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Principles Relating to the
Selection of a Marriage Partner

by Rev. Geoffrey H. Howard

One of the more perplexing problems facing our western civilization is the alarming breakdown of marriage. It is a problem that has steadily assumed significant proportion during the last fifty years. This unhappy fact has weakened the moral fiber of modern society. It has caused untold sorrow and heartache. It has left its hurt deeply entrenched in the hearts and minds of those affected. The memory of such painful experiences can never be totally eradicated in this life.

In seeking a solution to help break this trend, we must realize that there is often little that can be done to resolve a marriage problem that is very deeply entrenched. It would be highly desirable if such couples would act toward each other through simulating kind behavior as the Writings advocate.

The real hope lies with a marriage that is yet to be contracted, for prior to marriage a young man and a young woman have a freedom of choice that is not bound by a contracted covenant. Too often people enter into marriage without exploring their relationship to each other thoroughly enough. Some become married without really feeling deeply "in love," without actually having felt led into their marriage by the Lord.

Our purpose here is to focus upon some of the many principles which the Lord has revealed in the Writings. In them He tells us the very means whereby He seeks to lead us to find a partner whom we can marry and with whom we can develop a relationship that will last to eternity.

The Existence of Love Truly Conjugial

In the Writings the Lord has revealed the existence of "love truly conjugial." This is described as a quality of love that is more deeply interior than any other love in human experience. It can be given only in the marriage of one man and one woman and only when each looks to the Lord and strives to live by His commandments. Everyone has been created either male or female. It is the Lord's intent that in time each will be led to find a suitable partner, if not in this world then certainly in heaven. The perfection in marriage, along with the greatest sense of delight, is provided by the Lord as each willingly follows His leading. As each partner comes to will and think as the other they become one in thought and in will. To render marriage blessed, happy and delightful, the Lord provides His supreme gift: a quality of love interior and sublime, "above every love" - conjugial love (CL 64).

Society at large is for the most part unaware of the existence of a love of this quality. Conjugial love is "so rare that it is not known what it is and scarcely that it is" (CL 69). The Writings however reveal its existence. To have this knowledge is therefore a great privilege, for if we know that such a love exists, then we may strive to become worthy of its reception. We may come to learn the laws which govern its reception, and if we understand the Lord's order pertaining to marriage, we may be led to select a partner, in full freedom, with whom an eternal union may develop. Therefore, through the agency of the Writings, along with a faith in their teachings and a willingness to follow them, there is hope of conjugial love's "being brought back to its primeval or ancient holiness" (CL 74). What a glorious promise that is, and what a tremendous goal it is to strive for.

The question remains: How does the Lord lead us to find such a partner? How do we recognize and discover each other? How do we know that what we feel within ourselves can be trusted? How does the Lord lead us and show us the way?

How Did the Lord Lead a Man and a Woman into Marriage in the Beginning?

If we had been born in the Golden Age and lived in the celestial Most Ancient Church, we would not be asking these questions. In that pristine state of early creation, people were born into an unspoiled order which the Lord had formed at the beginning. With the absence of evil spheres from hell, the Lord could lead men and women to find their partners through a certain perception which was granted them from heaven. He led them immediately through heaven. He provided them with affections which they felt keenly within their hearts. The law of marriage between only one man and one woman "was inscribed on their internal man" (CL 162). Since evil spheres did not intrude with allurement, heavenly perceptions could descend and lead in a most immediate way. Such perceptions led a young man and a young woman to find each other as if from a certain dictate that came from within them.

However, we are not born into such a state. Instead we are born into the fallen state of the human race. We are born virtually bereft of all heavenly perceptions. Certainly we still have perceptions, but from ourselves we are in total darkness as to their origin, whether they are from heaven or from hell, whether they are founded in truth or in falsity. To enable us to ascertain their origin, and thus their quality, the Lord provides us with His Word. These precious books, in which His truth has been revealed through the ages, enable us to establish the quality of the perceptions which we feel. Through comparing what we feel with what the Word teaches, we may know which perceptions are from heaven and which are not. The same principle applies in our seeking to know how the Lord leads us to find our marriage partner. The feelings that are awakened within us must be guided and moderated by revealed principles from the Lord's Word, and there is an abundance of such principles in the Writings of His Second Coming.

How Is the Lord's Leadership Shown to Us?

The important thing to remember is that in leading us the Lord does not speak to us openly. He always leads us tacitly "by means of affections and not by means of thoughts" (AE 1175:3). That is a key statement. The Lord leads us by means of our affections, or our feelings. Now all of our affections, that is all the loves and desires we feel, come to us from the spiritual world. Good affections come from heaven, and evil ones from hell. But it is further taught that affections in themselves are invisible; they "do not become evident to man" (Ibid.). However, "affections produce thoughts" (AE 825:3), and by means of thoughts they do become visible. Through consulting the Word, their origin and quality become known. It should be clearly understood that the Lord never leads and teaches us through "any perceptible inspiration, but by an influx into [our] spiritual delight" (Ibid.). Thus when an affection which is provided by the Lord shows itself in our thought, we feel as though we think freely, as though we speak and act freely, as if of ourselves (see AE 1175:4). It is because of our fallen condition that the Word must always be consulted carefully for all spiritual guidance. If the affections we feel, and the thoughts which these produce, are in harmony with what the Word teaches, then we may follow them and pursue them with confidence.

