164. In the course of every marriage physical appearances change, but this hardly means that love and attraction need fade. We love the other person for who they are, not simply for their body. Although the body ages, it still expresses that personal identity that first won our heart. Even if others can no longer see the beauty of that identity, a spouse continues to see it with the eyes of love and so his or her affection does not diminish. He or she reaffirms the decision to belong to the other and expresses that choice in faithful and loving closeness. The nobility of this decision, by its intensity and depth, gives rise to a new kind of emotion as they fulfill their marital mission.
What many people could hear: attraction to our partner is sustained as a relationship matures. We express identity through our bodies, but more: we maintain and sustain affection as a personal choice. Not in slavery to expectations, family, conventions of culture, outward appearance, or the like. We are free to choose, and we choose to continue in faithfulness.
Recent popes also weigh in:
For “emotion, caused by another human being as a person… does not per se tend toward the conjugal act”.(John Paul II, Catechesis (31 October 1984), 6) It finds other sensible expressions. Indeed, love “is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly”.(Deus Caritas Est 8)
Emotions are part of our composition as human beings; this is how God made us. But God also created us with these “different dimensions,” as Pope Benedict observes. As one aspect moves to the rear, another moves to the foreground. How many couples actually seek out new ways of relating, as Pope Francis suggests:
The marriage bond finds new forms of expression and constantly seeks new ways to grow in strength. These both preserve and strengthen the bond. They call for daily effort. None of this, however, is possible without praying to the Holy Spirit for an outpouring of his grace, his supernatural strength and his spiritual fire, to confirm, direct and transform our love in every new situation.
Daily effort reminds me of the need for a believer’s continual conversion. Praying for grace: the final piece of advice in this chapter.
Any final thoughts on the topic of “Love in Marriage,” which has taken us from section 89 to this final one?
Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.