From Questions Young People Ask Before Marriage, Fr. Donald Miller, C.SS.R., 1950’s
Can Love Be Acquired?
For several years I have wanted to get married and have a home of my own. Now at last a man of good character has asked me to marry him, but I do not feel that I am in love with him.
Yet I am afraid that if I do not accept him, I won’t have another chance to marry. Tell me, is it possible to fall in love with a man after you have married him? Or is it possible to have a happy marriage without being very much in love with your partner?
The answer to this question depends entirely on the character, training and spiritual maturity of the girl involved. If a girl has a false, movie-inspired ideal of the glamour and excitement of being wildly in love, if she is of the immature type that day-dreams of being swept off her feet by love, there is reason to fear that she would be dissatisfied with a marriage in which her feelings were more or less commonplace.
It is very probable that the lack of romantic feeling on her part, in conjunction with the ordinary disillusionments that arise in married life, would make her think she had been cheated out of something.
She would still be foolishly day-dreaming of romance after marriage.
However, it may be remarked that a girl with excessively romantic ideas about love is usually a poor bet for happiness in any marriage.
But for a girl who is well aware that the movies, romantic novels, and love story magazines present a false picture of the importance of being madly in love, for one who knows how often marriages built on this kind of love collapse after a short time, for one who has learned to make her feelings subordinate to her will, there can be a very happy and successful marriage without the wild kind of romantic love.
History is full of examples of such. If a girl wants to marry, and knows what marriage entails, and has character enough to do her part to make her marriage happy, come what may, she is an excellent prospect for a successful marriage to a man whom she respects, and whose principles are as high as her own.
We make only one reservation. A girl should not marry a man for whom she feels some real dislike or antipathy. The intimacy of married life intensifies such dislikes or antipathies if they are present from the beginning.
We are speaking above of the case in which there is a real liking for a man, community of interests, union in principles, and readiness to do God’s will, no matter what it demands. If what the world calls romantic love is not present, in such a case, it will not matter too greatly.
When Is Kissing a Sin?
Is kissing a sin?
Almost wherever there are young people who go out on dates, this question is posed to those who take an interest in their welfare both spiritual and temporal. It is obvious that the customs and fashions of the world in which they live have made it a serious problem that must be faced.
In answering it, we shall consider the moral angle first, and then add considerations of prudence and common sense. There are two different kinds of kissing that can be referred to in the question.
The first is the ordinary kiss of greeting and farewell, the kiss that people are not ashamed to give in public or in the presence of others, the kind of kiss exchanged between a mother and son, brother and sister, relative and relative.
It is a salutation, a symbol, a sign of love and respect for a person to whom one is bound by the more sacred ties of human relationship. Clearly this kind of kissing is not sinful, not sinful even between a boy and girl in love.
Usually when this much has been explained, young people answer rather scornfully: “Oh, we don’t mean that kind of kissing.”
Or they will cry out with still greater scorn: “How can you expect us to kiss like a brother and sister if we are in love?” This is very revealing.
It means that what such young people have in mind when they ask “Is kissing a sin?” is not the mere symbol or salutation of affection, but something inspired by and bound up in some way with passion.
They are referring to close and protracted embraces; the kisses that gratify, in some way, the yearning for bodily union with another that can lawfully be fulfilled only in marriage. Sometimes they do not realize that this is the origin of their desire for protracted kissing experiences, but the fact remains that it is just that, and in many cases it leads them straight into the great sins that beforehand they would have said they abhorred.
That is why such kissing, prolonged, passionate, exciting, is a sin in itself. It is a sin in so far as it springs from and leads to indulgence in sinful passion.
On the prudential side, even the kisses that are merely symbols of affection should not be made common, cheap and promiscuous. Kisses should be reserved for the more strong and sacred relationships in life. The boy and girl who make them cheap will almost invariably cheapen even nobler and more important things.
To Kiss or Not to Kiss?
Most boys expect to be permitted to kiss a girl at least after one or two dates. Is it permissible or advisable to go along with their wishes? Some girls with whom I have talked say that if you don’t permit it you will lose every boy-friend.
Let’s bring this question down to some fundamental principles and reasoning, leaving out of consideration for the moment whether “most boys expect it” or “all girls advise it.” Little of value for one’s happiness is ever learned from what “everybody happens to be doing.”
The purpose of dates between marriageable young people is that they may become acquainted with each other’s characters and so find out whether, when the question comes up as it should eventually, there is a good chance of their being happily married.
Let it be noted that the purpose of dates is not primarily and exclusively “a good time”-with no further implications. Of course, every boy and girl want to have a good time on a date, but this should be subjected, in their minds, to the more serious purposes that justify company-keeping and its dangers.
It is because so many young people think of dating as just a means of “having a good time” that so many fall into sin on their dates. A decent boy and girl will never think of a good time as permitting anything contrary to God’s law; nor will they be unmindful that on their dates they are making a test of each other.
Passionate kissing, it has been shown in this column, is forbidden to unmarried people. There are different kinds of kissing, and the above problem can only be considered as pertaining to that kind which is not gravely sinful.
There is no question about the other. Even that, however, we say, indulged in on a first or second or third date, is a serious obstacle to the fulfillment of the purpose of company-keeping.
Kissing, even though it be quite modest, stimulates physical attraction to another. In proportion as it does so, it lessens the ability of intelligence to judge the fitness of a companion for marriage.
Many a girl who permitted a boy to kiss her on short acquaintance has been swept into marriage by her feelings, only to find that he was anything but the person to make her happy.
Many a girl who permitted kissing to a near stranger has been swept into sin and into a forced marriage.
The above principles are so true that even if all boys expected a girl to consent to kissing, and all girls advised it, (which is not true), they should still be followed by an intelligent, self-respecting, God-fearing girl.
Following them is the only known way of finding an intelligent, self-respecting, virtuous boy for a partner in marriage.
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