The Affections Through Which the Lord Leads Us to Enter into Marriage

In creating the human race the Lord formed the two sexes, male and female. From their very creation the Lord implanted in each "an inclination to conjoin themselves into a one" (CL 88). The Lord's ultimate objective was and still is that a man should marry a woman of his choosing, and that through progression in marriage they should gradually come to receive conjugial love and perceive an ever-increasing sense of blessedness. The potential for this is provided from creation, but its manifestation dawns gradually. The Writings tell us that "conjugial love ... does not appear during infancy and childhood, but still [it] lies hidden within; nor does it come forth until each and all things have been so disposed that it can manifest itself; meanwhile it produces all of the means that are suited to itself' (AC 3610). From this teaching we can see that the potential for receiving conjugial love has been implanted in each person from creation. The first manifestation of this inclination toward conjunction between the two sexes begins at puberty, when the love of the opposite sex begins to be actively awakened. Initially a general sense of attraction to the opposite sex becomes felt. With boys it is a keen and active physical attraction. With girls it appears to be more gradual.

Let us remember that this love of the sex is part of the Lord's order in creation, and as such is a most important provision. Already we have mentioned that He leads us through our affections. However, in the fallen condition of the human race, let us also remember that by themselves the affections we feel without the guidance of truth are not to be trusted. They should be subject to the control of the rational mind, which when properly instructed from the Lord's Word, should exercise guidance and control over this developing love. Thus the love of the sex is in itself a general love which is quite undiscriminating. It is a love "toward many ... and with many .... Man has it in common with the animals and the birds" (CL 48).

However, without the love of the sex the Lord could not lead us into marriage. Out of this general love which is first felt the Lord seeks to further lead a man and a woman to feel an attraction for one another and then to discover compatible qualities in each other. If the affections in their hearts develop, He fills them with a desire to become married. The love of the sex plays a most vital part in this process of selection, but it is by no means the only factor.

The Writings describe the initial process: "Before a consort is found, the sex in general is loved, being regarded with a fond eye and treated with courteous morality; for an adolescent it is in the period of choosing, and then, from an implanted inclination to marriage with one which is latent in the shrine of his mind, his external grows pleasantly warm" (CL 98). Let us note that the initiative spoken of here is the masculine initiative. It is "his external" that "grows pleasantly warm." The Writings elaborate upon this principle, and tell us why the initiative in courtship falls to the masculine province. Very good reasons are given for this. The masculine mind is said to be "a form of understanding" (CL 33), and by virtue of this a man is granted a more clear insight as to who, among his female companions, holds the greatest appeal (see CL 296).

What is it that draws a young man to seek the hand of a particular young woman? The answer lies partly in the fact that a man is endowed with "the prolific principle and this is from no other source than the understanding" (CL 90). Thus the love of one of the sex, which in time he is given to feel, is inmostly directed by the form of the understanding in his mind. Because of this, the love of the sex which he feels is not felt with equal intensity toward all of the female sex. A greater attraction is felt toward some than others. The reason for this lies not simply in the physical beauty or in the physical appeal of a particular girl. It exists from a higher and more interior cause. Its cause is the fact that each man is created to receive in his understanding a certain quality of wisdom from the Lord. He is born into "the love of becoming wise" (CL 88). He actually becomes wise by seeking the Lord's guidance, and by striving to bring His teachings down into the very conduct of his life. If a young man does this, then the Lord is able to lead him in quite an immediate way.

Let us consider these teachings further. As we have said, a man is born with a potential for becoming wise. Every man is unique. His understanding is unique, and therefore the form of wisdom that he is in the potential of receiving from the Lord is likewise of unique quality. By virtue of these factors a man comes to feel a specific attraction for one of the female sex whose mind and whose being are capable of becoming conjoined to his. Thus it is said that "from an implanted inclination to marriage with one, which is latent in the shrine of his mind, his external grows pleasantly warm" (CL 98). Every man is therefore created with the potential of receiving from the Lord a unique quality of wisdom. As a consequence his unique form of mind causes him to perceive an attraction for a young woman who manifests a potential response, a response that may develop into a love of his potential wisdom; for a woman was created to become the love of her husband's wisdom. Her form of mind is likewise unique, giving rise to her perceiving different responses to different men who may seek her company.

These principles are very important to understand. As we have already stated, the Lord leads us all by means of our affections. When love of one of the opposite sex coincides with a mutual feeling of mental and spiritual compatibility, then it may be assumed that the Lord has provided an indication of something which deserves further scrutiny and exploration.

In summary we may say that the affections by means of which the Lord leads us into marriage have a twofold manifestation. Firstly, the love of one of the opposite sex is kindled with the young man. His "external grows pleasantly warm" (CL 98). Secondly, during the process of courtship the compatibilities and the similitudes within the mind of each become known and recognized. If these cohere, an answer is given, and mutual consent to marry is appropriate.

