Discerning marriage and passion/physical attraction


#1

Growing up, I always believed certain things about relationships and how they were to develop, such as big, romantic feelings, violins, and all that jazz. I thought that feelings like this, once two people revealed that they shared them, were a sure sign that they should be together, that kind of "love conquers all" line of thinking. Then the reality of dating life in my teens and twenties hit the fan. I've been the one with the feelings while the other person was really just looking for something casual or simply didn't share those feelings. I've been the one who cares for the person as a friend but without those romantic feelings. A few years ago, I dealt with a painful yet powerfully eye-opening situation where there were strong feelings on both sides, but he wisely chose duty to his own culture and religion (this was before I was Catholic). And, most recently, I'm in a difficult situation where someone (a fellow Catholic) has very strong romantic feelings and has tried to become physically intimate on a number of occasions, but I just don't share those feelings even though everyone kept calling us a couple from very early on (and there are other issues as well, such as any relationship that formed would be a very long distance one in a matter of days).

Since entering the Church, I've understood that romantic feelings and what builds a solid partnership go hand in hand. I've wisened up about the guys who are looking for something casual and physical and am keeping an eye out for that potential husband, someone who values commitment enough to want to stay beyond the passion and violins but with whom those feelings can be shared, if not always in the more conventional ways. But then I've heard from people who say they didn't have those feelings at the start (kind of like an arranged marriage), but saw the wisdom of commitment and wanted each other as life partners. So, the question is, how much should initial passion/romantic feelings/physical attraction be considered when discerning marriage? Is there some other "pull" that single Catholics should be looking for? I've found that, more often than not, the man is very enthusiastic about pursuing something in the beginning, but then this interest wanes just as we really get to know each other. For those who've done it, how did you find that one who will accept you, "warts and all"?

My apologies if this discussion has been done before, I poked around a bit but couldn't find any threads quite on topic.


#2

I myself would love to know. Since I have moved away from the secular way of dating I have not have a date, not that I really dated before that either. Now however I am looking for that one, the man who would be a good husband, father and spiritual head. I also think I should be attracted to him.

I want to believe that when we meet that person or as we get to know them there should be a cymbal clang. We will suddenly or gradually not care that his ears are too big. We will become attracted to the way he leads in prayer or sings/serves in church or that he always remembers that you don't like onions and always asks if it can be got without. These are just my thoughts because it hasn't happened to me as yet.

I pray and I am involved in a few activities with my age-group (it's a wide age group because there aren't much available). If there is anything else I would love to hear from all who have been there and done that.


#3

[quote="iwillrisenow, post:1, topic:220322"]
So, the question is, how much should initial passion/romantic feelings/physical attraction be considered when discerning marriage?

[/quote]

I don't know the answer to your question, but I can tell you that I gave my husband "a chance" when he started pursuing me nearly six years ago. I didn't think he was that attractive, but he "grew on me." After marriage, we struggled with our sex life (due mainly to being "young and stupid" and not due to the lack of attraction). Despite that rough patch, we've been married for over four years now--and now when I look at him I honestly see the most handsome man in the world.

I recently ran into an old high school crush. He was just as handsome as I remembered--but he cheats on his wife (and tried to cheat on her with me--ew!) The next time I crossed paths with him, I perceived him to be less physically attractive, even though I know he's just the same.

I don't know if there's a "moral" to this story, but it is what it is. :o


#4

In the religious crowd, you can sometimes hear that feelings are optional. From the strict, legalistic point of view, yeah, they are, one could say so. Lack of feelings would not make marriage invalid (unless it were the subject of fraud under can. 1098), which doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant whether one feels the affectionate love or not.

Love will be defined in various ways by different people and it may also differ from one couple to the other, as when something involves two people, it results in a combination that reflects a bit of each. Sometimes the companionship will be the most evident, sometimes the romantic affection, sometimes the physical desire, sometimes some kind of commitment, something yet else. Sometimes there will be a lot of warm feelings but not so much passion per se. Sometimes lots of passion but not so much closeness.

Finally, people can indeed validly marry with the primary objective of preserving the family line, establishing ties and providing a man for the family business or land, which does not strike most of us as particularly romantic.

In me, it differs from one prospect to the other, I don’t react to any two women the same way, as they bring different values to my life. One may be a charming old-school socialite who knows how to have fun, the other may be a keen philosopher with a knack for exploring the world and some particular joy around her, yet another a courtroom lawyer (what yours truly should be if things hadn’t gone the way they did) given to an artistic hobby after work… each of them different, each of them a real person. Fuzzy feelings, nervous fascination, kind warmth, feeling of kindred, will be present with different intensities from case to case. It would even be hard to say where feelings stop and fascination starts (or the other way round) and then I guess one could insist on a couple more differentiations that would be difficult to achieve in practice. It’s not all feelings, there’s will and reason to it, (not to pretend there’s no such thing as biology,) the interplay produces the final result.


