Common Fallacies Regarding Marriage
There are many aspects of married life that have been taken by some to be marriage in its entirety (CL 104-112). Therefore it is necessary to mention seven of these fallacies that people hold on to regarding marriage so that the actual origin of marriage may be seen. The fact is that the origin of conjugial love is “from the God of heaven and earth” and the origin of its vigor or potency is “from a person’s state of conjunction with the God of the universe. (We call this state a state of religion, but you call it a state of the church)” (CL 113). With this in mind, consider the following fallacies.
1. Marriage Is A Location; Once You Get There Everything Is Wonderful
This misconception arises from the thought that “heavenly happiness, which is also eternal happiness, is simply admission into heaven, and admission by Divine grace” (CL 3). This fallacy rests in thinking “of heaven in terms of a place and not in terms of love” (CL 10.3) and “believing as others do that all in the entire world are capable of receiving the joys there in their fullness” (CL 10.5). The reality is, marriage is not a location, but a state of life (Cf. CL 10.7) and it requires preparation (Cf. CL 10.6) and development on the part of the individual, because “everyone comes into a society of heaven of which he is a form in individual effigy” (CL 10.8). Marriage is not only a destination, it is also an orientation in life. “The state of heavenly life comes from love and wisdom. And because useful service is the containing vessel of both love and wisdom, the state of heavenly life comes from a combination of these two in useful service” (CL 10.7). The state of marriage is not simply a location, destination, or goal. It is a way of life in which partners look to the Lord together and work to perform useful services for each other and those around them. It is true that a person’s state in life is greatly changed simply by enacting a wedding and therefore entering into a marriage. However, the real quality of a marriage is not determined by the wedding ceremony, but by the preparation for the marriage as a spiritual union of two and the ongoing work by both partners to become more spiritual people.
2. Marriage Is Simply A Continuing Conversation
People who think that “heavenly joy and eternal happiness consist simply in delightful associations with angels and enjoyable conversations with them” (CL 3.2) believe that the quality of a marriage is determined by the quality of conversation between the partners. Although this is a “merely subsidiary adjunct to heavenly joys” (CL 5.3), true heavenly joy “is the pleasure of doing something that is of use to oneself and to others, and the pleasure in being useful takes its essence from love and its expression from wisdom. The pleasure in being useful, springing from love through wisdom, is the life and soul of all heavenly joys” (CL 5.3). The delights of marriage are many and varied, but they share this one thing in common – “the life and soul in all these delights and pleasures comes from the useful services they perform” (CL 5.4). Whether it is the conversations between husband and wife, or their work outside the home, or even the ultimate delights of physical union, all of these delights are delightful according to the use they serve. Focusing on real spiritual uses determines the quality of a marriage. Conversation is certainly an important tool for a healthy marriage, but only when it is entered into for the sake of use. In the case of conversation, these uses will vary from conflict resolution, to mutual support and assistance, to simple recreation. To the degree that use is the focus of conversation, to that degree conversation improves the quality of a marriage.
3. Marriage Is A Vehicle For Social Affairs
It is certainly true that marriage alters a couple’s social life. However, when this is seen as the core of a successful marriage, it is similar to those who think, “What else is heavenly joy and eternal happiness but dining with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” (CL 3.3). As with conversation, social life can be perceived as “joys, but not as happiness. Happiness must be in joys in order to come from the joys. Happiness in the joys causes the joys to be joys….This happiness everyone has from being useful in his occupation” (CL 6.5). Once again, this fallacy regarding marriage is dispelled by the fact that “by accomplishment the mind finds peace and satisfaction. This satisfaction and peace produce a state of mind receptive of a love of useful service from the Lord. From a reception of this love comes heavenly happiness, which is the life in the joys just referred to” (CL 6.6). Within every successful marriage there is a love of useful service. In realizing that they were created by the Lord to serve each other and others, a couple is able to pursue spiritual and celestial life that will improve the real life quality of their marriage from the inside out. Like conversation, social life is a tool for a good marriage to use, not the sole determiner of its quality.
