Lesson 36 – Marriage


(The Five Tensions of Love)


Peace be to you.

Two young people in love:

It is fitting that there be something special said to young married couples.  There is nothing more beautiful in this world than two young people in love.


Now in order that their love may endure, it is fitting that they recognize some of the great spiritual and psychological differences between them. 

We will briefly enumerate a few of those and then point out some of the tensions that are to be expected in married life and which can easily be resolved.


  • First of all, as it regards the spiritual differences between a man and a woman, man generally marries to have a woman; a woman generally marries to have a child.


  • Another difference is this: man looks to the pleasure in marriage; woman looks to the fruition and the purpose of that pleasure.


  • Thirdly, man gives reasons for loving a woman. He will say, “I love you because you are beautiful. I love you because you are good and virtuous.”  A woman never gives reasons.  She gives herself.  Surrender is its own reason for love.


  • Another difference: man is quicker to love than a woman. He is quicker to love because he can love an aspect or a part or an experience with a woman.  But a woman is slower to love.  She will not love until she can give herself totally and completely.  That means that she has to wait longer in order that she might discover all of the inspirations there are for her great act of self-oblation.


  • Another difference: a man is afraid of dying before he has lived. A woman is generally afraid of dying before she has begotten life.


Tensions in Marriage: #1 – “Wanting & not Wanting love

Now these differences, once they are understood, can be used to help reconcile any difficulties that may appear.  And the difficulties are called tensions, and we are going to enumerate five of them, tensions that are to be expected in every marriage, not because of a defect in the persons, but simply because these tensions are just part of our fallen human nature.


1) The first tension is this:  between wanting and not wanting love.  You really never know one another until you are married.  Courtship is a kind of a masked ball and in marriage we take off the masks and we see ourselves as we really are.  As the poet has put it:

    “Yes, I answered you last night, no I say to you today.”

Colors seen by candlelight do not look the same by day.” (1)


There can be a change.

The human heart can reach a point where it has too much love and wishes to be loved no longer.

Remember the poem of Francis Thompson?  He told how he picked up a child to hold and how the child resisted and cried and kicked to get down.  And on reflecting, he wondered if that’s not the way some souls are before God; they are not ready to be loved by Him.

And so too in the human order, there comes a tug every now and then between wanting love and not wanting it.


What is the mysterious chemistry inside the human heart which makes it swing between a feeling that it is not loved enough and a feeling at times that it is loved too much?

Torn between longing and satiety, craving, disgust, desire, satisfaction, the human heart asks, why should I be that way?  When satiety comes, the “thou” disappears in the sense that it is no longer wanted.  When longing reappears, the “thou” becomes a necessity.

Love too much, there is discontent; love too little, there is emptiness.


Great Sacred Heart of Love

Now this is what you are going to feel.  But do not be cynical about it.  There is a reason why you are this way, and the reason is this:  you were made for the Great Sacred Heart of Love and no one but God can satisfy you.

  • Your heart is right in wanting the infinite, but your heart is wrong in trying to make its finite companion the substitute for the infinite. The solution of this tension is in seeing that the disappointments which it brings are just so many reminders that love is God’s Love on pilgrimage. Both the being loved too much and being loved too little can go together when seen in the light of God.

Longing for Infinite Love

  • When this longing for infinite Love is envisaged as a yearning for God, then the finiteness of our earthly love reminds us of the words of Augustine, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in Thee.” (2)


Just keep in mind this fact:  in every marriage man promises a woman something that only God can give.  And in every marriage, every woman promises a man something that only God can give.  And that is the reason of the pull between the too little and the too much.  The too little, because we want God; the too much because the human cannot completely satisfy.


Tensions in Marriage:- #2 “Wanting to be one with another person”

2)  Now there is another tension that you will feel, and this is very basic to human nature: the tension between wanting to be one with another person and at the same time of feeling so alone, almost alone together.  There will come moments when yourself is lost in another and then afterwards a terrific sense of being thrown backwards on your own solitary personality.


Why is this? The reason is because there is nothing material or fleshy or carnal in the world that can unite.  You just try making two blocks of marble one.  Why cannot you unite them?  Because they are material.