#5

I found the man that accepted me "warts and all" because I changed the way I saw men and the type of man I would want to be with the rest of my life. I looked at what I found attractive in a man, what I found to be "sexy" in a man and I no longer thought in the way our society defines "sexy" and "attractive". I stopped pursuing men that were emotionally unavailable, that didn't have the word "loyalty" or "commitment" in their vocabulary. I stopped worrying about what other people thought about the guys I wanted to date. There's nothing like a group of other single girls to tell you just how wrong a guy may be, even when you think he could be a good match. I began to see men as individuals, that they have just as much to bring into the relationship as I did and stopped thinking I had to play a game or figure out what game they were playing to make a relationship work. I started to give each guy an honest and equal chance to show me who they were instead of thinking about the stereotypes and generalizations of men.

I counted honesty, loyalty and integrity just as important as a guy's looks or what job they had. Probably even more so. I was immediately attracted to my now husband when I first met him, IMMEDIATELY. I found our conversations were a complete "turn on." I found our "nerdy" dates to the bookstores or going to mass together very romantic. It didn't matter what we did, it didn't have to be this grand date or anything, but to me they were always "romantic".

I also let go of the notion that I had to find someone, the need to get married was not urgent anymore. I had had a very long discernment/conversation with God and knew I was going to get married someday but it would be on God's time, not mine. That took a lot of pressure off any guy that I did meet, that it HAD to work out. A failed relationship or a bad date was no longer devastating. I learned a little bit more about myself when the guy turned out to be a dud and knew what to look for or not look for in any future date. I completely approached it as a learning process, about me and my future husband. Once I took that attitude, it was only a month or two after that I met my husband. We were engaged within five months.


#6

[quote="PatriceA, post:5, topic:220322"]
I stopped pursuing men that were emotionally unavailable, that didn't have the word "loyalty" or "commitment" in their vocabulary.

[/quote]

Hear ye, hear ye. :clapping:


#7

[quote="PatriceA, post:5, topic:220322"]
I found the man that accepted me "warts and all" because I changed the way I saw men and the type of man I would want to be with the rest of my life. I looked at what I found attractive in a man, what I found to be "sexy" in a man and I no longer thought in the way our society defines "sexy" and "attractive". I stopped pursuing men that were emotionally unavailable, that didn't have the word "loyalty" or "commitment" in their vocabulary. I stopped worrying about what other people thought about the guys I wanted to date. There's nothing like a group of other single girls to tell you just how wrong a guy may be, even when you think he could be a good match. I began to see men as individuals, that they have just as much to bring into the relationship as I did and stopped thinking I had to play a game or figure out what game they were playing to make a relationship work. I started to give each guy an honest and equal chance to show me who they were instead of thinking about the stereotypes and generalizations of men.

I counted honesty, loyalty and integrity just as important as a guy's looks or what job they had. Probably even more so. I was immediately attracted to my now husband when I first met him, IMMEDIATELY. I found our conversations were a complete "turn on." I found our "nerdy" dates to the bookstores or going to mass together very romantic. It didn't matter what we did, it didn't have to be this grand date or anything, but to me they were always "romantic".

I also let go of the notion that I had to find someone, the need to get married was not urgent anymore. I had had a very long discernment/conversation with God and knew I was going to get married someday but it would be on God's time, not mine. That took a lot of pressure off any guy that I did meet, that it HAD to work out. A failed relationship or a bad date was no longer devastating. I learned a little bit more about myself when the guy turned out to be a dud and knew what to look for or not look for in any future date. I completely approached it as a learning process, about me and my future husband. Once I took that attitude, it was only a month or two after that I met my husband. We were engaged within five months.

[/quote]

Ok I want this photocopied a billion times and handed out as pamphlets to women everywhere - I love it! Thank you!. :) :clapping: Applause indeed! Bravo!

Now I only need to follow it....lol :rolleyes:


#8

Exactly!

There is a lot of truth in this little scene from Fiddler on the Roof, too.
Love is a verb, but well, the affection is “nice to know”:

(Tevye) “Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become engaged to our daughter, Hodel.”

(Golde) “What??? He’s poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!”

(Tevye) “He’s a good man, Golde.
I like him. And what’s more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him.
So what can we do?
It’s a new world… A new world. Love. Golde…”

Do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I what?

