Marriage: Helping Each Other Get to Heaven

Not long ago, my wife and I were spending some much-needed free time to simply relax. As it happened, we came across an article online about the controversial TV show “Dating Naked.” While neither one of us had any desire to see the show itself, we decided to read the article simply for interest’s sake.

For those unfamiliar with it, “Dating Naked” was a so called reality show that ran for three seasons on VH1. It placed two sets of couples on a tropical island and had them date one another. The exploitative twist to the series was that the couples had to do everything without wearing any clothes.

According to the tagline on the VH1 website, the show “explores romance sans preconceptions, stereotypes – and clothes. . . .  As sexy new daters arrive every week . . . connections are tested and relationships develop – but only one can win each dater’s heart.”

The article was really nothing more than a trashy tabloid piece, but it got me thinking about the basic premise of “Dating Naked.” What immediately popped into my mind upon reading that description was “How desperate do these poor individuals have to be? Why would anyone be willing to subject themselves to this kind of humiliation for money and the off chance that they might find love? How low does someone have to sink before we, as a nation, say enough?”

Some More Thoughts

Those were my initial thoughts, but not long after, I went a little deeper. I reflected on the premise and had a startling revelation. Despite the motives that the show’s producers may have had, in their own twisted way they were hearkening back to our origins in the Garden of Eden.

How did I arrive at that conclusion? When you think about it, almost all of the elements are there.  A man and a woman are seeking to build a loving and lasting relationship.  In the premise of the show they’re hoping to be “naked without shame” towards each other.  And they are in an idyllic Paradise-like setting. Shortly thereafter, however, they find trouble in Paradise.

There’s one important element missing from the equation though: God’s presence. Ever since the Fall, in Genesis 3, humanity has been struggling to reclaim that sense of unity, joy, and peace experienced between man, woman, and God.

We Need God

Despite how much modern society tries to distance itself from our Godly origins, each one of us still carries a piece of our original design deep inside. We know that we were meant for so much more than what the world has to offer. We desire to reach that special place where we are fully known, loved, and accepted as we are.

Sadly, as C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” For many, this relentless search has led down some pretty dark avenues. For some, it has meant turning to drugs and alcohol. And for others, it has meant turning sex, money, sports, and a thousand different pleasures into idols. For others, it has meant trying to find “that one right person who completes me.”

While there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be in a lasting marriage with a faithful spouse, thinking the other person will complete you is often just wishful thinking. People are not perfect.  We all make mistakes.  We misunderstand each other, we argue, and we sometimes hurt one another. Even in the best of marriages, where both spouses fully accept their individuality, perfect love is impossible.  Men and women are created beings, and not the Creator.  God alone is perfect. For a relationship to be perfected and thrive, a couple needs God at the center of their lives.

Society Has Lost its Way

In our modern world, where everything is seemingly treated as disposable, there are still things worth defending. If the mentality of the world wants us to believe that we are no better than animals (with a not-so-subtle hint that we should behave like them), we need to defend our dignity as daughters and sons of God.

Society wants us to believe that we can thrive in “open” relationships – where one or both persons can break off the relationship at any time with no strings attached. It has now also redefined marriage.  But we need to defend the sanctity and sacrament of marriage as upheld by the Church.

If people are dating with the mentality that “another person will complete me”, we need to remind them that only God can complete them in the way they truly desire. Only by dating and marrying while following His commandments, and submitting to His will, can men and women experience marriages that are fulfilling, vibrant, and long-lasting.

Catholic Teaching on Marriage

We need to pray for all the misguided people, who’ve bought into one or more lies about dating and marriage. They need us to be merciful towards them. But we have to explain to them what the Catholic Church really teaches.  Luckily we have valuable resources like Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to help us. We have to gently guide them to discover the beauty of their own self-worth.

While we can never reclaim the type of unity, peace, and joy that our first parents experienced, we can learn to embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church.  We can do our best to submit to God’s original plan for marriage.  If we do this it’s possible for us to enjoy a taste of what that unity may feel like. But even then, it’s still not the true goal for marriage.

During our marriage preparation courses, the instructors summed it up very succinctly: “The true goal of marriage… is for each spouse to help get the other to Heaven.”