I don’t know about you guys, but in a relationship, I want a love which is true, self-sacrificing, and unconditional, that agape love. Relationships can be tricky and even relationships we thought were going great can quickly turn sour. Often we can meet someone and fall head over heels very quickly only to be disappointed later on. It’s important when we meet someone that we’re interested in, especially romantically, to really take our time in getting to know that person. If we want to find agape love in our romantic relationships and build true, lasting, relationships we should really be discerning in our searching for this. So, how can we build lasting relationships?
This is the first step to building any relationship, this is important because it’s the initial spark which draws you to a person, creating an interest in them. However, we all know that although attraction is important, it’s not enough to build a relationship on, and it can easily become an infatuation. Attraction is really an invitation to get to know someone better, to seek the heart of the person. We all know someone we might’ve been attracted to and it turns out you have nothing in common, which leads to a dead end. To move up from attraction there must be things in common with that person, you know to be able to have the craic with them and enjoy each other’s company.
Friendship is the next stage in the pyramid. Without forming a friendship, a relationship will end up going nowhere. Friendship is central to love, it is the key to love. Real friendship doesn’t want to harm the other person whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, you want what’s best for the other person. We all want to end up with someone that we can call our best friend. We all have seen elderly couples walking down the street holding hands still in love as ever. They might not seem physically attractive in our eyes, but it goes so much deeper. Real friendship can take a while to build up, so don’t be afraid to take your time to get to know someone.
When a solid friendship is formed we move onto the next stage, intimacy.
Now usually when people hear this they think its something physical. However, what it really is, is being able to be open with the other, to completely reveal the heart to another person. Intimacy comes from the Latin word ‘intimare’ which means no fear. If you break down the word also it’s like Into-Me-See. So really it’s about dropping the masks we sometimes wear and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in front of the other, to be able to let down our barriers and be completely ourselves with the other while also accepting them for who they are. It’s about being secure within the relationship to do all this.
The final step is marriage. Its where two people are very sure they want to spend the rest of their lives with the other and are ready to make a life-long commitment. They make this promise to each other in front of God, their friends and family where they take each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of your life. So what’s so special about marriage? Its one of the 7 sacraments of the Church which means God gives you the help, the grace, to keep the promises we have made because marriage is not always easy. Things can get difficult. God blesses and strengthens this life-long commitment.
On the wedding night, husband and wife consummate their marriage. What does consummate mean? It means they express physically to one another the vows they made in Church that day, in a total gift of self. Its where the two people become one flesh. It makes sense that we should desire to save that total gift of ourselves for marriage when you and the person you love have declared your love for one another and made a life-long commitment to one another.
We call this process of building relationships the relationship pyramid, the reason we put it in this order specifically because all these steps build upon one another. It’s when we are in a relationship with someone that we can share true friendship and intimacy with that we can work towards that life-long commitment and that total gift of self. However, we often don’t see this portrayed in the media, instead, we see relationships based solely on feelings and attraction. Again, both are important, but they are only the seeds of love, we need a firm foundation of friendship to build true relationships. But, what happens when we don’t take the time to establish that firm foundation?
We can end up in fleeting romantic relationships that don’t bring much else other than heartbreak because these steps to a relationship have not been put in their proper place. We do this when we become sexually intimate with someone early in a relationship. If we haven’t taken the time to truly get to discover the heart of this person and we haven’t committed ourselves to a life-long relationship, then we don’t truly know the person that we’re giving ourselves to in sex and we can use the hormones of sex to give us the feeling of being loved. If we base our relationships off these feelings they can become pretty unstable because feelings are a passing thing, whereas true love is long-lasting.
Now we know that sex is meant to deepen the bond between two people, but if we have sex too early in a relationship we risk the chance of missing out the building of a good, deep, genuine friendship with someone, and we lose out on that real intimacy of seeing and accepting someone as they are, beyond just their body but actually seeing the heart of the person. You can become blind to seeing the other person, in focusing solely on the body, we miss out on seeing the whole person that God created them to be. And because of the emotional and physical bond you develop, it becomes harder to break up with this person, we might even ignore problems in a relationship because of the strong feelings we have. Another thing that can happen is that, because we aren’t capable of moving forward in this relationship it can lead to regular, casual sex or being ‘friends with benefits’, but honestly, in this case, neither of you are friends nor do you benefit from it, because if we do keep going round in this circle of only spending time with someone’s body, we can’t grow to know them beyond that, nor can they truly know us, and it becomes a cycle of continually using someone and being used by them in return.
This isn’t just an idea that some of us practising chastity came up with, the science behind sex proves that sex is meant for an exclusive committed relationship. You might be reading this thinking, ‘I’ve made some of these mistakes in my relationships’, but the beautiful thing about chastity is that it’s never too late to choose chastity. Chastity allows us to find these true, solid relationships because it looks at the heart of the person, it allows us to grow in Christ-like love.
At Pure in Heart, we have chosen to live this way and we know plenty of other, normal, young people who have also decided to wait. And don’t worry, I know I won’t be stuck for a husband. We don’t see people in movies and programmes wait for marriage, or if we do they are often depicted as weird or strange, and we too can fall into the trap of believing this, that we might not be able to find someone who would wait for us, but if we desire to find agape love, that we can be capable of giving to someone and also receive from them, the person who can give you that love won’t wait for you, they will wait with you.