(Tevye)
Do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You’re upset, you’re worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it’s indigestion

(Tevye)
“Golde I’m asking you a question…”

Do you love me?

(Golde)
You’re a fool

(Tevye)
“I know…”

But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

(Tevye) Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

(Golde)
I was shy

(Tevye)
I was nervous

(Golde)
So was I

(Tevye)
But my father and my mother
Said we’d learn to love each other
And now I’m asking, Golde
Do you love me?

(Golde)
I’m your wife

(Tevye)
"I know…"
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that’s not love, what is?

(Tevye)
Then you love me?

(Golde)
I suppose I do

(Tevye)
And I suppose I love you too

(Both)
It doesn’t change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It’s nice to know


#9

^ Me no like arranged stuff.


#10

[quote="chevalier, post:9, topic:220322"]
^ Me no like arranged stuff.

[/quote]

I didn't intend to be putting a plug in for arranged marriages! :eek:

Seriously, though, I think that is one of the most charming little duets I've ever heard. Even if you've gone 25 years without explicitly making romance a priority, even if it isn't even in your cultural psyche that it could be a priority, it's still a priority. If you're married, you want to know your spouse holds you in affection, that you are desired from among others that might have been and were not.

Affection towards one's spouse is something we have the power to kindle or extinguish in ourselves, but the ability varies greatly from person to person, and in every person, there is a limit. Even when it is natural, though, it is a tender bloom. It needs protection from storms, it needs cultivation, it needs appreciation. I don't think the white-hot torrid sort of mutual passion is necessary for a happy marriage. Let's face it: living a "honeymoon" state for a lifetime would kill most of us, even if the end came because our friends finally had to smother us both with our satin pillows. That is a short-lived bloom, and it ought to be. Deep mutual affection, though, that gives marriage its savor. (Besides, it makes the whole enterprise fun! :) )


#11

I think this has already been touched upon, but some of us are more romantically driven than others. Thinking of a certain someone makes me want to sing. Does that mean everyone has to do this? 'Course not. We’re all different.

So, OP, what kind of person are you? :slight_smile:


#12

I honestly think that with everything marriages have to go through, if a strong physical attraction is not there, a strong sexual connection between the couple, that the rough patches will be too much to take. Sometimes that’s the only glue you have left. Not necessarily anyone being “gorgeous” by societal standards, but just that “chemistry” that two people have that draws them to each other. I firmly believe that married couples should be lovers. Moony-eyed, can’t get close enough to each other, lovers. They should have desire in their eyes when they look at each other.

My own marriage of 13 1/2 years is still going strong on this count. And it has gotten us through some really hard times.


#13

As a woman, I was honest with myself and promised myself that I would not marry someone who I cannot see myself sleeping with. By all means, the other important qualities of a good Catholic, honesty, faithfulness and a sense of humor were more important but I know that if I couldn't see myself in a physical realtionship with you, then forget it!

Now that I am with my darling fiance, the rule has held strong and I will be happy when our honeymoon night comes. He was not my preferred type when I first met him but I always thought he was kinda cute. Love now has made him HAWT!! So my advice is to primarily look for the inner qualities in the man ( what made me take real notice of the df was what he wrote about his devotion to God on Catholic Match.com), do NOT marry someone if you can't ever see yourself physically with the person!


#14

A couple of responses...

First of all, just wanted to second the "Amen, girl!" to PatriceA, especially the part about following God's timing on things rather than our own :thumbsup: I so need to adopt that line of thinking. For those of you ladies out there who are also struggling with this and don't mind a bit of fluffy chick-lit with a "let go and let God" message tied in, check out "Never the Bride" by Rene Gutteridge (amazon.com/Never-Bride-Novel-Rene-Gutteridge/dp/0307444988). It's one of those that had me giggling out in public everywhere and not caring what kinds of looks I got :p

Attraction, affection, and passion are clearly quite difficult to pin down. It seems that most people value a certain degree of "he/she is attractive to ME" but less so the generic socially imposed "hotness" that may carry more weight in secular dating/marriage. I would have to agree...I suppose an underlying question (which some people have answered in their responses) is do you just "know"? Or can you miss a chance because the attraction isn't there at the start? I suppose the issue I'm grappling with is whether to look for that "feeling" right away or give someone a chance even if the initial feeling is very much on a platonic level (physical attractiveness is less of an issue than that personal "pull" or "feeling").

