Married life’s stages of love

Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD,

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
When a man and woman are joined in marriage as young people, the first stage of their love is easy to discern. It is safe to call their first decade of marriage ten years of passion, for it was the magnet of passionate love that first drew them to communicate with each other. Percy Sledge sang it best, “When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothing else!” This is how most marriages begin.
The exception might be the case where a couple were friends (storge, the Greek for friendship love) before eros (Greek for erotic love) was ignited. In many ways, experiencing storge before eros is a much better guarantee of lasting love.
In that first decade of marital love, the chemical power and magic of estrogen and testosterone mix with the outreach and imagination of the human longing for love to create the human foundation for the treasure of love. That foundation we refer to as young love that has all the ingredients for fulfilling, lasting love, but must be tested, tempered and matured in the cauldron of everyday living. Those who refuse to grow will soon find that the wellspring of their love has been poisoned.
Ten years of fashion can be a description of the second decade of marital love. By then, a young couple have hit their stride in love and family life, tiptoeing into social life. Where children have entered their life, the couple is keenly aware of and faithful to their first obligation of rearing and educating their children. As their children grow, the young parents are gradually able to participate a bit in social life.
With most of the initial fire of passion still burning, they nevertheless feel freer to integrate their statements of fashion in social circles with the wonders of love and family. Almost imperceptibly, their initial decade of passion is beginning to morph into ten years of fashion, indicating that they are now a settled couple.
Of course, not consciously taking stock of the nature of their decades of married life, the settled couple move into ten years of compassion. No longer hot, the fire of passion is now warm and comfortable, leaving lots of room for heartfelt compassion and generous sharing among their own family members and in their workaday contacts with friends, coworkers and strangers alike. We say of a couple who are at this juncture in life that they are mellowing out. The years or decades between these stages of love are not necessarily well-defined.
Somewhere in this love mix, there are usually three other forms of love.
Pragma (the Greek for everyday business) is the name given to pragmatic love that does not allow itself to get lost in the fire of erotic love or the closeness of friendship love. Usually, pragmatic love is intimately tied into the pedestrian personality of an individual whose bent is to make everything, including love, as practical as possible.
Pragmatic love can be of great importance in our human quest for love, for it keeps our feet on the ground while our heart and mind explore the heights of emotion and human sentiments. Pragma should be complementary to all other forms of love.
Ludus, the Latin word for play or game, is the name given to ludic love that is lighthearted and playful. Full of cheerfulness, ludic lovers are jovial and prone to tease each other, fulfilling the old saying, “People who love each other tease each other.” As in the case of pragmatic love, ludic love is closely related to the personal temperament of individual lovers. A healthy amount of playfulness is desirable in an intimate relationship, except where the personalities of the lovers make it annoying.
At this point, it should be obvious that the makings of marital bliss are like a wonderful cake whose recipe consists of certain desirable ingredients. If one uses those ingredients in proper proportions, they will balance off and merge into the longed-for product. The ingredients in this case are love of friendship (storge), erotic love (eros), pragmatic love (pragma), ludic love (ludus) and benevolent love.
Agape, the Greek for benevolent love, the highest form of love predicated of God alone (from the Latin bene = well and volens = wishing), means well-wishing, the same as the Christmas message of “Peace on earth, good will to people.”
Finally, pulling all forms of love together, we wish endless years of Agape for married couples as well as for the unmarried. Although properly predicated of God alone, we humans do our best to work benevolent love into our lives, trusting that agape will animate and supercharge storge, eros, pragma and ludus.
Seldom do Italians literally say, “I love you,” which would be “Ti amo” in Italian (Te amo in Latin). Usually, they tell the beloved, “Ti voglio bene,” that means literally, “I wish you well.” That is agape, benevolent love.,
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)

(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)