Blessings in Marriage
by Rev. B.W. Keith
While little boys may turn their noses up at the thought of marriage, it is a relationship that is desired by most others. Joining together with one other special person and forming an intimate connection is very appealing. For who wants to be alone? Who wants to be so self-reliant that there is no room for another? We have all experienced the fact that joy shared is joy multiplied. So how much more must that be the case in marriage.
Marriage is also thought of as a happy state. The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church confirm this, emphasizing that "into this love are gathered all joys and all delights from their firsts to their lasts" (CL 68) - all joys and all delights from firsts to lasts. While in some ways this is hard to imagine, we can sense that it should be so, and we pray that it becomes so in our lives.
But if marriage is supposed to be filled with so many blessings, why do we not always sense it? Why may it seem that the ideal of conjugial love is far distant, if possible at all?
The blessings of marriage may not be evident because of how few good examples and how many poor examples of it there are. Although there are some insightful portrayals of joyous marriages, the media are filled with many more relationships gone awry. Or perhaps we have personally seen the hellish fury or desolation of a marriage where no happiness is felt. How unfortunately true is the observation of the Writings that conjugial love is so rare that it is not known what it is and scarcely that it is (see CL 58).
But the blessings of conjugial love may not be evident for other reasons than its total absence. Since marriage is a growing relationship, each person will be developing during its process. This is a polite way of saying that any two people trying to achieve happiness in marriage will be fighting against their own hellish inclinations that inevitably rise up, causing painful and prolonged troubles.
This is especially seen whenever there is a struggle for control (see HH 380). The happiness of marriage is destroyed when one, but usually both, vies to take charge. This strikes at the heart of marriage, for it challenges its mutuality. Rather than seeking to share by giving, there is an effort to take by imposing one's will on the other. As everyone treasures his or her freedom, it is not surprising that resistance leads to all-out conflict. Whenever open or subtle struggles for control exist, there is no joy in marriage.
But even when such hellish struggles do not exist, the blessings of marriage may not be easily perceived. When we have a superficial view of marriage, when we judge it based on external measures, we are likely to miss the point.
This is the case if we have false ideas of what marriage is supposed to be. Anyone thinking that a good marriage means one without arguments, one with instant agreement of the partners in all things, will be bitterly disappointed. When there is conflict he may think the marriage is hopeless, that there can never be any happiness. Or a person who imagines that marriage is endless intelligent conversations, like what had been the case on dates, will probably be surprised to discover that the other person is not always as witty and bright as had appeared. Did he marry the wrong person? No. It is just that false expectations may lead one to reject reality and be unable to identify where there might be happiness.
There may also be a superficial view of marriage if one is overly concerned about the external or sensual aspects of it. The man who wants to marry the most attractive girl around, or the woman who wants to marry someone who will ensure her financial security, may well get what he or she has ordered, but will not necessarily find happiness in it.
This can be taken even further. If we listed all the qualities a good marriage should have - similar interests, spending quality time together, working together, good communication and problem-solving skills (to name but a few) - and then ran a computer match with extensive training sessions, could we manufacture a genuinely happy marriage? Probably not. For these alone cannot create the blessings of marriage.
Why? Because while all of these can make marriages smoother, they are aimed at the external interaction of the couple. If general similarities and various techniques could create a good marriage, then the blessings of conjugial love would exist in virtually every marriage.
What is missing? The essence of it. The source of all blessings in marriage is the Lord (see CL 335, 336). He brings couples together. He causes them to sense that special attraction. He leads them throughout their married life, forming them into an angelic couple that will dwell together in heaven forever. He does all this "because in the Lord is an infinity of all blessings" (CL 335).
The Lord's love is creative. It does not remain alone. Its very essence is to communicate its goods to others (see CL 335; TCR 43). It is from this that we were made. It is from this that He made us male and female. It is from this that conjugial love is given us as the precious pearl of human life.
Any sense we have that we can create the happiness of marriage is certain to lead to frustration. For there is no magic formula that automatically produces the blessings of marriage. There is no hidden secret that will guarantee lasting happiness. If we think there is, we are likely to impose it on our relationships, forcing them to conform to a set standard.
This does not mean the Lord simply gives certain couples the blessings of marriage regardless of what they do. For they "are given to no others save those who approach Him alone and live according to His precepts" (CL 336). To find happiness in marriage we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is then that all other things can be added to us. For happiness is not found in living together, raising children, or having the security of someone else there. Real happiness can only be found when each person is approaching the Lord alone. When He is acknowledged as the source of everything good, when He is regarded as the fountain of truth, then are we opened to His love.
And this openness exists only when we respond to His direction by following His Word. As He said, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).
In other words, every step taken in the path of regeneration enables more of the conjugial to flow into our lives. As we come to appreciate and eventually love the Lord through shunning evils as sins, His love is showered upon us.
Note the implications for a single person. Although the blessings of conjugial love can only be fully experienced in the marriage relationship, the conjugial itself grows within each and every regenerating spirit. Conjugial love makes a one with love to the Lord. Although a person may not have a spouse in this world, to the extent there is a turning to the Lord and walking in His way, a love of marriage grows and will enable the person to experience the full blessings of conjugial love.
For where regeneration is taking place, there is a greater interest in others than in oneself. This enables the mutual sharing of marriage to occur. Indeed, it is from this source that the real happiness of marriage comes. The Heavenly Doctrines note that the "sharing [of love] and consequent conjunction are the interior delight itself that is called blessedness in marriage" (HH 380).
As two people draw closer to the Lord they have heavenly loves to share with each other. The Lord thereby knits their two souls into a one. This is the source of a couple's happiness - it comes from the Lord and is felt in the innermost recesses of one's life.
From there it can permeate the rest of a person's life. A regenerating love descends even into the least things. When it is present, there is happiness in little things, like just sitting quietly together. When it is present, then affections are expressed in subtle smiles and tones of voice. And when it is present, all things of being together hold delight not delight in themselves, but delight as they embody inner loves that are shared.
What happens is that within the regenerating mind there is a growing innocence. It is a willingness to trust in the Lord and seek His guidance. This produces a peaceful, tranquil state - a state without worry about what might go wrong. And so there is an inner friendship and confidence. It is the security in knowing that one's spouse, although flawed and still developing, cares deeply for what is good. And this security produces the desire to do every good for one's spouse.
From such an inner reservoir of love coming from the Lord flow all the blessings of marriage. These are unlimited in number: They can only increase with time. For within marriage is the possibility of all joys, of all happinesses.
Evils may block out these joys. Natural worries may cover them over. But as each person in a marriage is gradually shunning what is from hell, the Lord is drawing each closer to Him and each other. From that growing love which is shared between souls and minds comes all happiness in life. The blessings of marriage are not found in any external riches or advantages, but in the spirit of love to the Lord which brings two to become one flesh
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"The states of this love are innocence, peace, tranquility, inmost friendship, full confidence and a desire in mind and heart to do the other every good, and from all these blessedness, satisfaction, joy and pleasure" (CL 180).
-New Church Life 1991; 111:243-247