  • The flesh alone, and here I emphasize ALONE, the FLESH ALONE cannot unite. Only the Soul, the Spirit can Unite.

For example, if we learn together the “Our Father”, my knowledge of the Our Father does not deprive you from learning it and if we pray together, we are much more one than we could be in any material fashion.


  • It is the Spirit that unites and therefore the flesh is the means to unity. You see, it is not an obstacle to unity. Your flesh is a means to unity because it is bound up with the Soul, and to the extent that Love loses its Soul, it loses its unity and its sense of oneness.  When the Spirit is gone, there is left only body proximity with boredom and fatigue. 

Now this passion for a crescendo of intimacy until oneness is achieved cannot be completely satisfied in the physical order because after the act of unity, there remains the status of two distinct personalities, each with his own individual mystery.  See the paradox?

**Souls of lovers aspire to unity. ** 

**The body alone, though it is the momentary symbol of that unity, is of and by itself exclusive of unity. **

**The flesh is impervious to that kind of unity that alone can satisfy the Spirit.**

And the greatest relief of this tension is the begetting of children:

Now there is no marriage in the world that is free from this tension, and the tension increases, too, as the body will go through the motions of love without the Soul.  And you will find that the tension of the body decreases as the Soul Loves.


  • There is an escape, therefore, from this tension. We are not to be cynical about it.  And the greatest relief of this tension is the begetting of children.  For here, this seeming disproportion that is felt between a passion for unity on the one hand, and the failure to make it permanent on the other, is compensated for by the child, because the child becomes the new bond of unity outside of father and mother.


  • Husband and wife will never feel the emptiness of their relations, one with another, when their relations are filled up with a new body and Soul, Soul directly infused by God the Creator. God made man right and man is unhappy if he tries to frustrate these laws.
  • The children, therefore, are the answer to the paradox of the aloneness together. They are the link that binds the lovers together, body and Soul.



Tensions in Marriage:- #3 “Unending ecstasy of Love-dreamed about”

3) That brings us to the third tension.  It is a tension between the unending ecstasy of Love which is dreamed about and the way that love actually turns out in marriage.


There are some who become cynical about this, but one should not.  If one starts with the assumption that the other person is God, then one is doomed to drink the bitter dregs of disappointment.  We must not, therefore, attribute too much to the other partner.  If we do, we are going to feel let down because the other partner did not give all he promised to give, which he is incapable of giving.  Only God can give it, as we said.


  • To repeat: because the other party did not give all that he promised to give, sometimes the other feels betrayed and deceived and disappointed and cheated. In other words, I entered this marriage to be supreme and infinitely happy and you’re not making me happy.  Well, the reason that kind of discontent comes over the Soul is because one expected something from marriage that is not there.





Here is the answer to that problem: 

Remember that no human being in the world is Love.  God alone is Love.

We creatures are just lovable, and only to a limited degree.  When the creature begins to take the place of the Creator and is made to stand for Love, then marriage turns to hate.  When marriage is expecting a God or the woman to be a kind of an angel, she turns out to be a fallen angel, and the man turns out to have feet of clay.

  • When the ecstasy stops, and the band no longer plays, and the champagne of life loses its sparkle, then there are some who will call the other partner a cheater and a robber. Then they go a divorce court and they say, “We are not compatible. We want a divorce because we are incompatible.”


Was there ever in all the world a perfectly compatible marriage?

No two people in all the world are compatible absolutely.  Then they begin looking for a new partner, and they go through the same mistake, expecting another wife or another husband to give that which only God can giveThey enter into a new marriage.  They do not find happiness.  Why not?  Because they are only adding zeros.


The reason that marriage failed was because they refused to see married love as the vestibule to the Divine.  It is vain to think that another love can supply what the first love lacked.  Cows can graze on other pastures, but there is no substitute for the person to whom one has committed his whole being for life.


  • Remember, then that you are not to expect too much. What you want is in Heaven, not here on earth. Your partner is a fraction; God alone is the Whole.  Do not expect, therefore, the other partner to give you infinite happiness.  There is a Heaven, but it is not here on earth.