Finally, to respond to Havard, I don't know if I'd call myself a "romantic" as I tend not to be as drawn to/affected by the "traditional" romantic things (e.g.- phone calls every day, candy/flowers- unless there's a specific meaning behind it, anything that stores put out for Valentine's Day, or anything else that's "expected")...I'm more of a fan of picking up on little things that really make the person who they are and seeing the "romance" in that. I'm also not a "heads over heels" type of person...at least I haven't been yet :blush:


#15

[quote="iwillrisenow, post:14, topic:220322"]
Attraction, affection, and passion are clearly quite difficult to pin down. It seems that most people value a certain degree of "he/she is attractive to ME" but less so the generic socially imposed "hotness" that may carry more weight in secular dating/marriage. I would have to agree...I suppose an underlying question (which some people have answered in their responses) is do you just "know"? Or can you miss a chance because the attraction isn't there at the start? I suppose the issue I'm grappling with is whether to look for that "feeling" right away or give someone a chance even if the initial feeling is very much on a platonic level (physical attractiveness is less of an issue than that personal "pull" or "feeling").

Finally, to respond to Havard, I don't know if I'd call myself a "romantic" as I tend not to be as drawn to/affected by the "traditional" romantic things (e.g.- phone calls every day, candy/flowers- unless there's a specific meaning behind it, anything that stores put out for Valentine's Day, or anything else that's "expected")...I'm more of a fan of picking up on little things that really make the person who they are and seeing the "romance" in that. I'm also not a "heads over heels" type of person...at least I haven't been yet :blush:

[/quote]

Well, I'm not a "traditional" romantic either. I actually don't like getting flowers because they eventually wilt and you have to throw them out. And I find chocolate gives me a headache...even when I was a kid, when I went out trick-or-treating, I'd wind up with a pile of candy that I never ate because I didn't like most of it. If a guy got me a high-quality gift that was also practical (like, say, a Dyson) then I'd actually jump up and down...that is, assuming the guy could afford the gift, if he didn't I'd feel really guilty, and/or wonder if I could trust him to be responsible with the finances.

That being said, I agree with the personal "pull". There's been times that I thought a man wasn't that physically attractive, yet was very interesting because he had a unique hobby, or a quirky sense of humor. While it's a cliche, I think it's certainly possible to start off thinking someone has an "attractive personality" but is "meh" in terms of looks, and wind up finding him physically attractive as well. However, I've also given guys "a chance" in the past where I felt no such pull at all, hoping that spending enough time with them would convince me to give them a chance...but if the pull was never there, it didn't magically appear even if I put myself into romantic settings such as a fancy restaurant. I've also never been able to develop an attraction for a man if I actually found him repulsive to start off with, though sometimes if I get to know him better I'll start finding him average or neutral. The opposite, however, can happen (start thinking a guy is attractive and wind up finding him repulsive).

So, I guess from my experience, I think that you have to have some kind of spark that doesn't exist with people who you see as platonic friends. That doesn't mean you have to find the person to be a perfect physical specimen, gorgeous, HAWT, etc. Also, I have seen even some Christian sources suggest that if you're not actively struggling with lustful, impure thoughts toward your partner, that you shouldn't get married, because you'll likely wind up with sexual issues or even a "sexless marriage"...I once saw such advice given to a woman who was concerned that she had never seen or felt her fiance have an erection around her, that she should leave him or be doomed to living like roommates. Often, such sources seem to wink at premarital intimacy as long as couples don't actually go "all the way" to intercourse, and seem to have a very legalistic idea that not having sex until you're married is just an arbitrary rule sent down from the heavens. In that sense, I find Catholic theology on sexuality to be quite deep and thoughtful.


#16

For me, attraction has to be there from the beginning. Due to my Asperger's, I'm not a social person. I don't make small talk with random people, I don't go out of my way to get to know people or interact with strangers, etc. With women, there has to be that initial attraction otherwise, I'll never have a reason to get to know them. As it stands now, it's not like it's made any difference because even when I'm around a woman I find attractive, I still need to have a "valid reason" or something relevant to talk to her about, but if I find her attractive, I might put a little more effort into trying to think of something.


#17

Hey Bataar...your words remind me of someone I know, who is on the spectrum somewhere (though never officially diagnosed with Asperger's)...and who once remarked, "Well, if I really loved someone, I guess I could actually live with them". But, I used to wonder if I had such tendencies myself until I met this person, since I really hated small talk. As I've gotten older I've gotten better at it, but it still doesn't come easily to me. But I guess it's a nice filter for dates...if I can't find anything relevant to discuss, that's probably a sign we have too little in common. But, it seems that if you meet people with a common interest, then you would be able to find a reason to talk to them...not just to find girls to date, but to find friends.


#18

I have a bit of a similar thing too. I *can *invent a reason on the spot, but I generally have to have some substantive reason and I don't like not having subjects to talk about (which does happen with some women).


#19

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