I won’t fall in love, you say, but then you do. And you continue to stay with the person maybe for the same reason as Ian Miller in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “you make me come alive.” The love between two persons is powerful. You begin to reap the fruitfulness of this love which is spiritual, moral, and personal (1). Between a man and a woman the fruitfulness of love is extended to the possibility of a biological dimension. All that love had to offer seemed good up to this point, but the introduction to this dimension causes us to hesitate. Why? There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons to hesitate opening one’s self to the biological dimension of love. I’m not advocating a reckless abandon to this dimension of love without the proper time and context, but I am advocating a renewed look to the unity between the biological dimension to the other dimensions of love experienced by a couple. Children are not an opposition to the love between the couple, but they actually deepen their love.
This biological dimension of love at certain times may seem like a hindrance to love expressing itself freely. We want to cut the responsibility of children out, and so we do. We have contraception, surgeries, and abortions, all to eliminate this dimension. But if it is a dimension of our love which up to this point has been such a powerful and beautiful part of our life, then why do we eliminate it? Why do we not trust all that every dimension of love offers us?
Raising children requires every ounce of one’s being and more, especially when they’re young. A mother gives herself totally to the child and the child receives. In relationships, we may want to be understood, cared for and acknowledged. On the other hand,the young child’s capacity for these things is small. The mother pours herself out, and the child receives. She needs a source from which she finds reason and expression for her outpouring of love. As she receives spiritually, morally and personally from God and her spouse, she gives to her child. This is not that the wife needs her husband’s affirmation to pull her from her self-pity and help her be in a good mood to be with her kids. It is something much deeper. From her husband, she receives the communion of persons by which she fulfills who she is. We are not made to be totally autonomous defending ourselves at all costs. We are made to fall in love and want to live totally for another. This is not a contradiction to our nature. It is the truth. Without these sources of communion firmly and substantially present in her life, her outpouring is impoverished and the labor of love can become a labor of resentment.
Why do we eliminate the biological dimension of love? Everyone wants to experience the fullness of love, but not everyone has the hope that they are strong enough to live this love in its fullness. We settle. “Let’s ignore the fact that sex can ultimately lead to a child” we may say subconsciously because I’m not capable of fatherhood, motherhood, or loving my spouse forever. More than actually wanting divorces and abortions for their own sake, we want them over hoping in our capacity for self-gift and trusting that its natural consequence of children will only lead to deeper love. We actually want to be strong enough to love until death and to share this love with children, but many of us have despaired.
I want to propose a new emphasis on the biological dimension of love. For many it is a scary dimension, but I believe that it is actually a great prospect. More than being an uncontrollable aspect of the sexual urge, it is meant to be a dimension of love that is freely chosen in a proper season and context of love. Karol Wojtyla explains that the love between man and woman must be fruitful in the spiritual, moral and personal sphere. As the spouses are fed by these fruits, “the full productive power of love between two persons, man and woman, is concentrated in the work of rearing new persons” (2). Love between a man and woman who have chosen to spend their whole lives loving each other naturally spills into the biological dimension. In this dimension, all the good fruit of their creative love finds a child for whom their love can be given for. The child does not end the couple’s relationship. They don’t have to say, “No more time to love each other. We have kids now.” No. A child is the very gift which helps the love between the spouses increase and go deeper.
Children, far from taking away from a couple’s love, helps spouse’s love to deepen. Yes, no one can deny that raising children is difficult, but isn’t love difficult? We might be afraid the difficulties in raising children will be too much. A couple willing to fight for their love can learn to see raising children as a continuation of the fight for their love’s growth. Children are not an accessory to a couple’s relationship, they are intimately part of their spousal love. A friend posted on facebook about how she has felt a “hot mess” as she adjusts to being a mom and raising two children, but the emphasis of her post was how loved she feels by her husband because of the challenging she faces in parenting. She sees his patience, his humor, and his faith even more clearly because they have children and are being challenged in new ways. The children have not hindered their love for one another, but allowed their love to deepen.
Kids know what’s up. Kids are the litmus test of the spouse’s love. When mom and dad aren’t getting along, the kids know. When the love of the spouses is real, when it is spiritual, moral and personal, the kids reap beautiful fruits. Kids help keep love pure. The initial fervor of love between a couple, when they found themselves with much energy pursuing the good of each other and their relationship, is kept safe, beautiful, and even made greater in the rearing of children.
I recognize children aren’t always received as this help, or seen in this light, but this is why I’m writing this. I hope to offer you a new perspective. As to why children aren’t this help to spouses is a very personal question, but there is honestly a different way to live. Children really are a gift, and they make a couple’s love greater than they could have imagined.
- Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, 55.