209. The timely preparation of engaged couples by the parish community should also assist them to recognize eventual problems and risks. In this way, they can come to realize the wisdom of breaking off a relationship whose failure and painful aftermath can be foreseen.
Working against this is the pervasive loneliness in modern society. I’ve known some young people who see a damaged or unhealthy relationship as better than being alone. That’s a very difficult hurdle. Advice goes unheeded. Sometimes people are convinced their love is fatally flawed, but hope and fear combine to keep people together who would, objectively, be better off apart.
In their initial enchantment with one another, couples can attempt to conceal or relativize certain things and to avoid disagreements; only later do problems surface. For this reason, they should be strongly encouraged to discuss what each expects from marriage, what they understand by love and commitment, what each wants from the other and what kind of life they would like to build together. Such discussions would help them to see if they in fact have little in common and to realize that mutual attraction alone will not suffice to keep them together. Nothing is more volatile, precarious and unpredictable than desire. The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment.
For this to succeed, the pastoral minister must have a solid personal awareness of such matters. Experience isn’t essential, but it helps. Clergy who have issues with a lack of intimacy or their families of origin are hampered by a lack of expertise. Unless they have mastered human psychology. And even then, the clinical touch, however true, isn’t easy to swallow.
Remember Amoris Laetitia is online.