We simply could not pass up the opportunity to draw from Ethika Politika for this article. Philosophy grad student Kevin Kwasnik’s insightful post on the relationship between friendship and romance is a must read! Drawing from Germain Grisez, the natural law philosopher, this article contains many compelling thoughts that bear consideration when navigating friendships or moving towards romantic relationships. What do you think?
For those of us concerned with finding and choosing the right one for marriage, unfortunately, the majority of our culture has little to say about the most suitable way in which this ought to occur. Whether it is due to the “hook-up” mentality, or just the general demand for current gratification, one thing has been left particularly unquestioned; namely, as to when romance should rightfully begin.
Germain Grisez, a natural law philosopher not particularly well known for his position on relationship in contemporary society, surprisingly has some valuable thoughts on the matter. Centrally, his claim is this: romance shouldn’t precede the right kind of relationship–that is, romance is only warranted after both parties firmly know each other, and marriage is in the scope of possibility for each individual.
He states: “Romantic relationship is appropriate only when it can lead to engagement and marriage. Otherwise, it provides no real benefits, but only certain satisfactions proper to engagement and marriage, while at the same time displacing the activities characteristic of friendship, which the partners might be able to develop and enjoy.” (TWOTLJ II 9 I)
While to some this might seem insignificant, or at best a considerable option, the value of this reflection shouldn’t be underestimated. Two salient points shouldn’t be forgotten here: (1) that marriage is the only good fulfillment of a romantic relationship, and (2) that friendship plays an indispensible role as both a foundation and end in itself.
Both of these views stand in direct opposition to prevailing views on romance in contemporary society. To some, they might even sound particularly “unromantic”; nonetheless, genuinely protecting the good of a friend, and potential beloved, is the perfect groundwork for authentic romance to blossom.
As to the first point, romance is taken to be an end in itself. In other words, people act for the sake of building and exciting romance in their lives through physical, emotional, or spiritual means, without consideration as to what they are doing this for, and with whom they are creating the experience. But a simple question must be asked: if it is true that this person has no knowledge of the other and they seek to build romance for romance’s sake, for what purpose are these two relating? It seems manifestly clear at this point, the other individual becomes nothing more than a means to personal, emotional fulfillment in the illusion of purposeful action leading to lasting commitment. How this sort of usury became paradigmatic of romance is at least confusing, if not terribly disappointing.
Secondly, the recognition of friendship as an end in itself and protector of personal dignity in romantic relationship is a perfect inverse to the prevailing social script. During sincere friendship, where romance is excluded, suitable “matches” can be identified, by the recognition of such characteristics as moral uprightness, maturity, capacity for lasting commitment, similarity in faith structure, and complementarities in the workings of personality, interest, and social standing.
“The only legitimate way to acquire intimate knowledge about other persons is sincere friendship; and even if a friend is found unsuitable as one’s potential spouse, the friendship remains worthwhile, and it can be continued indefinitely if the romantic element has been excluded. Moreover, when the time comes for romance, it can provide a richer and more secure basis for marriage if real friendship has preceded and accompanies it.” (TWOTLJ II 9 I)