Tensions in Marriage:- #4-“between sex and Love”

4)  The fourth tension is the tension between sex and love.  Now when we speak of this tension, it must not be assumed that the two are opposites.  They are not.  When we speak of them here separately, it is because we are referring to those who separate sex from love.

In married life, the two are to be united.  Sex is the highest expression of the love between husband and wife.

  • But when the two are not correctly understood, or when they are divorced, then we find these differences.





These differences: Sex /Love

Sex seeks the part; Love the totality.

  • Sex is biological and has its very definite zones of satisfaction, and
  • Love, on the contrary, includes all of these but is directed to the totality of the person loved, the totality, namely the person made, body and soul, and created in the image and likeness of God.
  • Love sees the clock and its purpose.
  • Sex concentrates on the mainspring and forgets that it was made to keep time. An organ does not include the personality, but the personality includes the organ, which is another way of saying love includes sex, but sex does not necessarily include love.
  • Love concentrates on the object;
  • Sex on the subject, namely on the
  • Love is directed to someone else for the sake of the other’s perfection.
  • Sex is directed to self for the sake of self-satisfaction.


Sex flatters the object, not because it is praiseworthy in itself but rather as a solicitation.  It knows how to “make friends and to influence people”.  The ego in sex pleads that it loves the other person, but what it really loves is the projection of the ego and the self into the other person, and that is quite a different thing.


   Sex is moved by a desire to fill a moment between having and not having.  It is an experience like looking at a sunset or twirling one’s thumbs to pass the time, and it rests after an experience, being glutted for the moment, and then waits for reappearance of the new passion to be satisfied, on an entirely different object sometimes.


Now Love frowns on this notion, for it sees in this nothing but the killing of the object’s love for the sake of self-satisfaction.


Sex would give birds flight but no nests.  It would give hearts emotions but no homes.  It would throw the whole world into the experience of voyagers at sea but with no ports.  Instead of purifying an infinite which is fixed, namely God, it substitutes the false infinite and never finds satisfaction.


And one of the reasons why so many suffer from psychoses and neuroses is that they are in a fruitless and constant search for the infinite in the finite, or God in carnality.





How different is Real Love! 

Real Love admits the need, the thirst, the passion, the craving, but it also admits a real adhesion to a value that transcends all space and all time.

  • In Love, poverty becomes integrated to riches.
  • In Real Love, the need becomes the fulfillment and the yearning becomes the joy. But sex is without that joy of offering.

The wolf offers nothing when it kills the lamb because the joy of oblation is missing.  Sex receives so as not to give, but Love is sole contact with another for the sake of perfection.


Tensions in Marriage:- #5– “the chase and the capture ”

5) To sum it all up, you will feel a tension, therefore, between the romance and the marriage, between the chase and the capture.  Is there any way of ever combining the two?  To have always the thrill of the romance and always the thrill of the capture?

Yes, there is, but not in this world.  The only real answer to this paradox of the chase and the capture is to be found in Eternity.


When your Love leads you back to God, then you will capture something so infinitely Ecstatic, that it will take an Eternity of chase to discover its meaning.


  • Understand that, and you will know, as husband and wife, that all the love you have is just a spark which is to lead you up to the Flame, which is God.


Then your marriage will become like a tuning fork, the song of the angels.  It will be like a river that runs into the sea where the romance and the marriage fuse into one, for since God is boundless, Eternal Love, it will take that eternal chase to sound its depths.  At one and the same moment, there will be in Heaven a limitless receptivity and a Boundless Gift.


This is what you marry for – for Love – and Love leads you to God.


God love you.      





Discussion Questions:

1. In today’s lesson on – MARRIAGE – what stood out the most to you?


2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “The Five Tensions of Love ” to this lesson?


3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of “The Five Tensions of Love”?


4. Now that you have learned more about – The Five Tensions of Love – what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?

To view the context, please visit https://www.kofc.org/en/catechism/index.html or http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

MARRIAGE . – On earth

372. “Man and woman were made ‘for each other’ – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be ‘helpmate’ to the other, for they are equal as persons (‘bone of my bones. . .’) and complementary as masculine and feminine. In MARRIAGE God unites them in such a way that, by forming ‘one flesh’,[Gen 2:24 .] they can transmit human life: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'[Gen 1:28 .] By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents co-operate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.[Cf. GS 50 # 1.]”

