriage?

Affection, from the very beginning. With affection factored into the decision to marry–and I’m not talking about wild sexual attraction either, just affection–there is no risk of either a Scenario #1 marriage that has much to be desired, or Scenario #2 happening.

Other things may go wrong to threaten a couple’s affection for one another, but like I said, this is a sign that something needs fixed. If it wasn’t there from the get-go, there’s a great chance you’ve entered an invalid marriage.

So it doesn’t seem like affection should be downplayed at all.

Karen, You are so far out in left field, you aren’t even making any sense to me.

In both scenarios 1 & 2 the persons consented to the marriages-- they freely consented, an act of their will.

In both cases, they should not have married if they had reservations about fulfilling any of the obligations of marriage.

I think I’m going to have to remove myself form this thread, because honestly I don’t get your point at all.

A marriage is invalid when it’s been forced upon someone; it’s also invalid if one is* incapable of rendering the marital duty to the other*. It is not a reasonable request to demand a spouse to perform the marital duty, if there is no way that she can bring herself to do it in her situation, without the marital duty being a horrifying ordeal to which she isn’t fully consenting, rather than what it is meant to be. It does happen. There are many women in very unhappy arranged marriages who do not fully enjoy any unitive aspect of what they must do.

It makes no sense to say that to demand a very reluctant and distraught woman to do her marital duty is a “reasonable request” because she (mistakenly) got married. She may have been forced into the marriage, or she may not have been. But in any case she hadn’t anticipated this sort of revulsion to what was expected of her. Sure, she shouldn’t have married, but in this situation it’s too late to change the fact that a ceremony took place.

So. **Emotions **should have been a part of her decision-making process in deciding to marry, then, no? And marrying with a foundation consisting partly of great affection certainly prevents these things from happening.

In the case of arranged marriages, why is it rational, and even allowed, to take such a chance when this awful situation might happen?

We cannot downplay the value of simple, human, God-given affection for the person we plan to spend the rest of our lives with.

[quote=Karen10] There are many women in very unhappy arranged marriages who do not fully enjoy any unitive aspect of what they must do.

Who are these women? And who arranged these marriages?

There aren’t many arranged marriages in the west anymore. But I’ve been acquainted with a few Muslims in arranged marriages, and yet these seemed to be very loving and affectionate couples.

I’m really having a hard time figuring out just where you are coming from on this issue. I do believe there are many women in unhappy marriages, but in most instances they are married to someone they picked out themselves. I’m reminded of a phrase I heard Dr. Laura use some time back in relation to a woman who was complaining about her husband: “Honey, you picked him, not me.” And whenever I hear such stories, I always wonder, with respect to the selection process, “What was she thinking?”

I just can’t imagine two people getting married where one was “repulsed” by the other, arranged or not.

As to affection, yes, it is certainly a virtue in itself. But we have affection for our parents, our brothers, and sisters, uncles and aunts, even though we did not ‘choose’ them.

Sometimes it seems that people today make far more mistakes in their choice of marriage partners, even basing it on their own emotions and their own free choices (as evidenced by the divorce rate), than they did in relying on the arrangements of others.

Many marriages are arranged in India today in the Hindu, Moslem, and Catholic communities. Sometimes they know one another prior to the arrangement, sometimes they don’t. I think the same is true in Bangladesh and Pakistan and parts of Africa.

Even where “consent” of the two is required for the ceremony, such familial pressure is born to bear that it can hardly be considered anything other than coerced.

I am sorry but I am somewhat confused. Is someone advocating arranging marriages in Western Society?

The one person who I know that had an arranged marriage was my hubby’s cousin who is a Hasidim Jew. At the time, both he and his wife were in their mid twenties and both entered into the process willingly. The woman wanted to come to Israel from Russia to practice her religion and my hubby’s cousin wanted to get married and uphold his traditions. The very few letters that he has written my husband sound very loving and happy. He is the only person that I personally know who had an arranged marriage.