This is similar to the state which exists in heaven "when a young man sees the virgin provided by the Lord, and the virgin the young man, and both feel the conjugial to be enkindled in their hearts, and perceive, he that she is his, and she that he is hers; for when love meets love, it meets itself and causes it to recognize itself and at once conjoins their souls_ and their minds" (CL 44). It is therefore of great value to know that this is one of the means whereby the Lord leads us. For this reason we are taught "that with man, love of the sex is not the origin of conjugial love, but is the first thereof" (CL 98). It should also be strongly emphasized that love of the sex is not the only indication. Similarities of mind are of prior importance. Thus, love of the sex is "as a natural external wherein is implanted a spiritual internal" (Ibid). We will now consider each of these questions further, the love of the sex and the doctrine of similitudes.

The Relationship between the Love of the Sex and Conjugial Love

In itself the love of the sex is a roving love. Every person receives it, or comes to receive it, a man in one way and a woman in another. The Lord implanted it to serve a twofold use. The first was that by its means a husband and a wife may become more and more conjoined in the marriage of good and truth and thus strengthened in the conjugial covenant. Its second use was that through its means the procreation of the human race was provided for.

Love of the sex is in itself as a servant. It can become subject to the influence of the Lord operating through the heavens. Then it serves as the ultimate means for the expression of conjugial love in marriage, and also the orderly means for the procreation of the race. It can also be made subject to the influence of the hells, in which case it serves the lusts of adultery and lasciviousness. We have been given the freedom to use it either way.

If a person wishes to be led by the Lord, and wishes to be led into a legitimate and lovely companionship with one, then love of the sex is one of the important means through which the Lord is able to lead to the eventual discovery of a true partner. With such, therefore, "the first sensation of the conjugial ... pertains to love of the sex" (CL 150). It "does indeed commence from love of the sex, or rather by means of that love, yet it does not arise from it" (CL 98). "Conjugial love is in love of the sex as a gem in its matrix" (CL 97).

A further distinction is given that "love of the sex is love toward many of the sex and with many; but conjugial love is love toward one of the sex and with one" (CL 48). This is an important distinction to make. Because conjugial love can exist only in marriage with one, then when a potential partner is found, an attraction is felt for that one only. "Who does not then look upon other women with a loveless nod and upon his own with a loving one?" (CL 58) These first states provided by the Lord are of great significance and importance.

When a young man and a young woman first fall in love, they enter into a tender and blessed state. They feel strongly attracted to each other. The reason is that "love of the sex which is unchaste is then cast out, and implanted in its place resides love of one of the sex" (CL 58). The Lord shows us much in these first states, that is in the states of courtship, betrothal and in the early days of marriage. The glow that is then mutually felt "emulates love truly conjugial and presents it to view in an image" (Ibid.). It is thus a borrowed state, one that "emulates" and presents to view a glorious future. Yet this is not love truly conjugial in itself. That is given later as the state of the church becomes sown in the heart of each partner.

Although the sense of exhilaration felt in those first states is beautiful and tender, the Writings describe them as states "of heat not tempered with light" (CL 137). And so we are warned that "the first heat of marriage does not conjoin, for it partakes of love of the sex, which is a love belonging to the body and thence to the spirit." They further add that "what is in the spirit from the body does not stay long, while love which is in the body from the spirit does" (CL 162). The love of one of the sex is most keenly felt at that time, yet it is "of an ardor belonging to the body not yet moderated by the love of the spirit" (CL 145). Unless the couple grows together in their love for the Lord and in their love for spiritual values, their love for each other will wane. This is well known both from experience and from revelation. The first fires of love "kindled at the time of betrothal and flaming at the time of the wedding gradually cool down ... [if there is] a discrepancy in internal affections" (CL 275). This can, and does to some extent, occur with the majority of marriages. To prevent the invasion of deeper states of cold, we must remember the teaching that love truly conjugial can be given to "those only who desire wisdom and more deeply enter into it .... [Conjugial love] arises in proportion as wisdom with the man advances its step and comes into the light, wisdom and [conjugial love] being inseparable companions" (CL 98). That this spiritual advancement might be the goal of both partners is why it is so vitally important for time and freedom to be given in coming to know the form of mind and the quality of affection that motivates us, as well as our prospective partner. We advance in wisdom to the degree that we apply the Lord's truths to our life. We do this by seeing His principles and by shunning what is evil as a sin against Him. To the degree that a young man and a young woman hold these ideals, to the same degree may their future marriage blossom and flourish. They may also come to an ever-deepening perception of the interior blessedness of love truly conjugial.

Similitudes and Dissimilitudes
(Social, Mental and Spiritual Compatibility)

So far we have spoken mostly about how the conjugial principle is awakened in a man, how it first manifests itself through his love and affection for one of the opposite sex. We have also mentioned the importance of a compatibility existing between them on the plane of the mind. We will now elaborate on this important subject further, drawing forth the Lord's teachings pertaining to it.

Internal compatibility is spoken of in the Writings under the title of "similitudes." The word "similitude" is not commonly used in modern language. "Compatibility" is more frequently used but the meaning of this word is somewhat broad. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "similitude" as "a person or a quality resembling, or having the likeness of, some other person or quality; a counterpart." Dissimilitudes refer to the opposite.

The importance of similitudes between married partners is generally acknowledged in the world at large. In the Writings we find a wealth of information on the subject. They provide us with a remarkable analysis and insight. They tell us that "similitudes and dissimilitudes are internal and external" (CL 246). We will now consider each of these aspects in some detail.

