The Formula of Love: When and Whom Can You Love with All Your Heart? Priest Replies

Archpriest Igor Fomin | 09 November 2020

To be honest, I have not seen a single married couple who did not regret that they became a family after some time. Not a single one… Whoever we choose, we will always regret this choice at least once.

I think this is because we are often guided by our momentary desires and passions when we choose someone. We want constant happiness and attraction. So we need a person next to us to be the eternal source of this state. But it doesn’t work that way. Even the strongest attraction sooner or later passes. In order for it to grow into love, you need to make efforts, work on yourself, change yourself, and do it for the sake of another person. We are hardly ever ready for this kind of work. We want to have a person next to us who would be comfortable for us in everything, who would give us positive emotions and would not demand anything in return. But if you do not learn to give your whole self to the other person and to sacrifice yourself (obviously, you should not go too far, and allow the person next to you to become a tyrant), your relationship will not become deep and lasting. In fact, the path to happiness lies only through overcoming ourselves and we can become better only this way. That is why in Christianity, family is understood as a path to God. As for the source of happiness … well, it should be inside us, not outside.

What Do I Need a Family For?

Certainly, people make a lot of mistakes while building their relationships. One of the most common is an idea that creating a family is an end in itself. People do whatever it takes to get the attention of this or that person, to marry him/her, and to have him/her as that eternal source of happiness. So the whole meaning of life begins to gradually come down to achieving this goal. But it shouldn’t be that way. First, you cannot create an idol for yourself from a potential spouse. You cannot build happiness on this. Second, this way you can fall into psychological dependence on a person, and any dependence is a manifestation of fear.

Fear of loneliness, fear of something new, fear of losing the old, of losing comfort… But where there is fear, there is no love. Third, a relationship with a person may not work out, he or she will leave you and then what will you be left with? The whole world in the creation of which you have invested so much effort will collapse.

Формула любви: кому и когда вверять свое сердце? – совет священника

Photo: Natalia Fedorova

In general, everything that we make up and create for ourselves has one characteristic, which is limitation. A limitation always has both a flourishing period and a period of decay, with all the ensuing consequences. There is no need to bet on it. The goal must always be Christ for a Christian. Our spouse is not a source of happiness, but only a means of achieving it. He or she is a means of reaching God. But this means should be used correctly.

A person in the family will have to close their eyes on many things. Family happiness is when you have selective hearing, selective vision, short tongue and a constant smile on your face. And the right attitude to difficulties. In family relationships, there is no protection whatsoever from unhappiness other than faith in God. When you understand that your problems are not fatal, that they, like the person who is nearby, are only a means of reaching Christ, then you are not subject to wounds. You are subject to trials, but not to wounds. And not to fear either.

Why Is Nothing Working Out?

At the beginning of a relationship, we often make the mistake of dreaming about how wonderful our life together will be. In these dreams, people can already decide everything for themselves, imagine a script, define a role for their spouse, propose and get consent… In other words, imagine themselves as one being with a person who has not yet decided anything for themselves. As a result, all these dreams fail completely. After all, the other person also has freedom of choice, he or she is not obliged to play according to your scenario. Therefore do not entrust your heart to him or her fully and do not dream of a future together, until everything is finally decided. This person is not yet yours and you are not theirs, and you have not agreed on anything yet. Attraction is the time to take a closer look at each other, a moment of choice, it is an opportunity for God to unite you together or not. This stage passes, and if suddenly your paths divide, let them divide without pain or emotional consequences.

For the same reason, the Church warns people against physical intimacy before marriage. Physical intimacy is not a stage of checking a partner, but a moment of absolute trust in each other, the final stage of intimacy. If you are not yet married, not united by God, you do not belong to each other yet. Perhaps you will even decide that you don’t need to be together, and then it will be especially difficult to part. Why aggravate the situation?

Indeed parting is very difficult, especially if this decision is not mutual. During courtship, people look closely, see something special in each other, but then disappointment may come or simply understanding that this is not your person. Then you need to part. If this became clear to only one of the two, but the other person wants to continue the relationship, he or she will have to understand this decision and let the person go.

Sometimes the reason for misunderstandings and breaking up is the excessive interference of one person in the life of another, an excess of control. It is when one actually oppresses the other, prying into their personal things. This approach, as far as I can see, is equally characteristic of both women and men. In my opinion, this is a picture of dogs and hamsters from a magazine. Such a “caring” person does not really need a living person nearby. They need a dog that will faithfully look into their eyes, obey any commands of their owner and will not cause inconvenience and discomfort. But what is good for animals can be very detrimental to humans. A person who is forced to tolerate such interference is simply left with no air and freedom of choice. Naturally, he or she will leave.

Whom Should I Choose?

It is very important to understand how and whom we choose as our potential spouse. I will not try to be original, I will say that it is ideal for a man to meet a woman who would remind him of his mother in some way. But not a “mommy” who will offer you a shoulder to cry on and will comfort you, but the one who is wise and caring, who will create a family atmosphere at home and fill your life with love… At the same time, the one who can cook, who will understand you and be ready to compromise, but it is at home. But in her outer life she will be beautiful, witty, attracting the attention of other men… The one whose heart you will always try to win. And also the one who will always inspire you to improve. Remember, it was our mother who taught us how to hold a fork and a spoon, pushed us to do our homework, made us wash dishes, and so on. Mothers set goals for us in childhood, and we were drawn to them.