MARRIAGE . – In Heaven

1036. “The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: ‘Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.'[Mt 7:13-14 .] Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the MARRIAGE feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where ‘men will weep and gnash their teeth.'[LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13 ; cf. Heb 9:27 ; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46 .]”


1244. “First Holy Communion. Having become a child of God clothed with the wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted ‘to the MARRIAGE supper of the Lamb'[Rev 19:9.] and receives the food of the new life, the body and blood of Christ. The Eastern Churches maintain a lively awareness of the unity of Christian initiation by giving Holy Communion to all the newly baptized and confirmed, even little children, recalling the Lord’s words: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.'[Mk 10 14 .] The Latin Church, which reserves admission to Holy Communion to those who have attained the age of reason, expresses the orientation of Baptism to the Eucharist by having the newly baptized child brought to the altar for the praying of the Our Father.”


1601. “‘The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.'[CIC, can. 1055 # 1; cf. GS 48 # 1.]”


1602. “Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of ‘the wedding-feast of the Lamb.'[Rev 19:7, 9; cf. Gen 1:26-27 .] Scripture speaks throughout of marriage and its ‘mystery,’ its institution and the meaning God has given it, its origin and its end, its various realizations throughout the history of salvation, the difficulties arising from sin and its renewal ‘in the Lord’ in the New Covenant of Christ and the Church.[1 Cor 7:39 ; cf. Eph 5:31-32 .]”


Marriage in the order of creation

1603. “‘The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws…. God himself is the author of marriage.'[GS 48 # 1.] The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity,[Cf. GS 47 # 2.] some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. ‘The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.'[GS 47 # 1.]”

1604. “God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.[Cf. Gen 1:27 ; 1Jn 4:8, 16 .] Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: ‘And God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”[Gen 1:28 ; cf. Gen 1:31 .]”

1605. “Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.'[Gen 2:18 .] The woman, ‘flesh of his flesh,’ i.e., his counterpart, his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a ‘helpmate’; she thus represents God from whom comes our help.[Cf. Gen 2:18 .25.] ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.'[Gen 2:24 .] The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been ‘in the beginning’: ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh.'[Mt 19:6 .]”


Marriage under the regime of sin

1606. “Every man experiences evil around him and within himself. This experience makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character. ”

1607. “According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations;[Cf. Gen 3:12 .] their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust;[Cf. Gen 2:22 ; Gen 3:16b .] and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.[Cf. Gen 1:28 ; Gen 3:16-19 .] ”

1608. “Nevertheless, the order of creation persists, though seriously disturbed. To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them.[Cf. Gen 3:21 .] Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them ‘in the beginning.'”

Marriage under the pedagogy of the Law

1609. “In his mercy God has not forsaken sinful man. The punishments consequent upon sin, ‘pain in childbearing’ and toil ‘in the sweat of your brow,'[Gen 3:16, 19 .] also embody remedies that limit the damaging effects of sin. After the fall, marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving.”


1610. “Moral conscience concerning the unity and indissolubility of marriage developed under the pedagogy of the old law. In the Old Testament the polygamy of patriarchs and kings is not yet explicitly rejected. Nevertheless, the law given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from arbitrary domination by the husband, even though according to the Lord’s words it still carries traces of man’s ‘hardness of heart’ which was the reason Moses permitted men to divorce their wives.[Cf. Mt 19:8 ; Deut 24:1 .]”

1611. “Seeing God’s covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and faithful married love, the prophets prepared the Chosen People’s conscience for a deepened understanding of the unity and indissolubility of marriage.[Cf. Hos 1-3 ; Isa 54 ; Isa 62 ; Jer 2-3 ; Jer 31 ; Ezek 16 ; Ezek 23 ; Mal 2:13-17 .] The books of Ruth and Tobit bear moving witness to an elevated sense of marriage and to the fidelity and tenderness of spouses. Tradition has always seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of human love, a pure reflection of God’s love – a love ‘strong as death’ that ‘many waters cannot quench.'[Song 8:6-7 .]”

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