Internal Similitudes

To gain an idea of internal similitudes, let us first consider the many different affections and thoughts that flow into our minds. If we reflect upon them we will soon realize that they are of varying quality and degree: for example, the thoughts and the affections that are aroused by the things pertaining to this world; the kind of work that we might do, the recreational activities we enjoy, the preferences and tastes for various things we might want to acquire; all of these evoke a certain quality of feeling or affection. These are all of a somewhat external nature.

Above these, on a higher plane, there are other more intangible things that evoke far more profound and sacred feelings within us. The people whom we love and respect awaken affections of a deep and more interior nature. We try to please them. We are careful not to harm them so that our affections for them will not be strained. The inmost affections of all pertain to our love of the Lord and our commitment to Him, for all good loves we receive are from Him. Thus the Writings unequivocally state that internal similitudes "take their origin from no other source than religion" (CL 246).

The Word of God teaches us clearly that the highest principle that we should strive to serve is the will of the Lord, our Creator. We, in our fallen condition, are born without any knowledge or perception of the Lord's existence. We have to learn about these things from His Word. As we thus come to know and revere the Lord, so do we become gifted with a perception of His presence. We come to know Him as the source of all spiritual love. Thus a person's religion may be defined as his personal response to the Lord as manifested in the quality of life he leads.

Internal Similitudes and Religion

If a husband and wife desire to be affected by conjugial love, then it is vital that they both come to know the Lord and look to Him with similarity of conviction and purpose. For this reason the Writings tell us that internal similitudes "take their origin from no other source than religion" (CL 246). A person's religion is the way he leads his life out of deference to his God. His honor of the Lord should command his highest allegiance. If the Lord holds that place with both married partners, and they feel a commitment to the way of life He has revealed, then the possibility exists for conjugial love to be gradually implanted in their hearts.

The importance of married partners sharing the same religious ideals is strongly emphasized in the Writings. The reason for this is that conjugial love "accompanies religion, and since religion is the marriage of the Lord and the church, it is the commencement and ingrafting of [conjugial] love" (CL 531). Since conjugial love is the inmost of all loves, and is the inmost gift which the Lord can give, it can be received only in a mind that is formed by the teachings of a "true religion" (CL 333). The threefold Word has been provided as the means whereby a true religious life can become established. From a true religion we come to know the evils in ourselves which are to be shunned, for evils bar the presence of the Lord and of His love. When these are shunned, the way is opened for the Lord to enter. The things pertaining to our religion are therefore sacred, and occupy "the highest seat in the mind" (TCR 601).

If marriages are contracted without a commitment to a common religion, then the very ground upon which the inmost conjunction of minds depends does not exist. The couple can then be joined only by "external affections which [indeed may] simulate the internal and consociate" to a degree (CL 277). However, external affections occupy the lower region of the mind only, while internal ones occupy the higher region. This means that in marriages where partners do not share a common religion,

they can indeed be friends and companions, provided there is a common moral code to which they both subscribe and which they honor. But apart from a true religion they cannot come to know and fully appreciate their married partners interiorly. Religion alone opens the inmosts of the minds of each. Its truths give form to the interior things they hold to be sacred, enabling them to formulate something of the intangible nature of love into tender words, and gestures of meaningful expression. If partners share the same religious aspiration, then they feel desirous and confident to share the deepest treasures of the heart, for then they perceive that these things will be received and treasured.

Thus, apart from religion the interior quality of a person's mind cannot easily be known. The Writings tell us why. "The internal affections, which belong to the mind, do not come to view, and with many scarcely a trace of them shows through; for either the body absorbs them ... or, by reason of simulation learned from infancy, it deeply conceals them from the sight of others. By this means the one partner puts himself into a state of some affection which he observes in the other and attracts that affection to himself, in this way the two are conjoined" (CL 272). Without the ability to share religious values, the union of minds exists only in externals, on the plane of friendship and companionship. Under those conditions the real depth of inmost confidence, and of conjugial delight, can scarcely dawn.

If then our goal is to enter marriage and to receive from the Lord love truly conjugial, it is apparent that the ground for internal similitudes must exist. Only by looking to the truths of religion and only by committing them to life may wisdom be implanted with a man, and the love of his wisdom be given to a woman.

Recognition of Internal Similitudes before Marriage

How do these internal similitudes become recognized and known prior to marriage? The only way in which they manifest their potential for development is again through the truths of one's religion. Internal affections lie deeply concealed within the interiors of the mind. Before they become actually formulated into living states by the life of regeneration, they exist in the form of ideals - ideals which a person feels deeply within his own heart, ideals toward which he aspires. These are never easy things to talk about, for they are usually perceived as feelings which are deeply personal and private. In early maturity, though, they do exist as ideals. These are states that have not yet come into fruition. They have not been proven and tested by the real challenges of life. Inevitably for each young person, there lie ahead times of severe spiritual challenge, times when he will fail those ideals. If he does, he will feel disappointment and disillusionment within himself, but from his religious conviction he will turn again to the Lord and try again. Therefore, ideals together with a certain determination to live by them are vital to sound spiritual development.