4. Marriage Is A Paradise
In the present world culture, romance is very often confused with love. Whether it is in stories which end with “And they lived happily ever after” or other media presentations of relationships that simply seem “to work” without real input from one or both of the partners, people are supported in the misconception that if they “could just find the right partner” somehow a marriage relationship would just happen on its own accord. Even in the present New Church culture, people believe that they are looking for their “conjugial partner” as if there were one individual out there somewhere who would make marriage an eternally romantic event. At its root, the romantic ideal is based on thinking that “heavenly joys are like those of a paradise…with unlimited variety…and that because of their continual production and growth … minds and hearts cannot help but breathe in and out new joys every day, being forever rejuvenated” (CL 3.4). In other words, it is the thought that in marriage a couple will “find complete rest from their labors” (CL 8.1). However, heavenly joy and eternal happiness “are not the outward delights of a paradise unless they include at the same time the inward delights of a paradise” (CL 8.4). This inward:
delight of the soul comes from love and wisdom from the Lord. And because love is creative of effects, and is effective through wisdom, therefore the abode of both love and wisdom is in the effect, and the effect is useful service. This delight flows from the Lord into the soul, and it descends through the higher and lower regions of the mind into all the senses of the body and fulfills itself in them. Joy becomes joy from this, and it becomes eternal from Him who is its eternal source. (CL 8.5)
The paradisal joys and delights of soul in marriage are real. However, it is not that a couple’s “minds and hearts cannot help but” participate in them. Rather, they are the fruit of real labor, continual work, and useful service descending from the soul through the mind and into the body. Every activity, thought, and word in marriage is an opportunity for conjunction or disjunction with one’s partner. The more often a husband and wife use these opportunities for conjunction through a useful life together, the more often they will discover the paradise which marriage truly can be.
5. Marriage Is For The Sake Of Social Position, Political Power, Or Wealth
This is merely a fantasy (Cf. CL 7.2). To the people who believed that “heavenly joys and eternal happiness are nothing else but positions of great power, accumulations of great wealth, and so super regal magnificence and super glorious splendor” (CL 3.5). An angel asks:
Have you forgotten the Lord’s words, that in heaven whoever desires to be great becomes a servant? Learn therefore what is meant by kings and princes and by reigning with Christ. It means to be wise and perform useful services. For the kingdom of Christ, namely, heaven, is a kingdom of useful services. The reason is that the Lord loves all people and so wills good to all, and good means useful service. (CL 7.3)
Although large discrepancies between partners in any of these three can lead to coldness in marriage, if these are considered to be major factors in choosing a partner the likelihood of finding happiness in marriage is greatly constrained.
6. Marriage Is Continual Worship
From the statement by the Lord in the Gospels that “the kingdom of heaven is like a man, a king, who arranged a wedding for his son” (Matthew 22:2-14) it may be seen that “to marry means to be conjoined with the Lord, and to go to a wedding means to be received into heaven by the Lord” (CL 41). However, to think that “eternal happiness … consists solely in a continual glorifying of God, a religious celebration lasting to eternity…resulting in constant elevation of the heart to God” (CL 3.6) is a fallacy that some, especially within the church, fall into respecting marriage. This is a fallacy because elevation of the mind requires a descent into the life of the body (CL 9.2). Spiritual life is a continual glorification and worship of God. However, glorifying God “means to bring forth the fruits of love, that is, to perform the work of one’s occupation faithfully, honestly, and diligently. For this is the effect of love of God and love of the neighbor, and it is what binds society together and makes its goodness. It is by this that God is glorified, and afterward by worship at prescribed times” (CL 9.4). This is what was meant by the Lord when He said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples” (John 15:8). Too often people make spiritual life into a mystical pursuit for enlightenment or an ethereal state of life disconnected from the world. The fact of the matter is that marriage is continual worship, the internal worship that is a life of religion. Let people be warned away from thinking of ideal marriage as something elevated beyond the everyday life of a couple. True marriage is available to anyone who seeks to live a spiritual life, “faithfully, honestly, and diligently” completing the work of their daily lives as an act of worship for God. It is important for a couple to spend time reading the Word together, praying together, and attending church. However, the real worship of God is when they take those times of reflection and use them to improve the quality of their moment-to-moment lives.
7. Marriage Is About Sex
Like the earlier fallacies, this fallacy is rooted in a misconception of the origin of marriage. If one thinks that marriage arises from the external urges of the body, it sounds reasonable to ask:
Does that love not exist in everyone according to the condition of his sexual powers? Is it not found among people who are outside the church as well as among people who are in the church? Among gentiles as well as among Christians? In fact, among impious people as well as among pious ones? Does the vigor of that love in everyone not come either from heredity, or from good health, or from temperance of life, or from the warmth of the climate? And can it not also be strengthened and stimulated by drugs? (CL 79.10)
However, the fact is that the origin of conjugial love is “from the God of heaven and earth” and the origin of its vigor or potency is “from a person’s state of conjunction with the God of the universe. (We call this state a state of religion, but you call it a state of the church)” (CL 113). The quality of a physical relationship in marriage is entirely determined by the internal states of that marriage. People who marry for sex soon discover that this merely external perspective soon ceases to hold any life in it. Whereas, for people who enter into marriage for internal reasons, the physical union with their partner continues to develop in vitality. Although people were provided by the Lord with both an internal and an external inclination to marriage, successful marriages are based on a relationship in which the external inclination is subject to the internal and flows from it.
All of these fallacies have something of truth in them, but they remain illusions in the fact that people see them as what constitutes marriage. In reality they should simply be viewed “as subsidiary adjuncts, and as works of God, [for] to that extent we view in them the Divine omnipotence and beneficence” (CL 12.2).