If you are merely argueing that affection as well as intellect should play a part in your choice of marriage partner then yes, I would agree. Jane Austen argues the same thing in her novels. I would be more concerned with the fact that a lot of people choose marriage partners today based solely on romantic love and not any common sense.

:thumbsup: Yes, someone got it! Arranged marriages weren’t necessarily the focus of my posts–but I was using them as a vessel helpful for illustrating what I meant about the importance of affection. They make for one example of when marriages occur where affection is not a part of the decision making process. (Other examples of affectionless marriages might be, simply searching out a trophy wife who enhances your unofficial resume, or marrying a man for his money.)

It is quite important to have emotional bonds like this, at least in this earthly life. We were made this way. I don’t know for sure how it will be in the next life but in this life, natural ideals (which, by virtue of being ideals, are in line with the supernatural ideals revealed to us) must get their due, or else we wouldn’t have natural law.

Without affection you can’t feel like family. You might do things for one another out of a higher purpose but you’ll get sick of that pretty quick in an affectionless marriage. Emotion such as affection simply cannot be denied in human experience as inconsequential to relationships–it keeps us motivated to keep looking out for one another in times where the demands on us might otherwise be too much. They are nature’s way of helping us, and not every animal is capable of experiencing them. They’re a big part of being human. You do not tell your child, “I love you. That means I want what’s best for you and to go to heaven–and that’s it.” That’s a recipe for a screwed up kid. Try telling a child they don’t need affection.

Withholding emotion–and risking a marriage that may never develop the familial affection you just assumed would develop, is unwise.

Emotional attachment may not be as great as ultimately willing what is best for someone no matter what, and willing them to go to heaven–because we should want that even for our enemies even when we don’t feel affectionately towards them–but I cannot see any claim that it is not essential in relationships you intend to keep, both chosen ones in the case of spouses, and in relationships by blood.

Perhaps your problem with the Michelle Arnold’s response is that she seemed to misunderstand the term trophy wife as most of us use it. In my mind, at least, a trophy wife is a woman who is married merely for her beauty or breast size. If the woman knowingly enters into such a relationship, then she would seem to be holding her own self in low esteem, because that sounds degrading. The same is true of a man that marries a woman who is purely interested in his money. It doesn’t say much for his own self respect.

The point was made that marriages in times past were conducted for similar reasons. This may be so, but that doesn’t make it correct. On of the advantages of living in such a divorce prone time is that we do have to examine the reasons that we marry. We realize that we should not marry for superficial reasons, like money, beauty or prestige. Such superficial aspects can be lost. What happens to the trophy wife who looses her breasts to a double mastectomy or gets horribly burned? What about the wealthy man who looses his money or becomes incapacitated and can no longer make money? If there is not at least some regard, the marriage will end.

Authors of times past did write against marrying for superficial reasons. All one has to do is pursue writers from before the 1900’s and you will read works that advocates a commonsense approach to marriage that is based on mutual respect and regard. This might not be the romantic version of love that is so common today but it isn’t supportive of a purely mercenary marriage either.

Of course, today, women from poor countries do marry men from more wealthy countries in order to advance their and their families future. Not all of these marriages end in tragedy. Real love can blossom, so I can’t say that such a marriage would automatically not eventually become a strong, loving marriage. Perhaps it depends on the respect each person feels for the other.

Arranged marriages are a bit different. I would think that if both sets of parents truely wish for their children’s good, that the adults in question have a say in choosing their future spouses and are willing and that there is a desire to grow in love, then it is probably as possible to be happy in an arranged marriage as a marriage in which one picks their own spouse. Of course in cultures where human life is devalued or women are seen as property, then such marriages would be very horrible indeed.

[quote=Karen10] You do not tell your child, “I love you. That means I want what’s best for you and to go to heaven–and that’s it.” .

bahaha! you’ve inadvertedly hit the nail on the head there. That’s ALL you’re supposed to feeling, towards anyone, including your husband/wife.

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