So long as it shall be cool for us both

Sep 18, 2023 by

By J Budziszewski, Mercatornet.

On this day, my wife and I celebrate our 52nd anniversary. When we married, we had scarcely any idea what we were doing. I am glad to announce that even as boneheaded as we are, we have learned something.

Everyone knows that the matrimonial union requires work and faces difficulties. In traditional marriage vows, the lovers promise to love each other “for better or for worse” and “until we are parted by death.” Today, these words are often repeated with the mental substitution, “so long as it shall be cool for us both.” In the decade in which we were married, some people actually used those words during the wedding ceremony. No wonder so many see no difference between marrying and shacking up.

Trust me, it gets easier. Only hang on, and you may wonder why you ever considered putting an end to your union.

The basis of the marital friendship is not primarily affection, or even sexual desire. CS Lewis said that lovers look into each other’s eyes, but that friends look ahead to the task. With appreciation for his great book on The Four LovesI think Lewis missed something important, for husbands and wives look into each other’s eyes and look ahead to the task. Feelings may change, and sexual desires may wax and wane, but matrimonial union is a partnership in the hope and intention of making family, in bringing the future into being.

Ultimate purpose

This partnership cannot be revised or redefined. It transcends the feelings, desires, and even personal intentions of the spouses. So true is this that if the hope and intention of family are missing, the lovers should not be surprised to lose interest. That’s how we are made. Even when, through no fault of their own, a couple are unable to have children, they will naturally desire to be spiritual parents to their young relatives or godchildren.

After all, if not for making family, then what on earth would the sexual powers be for? People say “for pleasure,” but that is absurd. Of course sexual intercourse produces pleasure; the exercise of every voluntary power produces pleasure. Eating does. Looking around does. Flexing the muscles does.

Pleasure is certainly a strong motive for employing our powers, but why we have them is another matter altogether. We may eat for pleasure, but eating, as such, is for nourishment. Besides, pleasure vanishes if pursued as an end in itself. Gratefully accepted as a byproduct of doing something worthwhile in itself, it becomes surprisingly strong.

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