During the initial stages of courtship it is important to talk about our religious convictions, and also to share the many principles which the Lord has revealed in the Writings, especially those pertaining to courtship and marriage. If the attraction is deeply felt within the mind, conversation about these matters can only exalt and strengthen the basis for true spiritual love to develop. Adherence to the principles given will draw forth mutual respect. The Lord will fill any void that is felt with deeper and more lasting values. It will also provide a healthy climate of freedom, which is the only climate in which love can thrive.

Conjugial love breathes of freedom. Undue haste, pressure, or compulsion are to be avoided, for these attitudes cause its sphere to become withdrawn. When tender states of love are being explored, the freedom of each must be carefully guarded and respected. Especially is this true of a woman. It is the part of a true gentleman to allow her to respond to him sincerely, according to the dictates of her inner perceptions. Thus when such

things are shared, they must be shared freely and willingly. After due time for her deliberation has been granted, freedom must exist for the relationship to proceed further. If she feels uncertain, she should be granted further time. If she feels it is wrong, it may be necessary to terminate the relationship. Let us remember that in this important decision to marry, we must create a situation in which the Lord can lead us to see the internal similitudes which He alone provides; hence the vital importance of freedom.

Internal Similitudes Are Provided by the Lord

Let us not fall into the error of supposing that just because a person subscribes to the same religious faith that that in itself implies the existence of internal similitudes. Let us again remember that a man is created to receive from the Lord a quality of wisdom which is unique. Similarly, a young woman is created with the potential of loving a specific quality of wisdom in her future husband, according to her innate affections. It is only when the sphere of a man's potential for wisdom and her matching love of that wisdom cohere that they begin for the first time to feel interior love.

The purpose of courtship is to provide a free and wholesome relationship, enabling two young people to come to know each other in freedom, without obligation of any kind. This is to allow them to see, through the perception of spheres from each other, whether or not the Lord is truly leading them toward marriage.

We are told that internal similitudes are provided by the Lord "for those who desire love truly conjugial" (CL 229). Those who hold this desire are such "who from youth have loved, chosen, and asked of the Lord a legitimate and lovely partnership with one, and who spurn and reject wandering lusts as an offense to their nostrils" (CL 49). As we shun such evils, we come to feel a deeper sensitivity for the interior blessedness of conjugial love. The Lord then affords a keener perception and recognition of those spiritual values which accord with our own internal loves. What a privilege it is to know that if we conduct our lives wisely, the Lord will lead us to find a partner with whom we may find internal compatibility in the inmost things of life. These inmost qualities come to light through the truths of our religion. The disposition to love the things of religion in a specific way "is implanted in souls, and through souls is derived from parents to offspring as a supreme inclination" (CL 246). Thus the potential for a man to receive wisdom, and for a woman to be drawn to love the wisdom he may receive as he regenerates, is an inclination that the Lord implants in the soul of each. It manifests itself in the form of a supreme inclination, that in time becomes mutually felt. Let us always remember that these internal similitudes assume their potential and are brought to recognition only by means of the truths of our religion.

External Similitudes

As we have shown, a person's individuality exists firstly on the plane of his soul, and secondly through the internal form of his mind. These are two reasons why he receives the Lord's life in a unique manner. There is a further one. His individuality is extended into such things as belong to personality and disposition. These have their seat in the lower regions of the mind that are closer to the senses of the body.

In considering the question of similitudes between prospective partners, their temperament, disposition and personality are also important issues to consider. The Writings likewise address themselves to those characteristics of the lower mind or animus, calling them "external similitudes." External similitudes pertain to the realm of external affections, by which "are meant the inclinations in the mind of each which are from the world . . . . They occupy its lower region while the former [internal similitudes] occupy its higher region" (CL 277). External similitudes are likewise vitally important to consider, since without harmony on this plane there soon will arise states of discord.

As we have said, each person is a unique individual. His individuality is provided by the Lord through various channels, through the soul, through the heredity received from parents, through external influences from the environment, and through his own choices. The Writings therefore say that external similitudes "take their rise from connate inclinations" (CL 227), that is, those inclinations that are implanted in the soul. These supreme inclinations trigger our response to all that transpires in the mind, below the soul. Each of us therefore responds to life in a unique way. There is variety in our choices, and we feel preferences in everything that transpires. After birth, our external affections and inclinations become "insinuated chiefly by education, association with others, and the resultant habits" (CL 246).

Let us therefore consider how education and association with others affect us and bring about a certain kind of manifestation in our habits and customs. Each of these things constitutes a broad subject to consider. Clearly their combined effect produces a significant impact upon the way we react to life.

The concept of education encompasses not only our formal education in school. It includes all that we learn within the environment of our home and surroundings. When we are born, we know nothing. We first come to learn the meaning of love from interaction with our parents.. During the early stages of life the mind is in an unformed state. It absorbs much from the general environment. It learns to imitate the form of speech peculiar to the home and country. The customs of the home become ingrafted as a way of life. Although from creation our individuality is unique, we nevertheless are greatly influenced by the things that happen around us. These influences, taught in the environment of the home, introduce into our conduct certain customs of behavior and manners. Good manners should constitute an expression of charity, of principles of consideration and thoughtfulness for others. Such externals are perceived as pleasing when seen in this light. Agreement of manners brings a sense of harmony in courtship and marriage. Conversely their absence or lack causes discord, and produces strained feelings, or even antipathy.