A woman should be caring. But it’s important to remember that care must be delicate. There is no need to overfeed someone with pies, both literally and figuratively speaking. For example, if a man is busy at work and doesn’t call, don’t throw a tantrum, don’t bother him with questions: where are you, why don’t you text me, maybe you don’t love me? Do not try to get him under total control. He should simply feel happy around you.

And women, in turn, are more likely to trust their hearts to someone who will be like their fathers: the strongest, the bravest, the one who can make decisions and be responsible for the family. A father in the family is also a person who can do amazing things: replace light bulbs, knock nails into the wall, swim breaststroke, and so on. The one who knows everything in the world and at the same time who loves and indulges his children. Naturally, a woman is looking for such man. No one needs a wimp in the house. Although, certainly, he risks becoming such a man if the woman will be his “mommy”.

Формула любви: кому и когда вверять свое сердце? – совет священника

So, in order to find such people, such a wife and such a husband, during courtship, you need not only to indulge in emotions, but also use your head. Instead of chasing dreams, pay attention to reality: are you suitable for each other, can you not only talk for hours together, but just be silent, is it good for you? If something doesn’t fit, don’t give your whole heart yet…

How to Keep a Relationship From Growing Cold?

There are many examples of how people in a relationship lose interest in each other and grow apart. What should people do? The recipe, it seems to me, is simple and at the same time complicated. Each participant in a relationship has their own secret places of their hearts, and one has to open them, although gradually, but constantly. Show your beauty that is inside, but not all at once. Start with revealing the first, then second, and finally, the third layer of depth… Then the person next to you will be ready for new discoveries and, moreover, will understand that you are inexhaustible. Even if at some point you feel otherwise, your spouse will not notice it, but on the contrary, he or she will help you discover something in yourself. Meanwhile, if you have your own principles: for example, you are against parents’ interfering in your family life, it is better to explain this precisely during the period of courtship, so that later there will be no misunderstandings. Everything that you did not explain before the wedding simply does not exist for the other person. He or she will then be justly surprised and discouraged: they expected one thing, but in reality they got another. There are things to be negotiated before the marriage. Everything else that arises after the wedding, you should work out together. Otherwise, it is better not to get involved in family life, because it will be a gamble.

What Should a Believer Do?

A believer should do the same things. If you are a Christian, talk about it openly and without hesitation: a truly loving person will accept it and treat it with respect, even without sharing your positions. If you feel good with each other, if there is mutual understanding and respect, everything can work out. Christianity is not a set of prohibitions “don’t go there, don’t do that”, Christianity is a religion of love. How many examples of families there are, where one of the spouses, most often a woman, is a believer, the other one is not, but through this believer something begins to change in him… Even at the time of the Apostle Paul there were such examples, the same things happen now as well. St. Paul, by the way, gives this comment: For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:16).

Of course, it would be ideal if the bride and groom were equally deeply religious people. But ideal situations are rare, and there are temptations too. Often one person helps the other to move up, to improve. This is usually very difficult. It’s easier to drag someone down, which sometimes happens as well. But you can’t command your heart. Therefore, if the Lord has connected you two, you need to push the two of you up. The main thing is, again, to remember that starting a family is not a way to achieve personal comfort, but an opportunity to reach Christ. A young person who is excited about and impatient to meet a Christian girl and get married as soon as possible, and rejects all other options, will rarely find happiness…

Why Is Sacrifice Important?

When choosing a potential spouse, you should definitely pay attention to the person’s desire to sacrifice themselves. There are two types of sacrifice: directed at oneself and directed at others. In the first case, the person seems to be doing something for you, but no more than what is pleasant to him or her personally. This is called conceit. Whereas sacrifice directed at others and specifically at you is called love. Is he or she ready to give up some part of their comfort, time, material resources, and give up their usual activities in order to be with you for an extra hour to help you? What is more important to him: you or his habits? Observe this and draw conclusions. Remember the Gospel thought: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. That is, for the sake of the treasure, a person is ready for anything. If you are a treasure to him, he will not stop before anything. As in the parable of the pearl: a person sees a large, beautiful pearl, and he already has a whole collection of others, but he takes all his small ones and sells them in order to buy this one and only this one. If so, then he is capable of sacrifice. This, certainly, does not mean that you have to demand anything and check him or her: you are this and that, do you agree to jump out of the window for me, or at least change jobs, because the one you have now takes a lot of time? I’m not talking about that. Just keep your eyes open, remember about the pearls and don’t flatter yourself ahead of time.

How Do You Find Love?

There are two options: lie on the couch and wait or be in an active search. In the first case, if you really need it, you will be found on the couch as well, figuratively speaking. But if you choose this option, you should not think about how to start a family, but do other things. But do not blame God and everyone around you if nothing happens. The other option, the active position is when you seek someone, meet different people and ask God for His blessings: “is this the right person?” And ask Him, “if he [or she] is, Lord, give me a sign.” One should not be afraid of such communication with God. He is a loving Father who will always help you make the right choice. Perhaps this choice will not meet all the parameters that you imagined, but it will always be correct. Indeed, the correct parameters are not determined in beauty, nor in monetary terms, nor in academic degrees etc. They are determined in making us happy. And if we are happy, what difference does it make how?

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