Don't forget to use your head and not just your heart when making decisions about love.
It’s not easy to discern whether we should deepen or break off a romantic relationship. How can we steer a safe path between infatuation and excessive caution?
Fr. Pierre-Marie Castaignos, a member of the Congregation of the Servants of Jesus and Mary, has written extensively on this topic. In an interview with Aleteia, he stresses the importance of discernment and offers three criteria that couples are encouraged to consider before making any major commitment.
“No matter how you met (love at first sight, friendship, a website), it’s necessary to discern the person who is in front of you,” he says—especially at a time when couples are made or broken according to emotions.
1Compatibility of characters
The first important element is to evaluate the compatibility of our character with that of the other person. It’s a question of knowing “which types of character I can get along with, and which I cannot,” Fr. Castaignos explains.
This element implies knowing yourself and getting to know the other person. If we’re put off by the other person’s temperament, be it whimsical or serious, it will be difficult to stay together for a long-term relationship.
2Use your head, not just your heart
Fr. Castaignos is a witness to the fact that today’s society is very much based on emotion. People often say, “It just feels right,” or “I’m not feeling it,” regarding things ranging from job opportunities to people they met on a date.
Fr. Castaignos cautions, “People often don’t use their reason enough when choosing a future partner.” The advantage of dating sites is that they force people to make choices, to make decisions, to put their priorities into words, and thus introduce a little reason where feelings sometimes could take over.
Finally, it’s important to achieve intellectual communion, which means the capacity to understand each other mutually, the intellectual curiosity that makes the relationship come alive, and a shared sense of humor.
“Humor is the sign of intellectual communion,” says Fr. Castaignos. It’s a kind of communion that allows the relationship to be nourished, to achieve true heart-to-heart communication, to share an intellectual fluency without which one or the other in the couple would risk becoming bored. It’s important to discern whether or not this element is present before making a commitment.