In our formal education at school we are taught about things that are of immediate concern. We learn various skills and knowledges that enable us to function in an intelligent fashion. Education therefore opens the mind, and the increase of knowledge broadens our horizons. Through its influence we become aware of the wonders that exist in creation. It allows us to apply our loves and our energies to useful endeavors.

Not to be forgotten is the importance of religious education in the home, at church, and in New Church schools. Religious education lifts the mind to horizons beyond this world and presents a higher purpose to life. We learn that the Lord's purpose in creation is the formation of a heaven from the human race. The goals of heaven then become the ultimate focus of our education. In regard to marriage, let us remember that in heaven a husband and a wife together form one angel.

Education in general opens new horizons in the mind. Through its influence latent affections become awakened. Certain ambitions which pertain to our future aims and objectives are aroused. It is important to be able to share such thoughts and feelings in marriage, and this is far easier when there is a similarity in our educational background. Therefore similarity of education likewise pertains to the realm of external similitudes.

A factor which further affects our "external affections and inclinations" is said to be "our association with others" (CL 227). When we are born into this world, our parents are the ones who have the most immediate and far-reaching effect upon us. The country in which we are born is composed of people bearing a certain similarity of purpose and disposition. We cannot help but take upon ourselves the national characteristics inherent in the land of our birth. The customs we were taught when we were young, the values and traditions of the land, all leave their mark upon our developing memory. A certain strength is perceived when others unite and celebrate events pertaining to our national heritage. All such experiences remain ingrafted upon our memory and leave us with a lingering sense of fondness. These are the remains of our childhood and of our youth which can never be eradicated. They leave us with a certain feeling of stability, for if they are memories of good and noble affections, they do in fact "remain" with us. Later the Lord calls them forth and works through them to lead us to pursue spiritual ideals.

In other ways our association with others has a more immediate effect. The values which are held by the adults in our association carry with them a certain sphere. If their values are well founded in Divine principles from the Word of God, and also if these principles are reflected in their conduct, a sphere of strength and stability is perceived by the young whom they affect. If a husband and a wife have the spiritual and moral fortitude to submit themselves to Divine principles of order, then obviously these same principles become examples for their children to honor and follow. Children learn so much from the examples they see around them. Through the influence of a stable home, children learn social behavior. They learn to overcome selfish inclinations. They are taught manners and civilities which look beyond the interests of self to the well-being of others. These then become habits which are introduced into their conduct. When unselfish behavior becomes a practice that is learned, a child begins to feel acceptability from others. He then is in a position to enjoy the company of other human beings in a constructive and harmonious manner.

If a child is raised in a home where these values have not been taught, his concern for himself will not be channeled and directed. As a consequence his efforts to find social acceptability will be more difficult. If bad habits are overlooked or remain unchecked, he will feel unsure within himself. As he grows up he will look at others and secretly feel envious of those who, in his eyes, seem more fortunate. If a person does not learn unselfish behavior in his childhood, he will certainly have to learn it in adult life, which is usually more difficult. His reliance upon the truth of the Word is then the only thing that can really help him overcome the lacks that might have existed in his former home environment.

Our association with others obviously has a far-reaching effect in shaping our disposition and personality. A child who feels accepted and loved knows how to respond to others with love. As a result he will mature into a more stable person. He will have learned to subdue his proprial desires and will have been introduced early in life into unselfish behavior. The same experiences which made him feel secure will be those according to which he will strive to treat other people. Especially in regard to marriage, it is of vital importance that each partner know what it means to forget self and to think of the welfare of the other before that of self.

Obviously these many factors are the very things which formulate our "resultant habits," our mannerisms and our general mode of behavior. They have a profound effect upon the shaping of our disposition and personality. The less concern there is for selfish interest, the more acceptable we become in the sight of another, and the easier we are to live with in our future marriage. The whole of life is really an exercise in self-discipline, in submitting the life we feel to be our own to the call of the Lord's will.

Thus many of our loves are reflected in the things we do and say. External similitudes do not always manifest themselves in the face of a person. They do however become reflected in the habits and in the persuasions according to which we have been schooled and accustomed. Each one of us radiates "a spiritual sphere, being the sphere of the affections of [our] love .... [This] pours forth from every person and encompasses him. Moreover, this sphere implants itself in his natural sphere, being the sphere of the body" (CL 171). From this we can see that similitudes in externals are important factors in marriage. They either hinder or facilitate the expression of interior loves.

Time and Freedom Are Required for Similitudes to Become Recognized

Let us now turn our attention once again to the teaching "that for those who desire love truly conjugial, the Lord provides similitudes; and if not given on earth, He provides them in the heavens" (CL 229). This is quite a remarkable statement. If we believe it, then surely any serious-minded young person seeks to be led to the person to whom he may be married to eternity. That this can be accomplished is a genuine promise from the Lord. He "provides similitudes," and these may be "given on earth." Surely then, with the direction which the Writings provide we can be granted a far deeper insight into our own make-up, and from this we can be in a far stronger position to intelligently choose our partner. If we are mindful of the Lord's teachings, and if we endeavor to live by them, He offers us a glorious promise. For "those who from youth have loved, chosen, and asked of the Lord a legitimate and lovely partnership with one, and who spurn and reject wandering lusts as an offence to their nostrils," the Lord will provide a suitable partner (CL 49). If we condition our affections, our thoughts, and our actions accordingly, we may feel relatively certain that the person whom we are led to marry will become our partner to all eternity. How important it is to enter marriage with that desire in our hearts. "Those who are in love truly conjugial look to what is eternal in marriage. . . because eternity is in the love" (CL 216).

