“Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage…” This old time song is as true today as ever, and we now have a deeper understanding from both Scripture and science of how love and marriage “dance” together and how to restore the dance when the music stops. When God created Adam and Eve in His Divine Image, He inscribed into their very nature the image of the Trinity: a communion of persons, eternally “dancing” in a relationship of love. Perhaps that’s why we love TV shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “Dancing With The Stars”. Here, week after week, we vote for the couples that connect, that make each other shine, that dimly image the glory of what God created man and woman for: a married, flowing embrace of love, modeling the dance of love in the Trinity.
God’s loving plan is most revealed by Christ on the Cross, where for the love of us, and to reconcile us to the love of God, Jesus, the “Lord of the Dance,” poured out his life in recklessly self-sacrificial love that was so fruitful it gave life to the world and formed the Church. This is the kind of love that God intends for marriage.
Marriage is a gift from God; one gift not lost in the fall of Adam and Eve. As Christians, we have the privilege of knowing God’s plan for marriage revealed through the Word of God. When we look to the Scriptures and the Church teaching of the Sacrament of Marriage, the purpose of marriage becomes clear: Men and women, having been created by a loving God to share life with Him forever, were given to one another by God in holy matrimony for them to assist and accompany each other through life in fulfillment of God’s mission, plan, and purpose. Husbands and wives marry in love to fulfill God’s plan of love, to bring children into the world and raise them for Him, and to help and partner with each other to achieve their full identity in Christ.
Modern research in the science of love began with a British psychiatrist by the name of John Bowlby who studied the attachment processes of children admitted to hospitals in the 1940’s. At that time, mothers were not allowed to stay with their hospitalized children. These children protested separation just like married people do when they are hurt by their partners and feel their partners aren’t there for them and they no longer matter. Hurt partners protest by withdrawing, avoiding more hurt, or demanding attention, but in a manner that drives their partner further away.
This “dance,” what researcher Sue Johnson in Hold Me Tight calls “The Protest Polka,” sets up an endless loop of blame and withdrawal that leads into much of the conflict that is seen in marriage counseling sessions. When people feel hurt in close relationships, the reflex is either to protest by “poking” at the other to get their attention or to avoid more pain. In the dance coaching that we call Couples Therapy, people learn how to identify and ask for what they need without driving their partner away, thus ending the “Protest Polka” and learning a new dance of effective dependency. This simple principle can often turn around long-standing patterns of conflict.
God is love and His nature is self-giving and generosity.
We need to love and be loved to flourish in a love-created Universe.
This principle of love, of renewing self-giving, of forgiveness, is built by God
into the structures of nature and grace making all things new.
It is the basis of the virtue of hope.
Through prayer, forgiveness, and the building of relationship skills, many marriages can be restored.
Much is riding on the ability of married partners to be able to turn to each other. Many people live in a community of only two, relying on their partner to fill all their needs for love and support. It’s no wonder so many marriages fail under this pressure and so many come to my office to talk about loneliness and heartache, the root of many of the symptoms we see today.
In the light of biblical revelation, traditional Church teaching and the best of modern science, it makes sense to seek marriage therapy when things go away rather than to break up. Through the Sacrament of Marriage, the Church teaches that Jesus gives the strength and grace to live the real meaning of marriage. God is faithful to His promises: Our lives and our marriages can be made new. God wants to draw all marriages into the loving dance embrace of the Trinity. God is love and His nature is self-giving and generosity. We need to love and be loved to flourish in a love-created Universe. This principle of love, of renewing self-giving, of forgiveness, is built by God into the structures of nature and grace making all things new. It is the basis of the virtue of hope. Through prayer, forgiveness, and the building of relationship skills, many marriages can be restored.
The message of this article is to encourage hope that in many different kinds of marriages – deadly, desperate, or mediocre – God’s gifts and promises remain true in the face of any and all obstacles. He supplies what He promises and assists in what He asks of us. Catholic therapists provide marriage counseling to develop relationship skills based on Catholic faith principles to teach couples how to do the dance of intimacy with each other again. We equip and accompany couples on their journey to the abundance of life in marriage promised by Our Lord, Jesus, who told us that “with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26) because the same power that raised Christ from the dead is also at work in those who believe (Eph 1:19-20).
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