Friday, July 17, 2009

The Development and Dimensions of Love in Marriage

To love is a universal human attribute. There exists in man an eternal quest, a quest which is the motivating force impelling man to seek knowledge, to search for truth, to behold beauty, to experience the most, to reach the highest, to create the best, and above all to achieve union with the Beloved. This fundamental quest is the manifestation of the basic, eternal love with which every human being is endowed. Given the central role of love in human relationships, the many attempts to understand love, to explain its nature, to describe its characteristics, and to unravel its mysteries are not surprising. Nevertheless, love remains poorly understood. Many believe that love cannot be explained but only experienced, while others consider love to be merely another human emotion. In this paper, I will attempt to describe love both from an experiential and a phenomenological perspective. The concepts presented are derived from the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith on this issue and from my clinical observations pertaining to love at the individual and marital levels under healthy and pathological conditions in the context of various social and cultural settings. Although the main focus of the presentation is on love in marriage, the concepts presented are also applicable, with some modification, to other types of human love relationships. My main thesis is that love is developmental in its nature and conditional in its quality. The developmental quality of love is self-explanatory. It refers to the fact that a confident, mature love manifests itself differently from an infantile, possessive type of love, or that self-centered love is an indication of an earlier stage of growth than an unconditional love. The conditional aspect of love refers to the fact that human love can be creative or destructive, enlightened or ignorant, universal or limited, and material or spiritual. These diverse, opposite qualities of love are due to the qualities of the object of the person's love. In other words, if the object of human love is beauty, knowledge, or life, love is manifested in its most beautiful, enlightened and creative manner. If the object of the person's love is untruth, cruelty, and materialism, then falsehood and destruction are the outcome. The ultimate aim of this process is the love of God which is the source of human joy and glory:

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