We have spoken of the mode whereby our affections become stirred and how we are led into marriage. It is quite apparent that the process whereby these various affections develop and mature takes time. Therefore courtship should not be a hastened process. Ample time and freedom must be permitted to allow internal states to manifest themselves in freedom. The relationship during this period should develop on the plane of the mind and should not be made binding in any way. To allow for that full freedom, which is so essential, the Writings tell us plainly "that during the time of betrothal it is not lawful to he conjoined corporeally, for thus the order which is inscribed on conjugial love perishes" (CL 305). Once this intimacy has been tasted, a sense of obligation becomes perceived, and our freedom becomes curtailed by that sense of obligation. The sexual relationship is therefore to be reserved for marriage. Then it can serve to communicate in a most powerful way the interior delicacies of love, but only after the existence of internal and external similitudes has been established and sealed in the protective covenant of marriage. Only then may the sexual relationship fully serve its intended design, which is to convey intimate affections of love through the power of ultimates.

Therefore the value in preserving full freedom during the courtship period cannot be overemphasized. Sometimes, however, one partner may perceive the desire to marry sooner than the other. If this is so, it requires a considerable degree of patience to allow time for love to be reciprocal and returned from the full freedom of the heart. Only when each feels this from within, and is allowed to respond from freedom, do the first fires of the conjugial really begin to burn. This happens only after each has fully given consent, and the period of betrothal commences.

A Young Woman Should Consult with Her Parents Prior to Giving Her Consent

"Before she consents, it behooves a young woman to consult with her parents, or those in the place of parents, and then to deliberate with herself' (CL 298). This is advocated by the Writings because a chaste young woman is a tender and innocent receptacle of love. As yet she does not have the ability to know and to discern the morals of men. Those powerful feelings of attraction that are so strongly felt in courtship constitute a borrowed state, in which everything seems blissful and sublime. If principles are not consulted, it is easy to be blinded and to overlook the realities that may underlie it. When two people fall in love, each becomes affected by an unselfish sphere which is loaned from heaven. The affections that are then perceived are swathed in a sense of glory. Young men feel drawn to manifest only the most pleasant and winning side of their nature. If the underlying intentions are not honorable, it is easy to hide the more sinister motives which sometimes belie the blissful appearance of love in this borrowed state.

If, however, this state of "love" is objectively considered, it can be quite easily seen whether the relationship is based on sound moral principles or not. If it is not, then as soon as these first fires begin to cool, as inevitably they will, then there remains no stable basis upon which conjugial love can rest. Therefore parents, or those whose judgment she considers wise, are to be consulted by a young woman. Parents, by virtue of their more advanced age and experience, have acquired more clear-sighted judgment "in regard to [the] suitability [or the] incompatibility" of a suitor (CL 298). Following this the young woman must finally weigh the question herself. If her consent is to be forthcoming, it must come from within her own heart. If she feels it appropriate to give her consent, then they enter into the state of betrothal.

On the other hand, if similitudes are felt to be lacking in any essential way, it is far better for each to agree to terminate the relationship in the spirit of freedom and mutual goodwill. Let us remember that if force or persuasive coercion is applied to a relationship, the interior things of love withdraw. That which is provided by the Lord is perceived with freedom and delight. He leads us through our affections, and we must come to recognize their quality and agreement. They are freely given by Him. They cannot he forced through coercion, pressure or obligation.

How Clearly Can We See Internal Similitudes?

The recognition of similitudes is clearly perceived by angel partners in heaven. In this world it is more difficult because here we are clothed with a material body and this tends to obscure internal affections, preventing them from showing through lucidly. Of this the Writings speak. In this world "internal affections, which belong to the mind, do not come to view, and with many scarcely a trace of them shows through; for either the body absorbs them ... or by reason of simulation learned from infancy, it deeply conceals them from the sight of others" (CL 272).

Let us note that this teaching, if seen in its entirety, does not categorically imply that internal affections can never show through. It simply says that the body and the cupidities that can arise from it tend to obscure the sight of internal affections, and consequently of internal similitudes.

On the other hand, if wandering lusts and cupidities are spurned, rejected and subdued, the internal affections become infilled with heavenly delights. The truths of the Word are the means provided for ascertaining their origin and quality. As these internal affections descend and manifest themselves in the thoughts of the mind, they come to recognition. If sincerity becomes cultivated, then these good internal affections will manifest themselves in speech, gestures and manners. In this way they are made visible.

Internal affections become obscured only if sincerity is lacking, for "simulation learned from infancy ... deeply conceals them from the sight of others" (CL 272). In the spiritual world this condition does not exist, for in that world "internal affections, like the external, [appear] to the sight in the face and gesture, and to the ear in the tone of the voice, [and are] perceived by the nostrils or scented" (Ibid.). Let us remember that through the cultivation of the virtues of honesty and sincerity, something of our internal loves and aspirations may shine through in this world.

Do We Ever Feel Completely Certain in Our Choice?

The stages of courtship which lead to the giving of consent are seldom felt with total certainty in this world as they are in heaven. Many conditions vary between heaven and earth. As we have already said, in this world we have our physical body and this tends to absorb internal affections, sometimes to the point of scarcely allowing them to show through.

Furthermore, no young person in this world is regenerate. The evil spheres of the hells work upon us all, and it takes a lifetime of spiritual combat to subdue the temptations that come upon us. The one whom we love and come to marry will inevitably see us in a more personal and intimate light than anyone else. Although we may feel strongly drawn to each other, and may experience many occasions of sublime delight, there will be other times when our unregenerate self manifests its more sinister side. We must expect a certain degree of conflict to surface periodically, both during our courtship and also in our marriage. The fact that this happens does not mean that the initial inclination toward marriage should necessarily be forsaken. As the Lord is merciful so must we learn to be merciful. If we happen to hurt the one we love, we must feel remorse and be prepared to show it. We must acknowledge the hurt that we have caused and repent of the state. Then through the mutual willingness to forgive, we must allow our internal affections, which originally drew us together, to return. It is important to develop the strength of character to do this, for upon the successful mastery of this process our progress in regeneration depends, as also does the subsequent progress of our marriage. Those who learn to successfully master their unregenerate side will find that, with persistence, they will come to love their partner more tenderly than before. Conjugial love enters as the state of the church develops in the heart of each.

When we contemplate marriage, the future is unknown. We have little idea of what it is really like to completely share our life with another. Initially we sense a tremendous state of promise and anticipation. At the same time we also feel a degree of apprehension. The future depends on the quality of judgment we employ, and beyond that it lies in the Lord's hands. However, if we approach marriage having felt guided by His revealed principles, then we may face the future with trust and confidence in His provisions. Under these conditions doubt and uncertainty become minimized while confidence and trust in the efficacy of His providence supersede.

The Value of First States

If a couple is guided by the principles which the Lord offers in the Writings, they may gradually be led to recognize their love for each other. When a young woman gives her consent, it initiates the state of betrothal. Then for the first time does the warmth and blessedness of the conjugial torch begin to glow. The love they then feel for each other is deeply affecting. They believe this state to be "the very blessedness of [their] life" (CL 137: 3). They feel they have been led to each other "as if by fate, instinct, [or] dictate" (CL 229), although in reality they were led there by the Divine Providence of the Lord. When similitudes become opened by the Lord, the love for each other glows warmly and deeply.

In these first states the Lord provides them with a most powerful perception of the beauty and delight of conjugial love. "The first love of marriage emulates love truly conjugial and presents it to view in an image" (CL 58). When a man thus devotes his love to one woman, and she to him, their relationship images the heavenly ideal. All first states that are in order receive a borrowed inspiration from the celestial or highest heaven. "The Lord insinuates conjugial love through the inmost heaven, the angels of which are in peace beyond all others" (AC 5052). It is this very sense of peace which is loaned in these first states, because with a sincere couple who comply with the Lord's order, there is innocence, and celestial love can dwell in innocence.

The more perfectly these first states emulate the Lord's true order, the more perfectly can we perceive the promise of conjugial love. The memory of these initial states is never forgotten. It remains as a blessed memory of promise. As we pass through subsequent times of trial when our faith and our love wane, the Lord employs such memories to draw us back. Through them He stirs our will, restores our perspective, and gives us the strength to return to the ideals which we initially cherished with such delight.

Love truly conjugial cannot be given in marriage apart from our willingness to shun what is evil and selfish. We must realize that spiritual peace comes only after a lifetime of militant combat against our petty evils as well as our greater temptations. If we strive to become motivated by a spiritual love of the Lord's principles, then our "first state is an initiation into perpetual states of happiness" (CL 59).

Marriage Is to Continue to the End of Life in the World

The love which the Lord inspires in our first states contains the promise of love truly conjugial. Those who are thus affected cannot help but "look to what is eternal ... because eternity is in the love" (CL 216). A contracted covenant was Divinely ordained for the purpose of protecting the order of marriage, and thus for safeguarding that order into which conjugial love can inflow.

While we live in this world, the hells infuse their sphere, seeking to destroy the Divine order of marriage. We are all on occasions the subject of these temptations. We therefore need the protection of that covenant.

When the hells attack us in respect to our marriage, we fall into states of cold. While we are under this influence, these states invade and dispel "the delights of that love ... until nothing is left of the remembrance of the early state of our marriage" (CL 59). Then when our rational thought returns, we remember the covenant and the vows we made before the Lord, before one another, and before our relatives and friends. From honor, and from recalling the promise felt so keenly in those first states, we return with commitment of will and purpose to our partner. Through that kind of determination and resolve the Lord can help us to overcome our differences and our problems in marriage. Through the very same means He leads us to experience genuine states of conjugial bliss. The covenant of marriage is therefore to protect that order.

All of these teachings we have referred to are important to know and understand before we contemplate marriage. Prior to marriage we are in complete freedom to choose. The truths which the Lord has revealed are there to lead us, to guide us, and to help us recognize our inclinations and affections. If we patiently suffer ourselves to be guided by their dictum, we will be placing ourselves in the stream of the Lord's providential leadership. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6).

-New Church Life 1997;107:202-209, 258-270,299-306

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