‘Paying Attention’ to Relationships in the 21st Century ~ BENEATH THE SURFACE with PAUL MURANO

By: Paul Murano – May, 2018MURANO

On the last Paying Attention Podcast show with Tom Duggan the topic we discussed was relationships.

Tom (editor of the Valley Patriot Newspaper) and I spent an hour discussing love, dating, relationships, and marriage in the context of 21st century America.

It will be the first of many on the topic. [You can see it here: 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGGDfdj4Xcc&h=280&w=380]

 … or you can download the audio on Spotify, iHeartRadio, iTunes, GooglePlay, PodBean, etc.]

Tom was open about his personal life and expounded on his experience, which may be considered typical in 21st century secular America. It included several relationships with different women that lasted several years each, a cohabitation of eleven years, and a couple deep heartbreaks that are still with him to this day. How many people today are walking around with shattered hearts and cynical attitudes about ever finding lasting love?


And how many have poor self esteem due to feeling used, or being dumped, or feeling they have wasted prime time in their lives waiting for a ‘commitment-phobe’? Too many to imagine. There are a number of reasons why these things occur, but the obvious question to ask is:
How can we avoid it?

I raised two important points during the show that I thought could help answer this question – neither of which receive enough conscious consideration until it’s too late.

The first point was found in this question I asked Tom: “To what end?” Why are you dating? What is the purpose of the relationship? Tom kept insisting there is no end, or ought to be none. But everything we do has a purpose. If it is communicated honestly and openly between the two parties there will be no false expectation. This is the first point. In days of old the purpose of “courting” was very clear. Two people got to know each other in the context of their lives, families and communities, for the sole end of discerning marriage. In a short period of time they are able to discern whether they could be a good fit for marriage, and if not, they part amicably and remain friendly.

There is a concerted effort to guard not only the body, but the heart; and not only one’s own, but also the other’s. This makes sense. Otherwise, how selfish is it to lure another into an emotional and/or physical bond, only to eventually let them go when “it’s time to move on”? A person of good will does not want that experience and memory remaining in someone who will eventually become another’s spouse.

The second point I was trying to make is that personal love – the kind that lasts – is chosen, not felt. It is a total and unconditional commitment to the other, despite one’s own interests. This sounds foreign to many formed by our culture, but it is clear from both experience and what is etched in the solemn vows of marriage: “I take you…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or health…until death do us part.” There is no wiggle room there. Nothing in these vows make stipulation for “unless we fall out of love,” or “unless you gain 50 lbs.,” or “unless someone younger and prettier comes along,” or even “unless you break these vows.” Wow. That is unconditional. This kind of love is voluntary, i.e. agape-love, not eros (see Valley Patriot archive for my article, “What is Love?”).

Tom claimed you cannot help who you love. When it comes to eros-love that may be true, since physical and/or emotional attraction is involuntary. Hence the term ‘FALL in love.’ However, other animals too have these passions that well up from within. Truly human, personal love is chosen, a free will commitment to the other. Spousal love is faithful, permanent, and open to life. For the single person there may be a number of good reasons to not pursue an attraction. For the married person there is no good reason to pursue one that isn’t one’s spouse.

Lastly, putting these two points together – the purpose of dating being clearly communicated, and true love being a total selfless and permanent commitment – then why are people involved in “relationships” from the time they’re in middle school?

How does this make sense in the bigger picture, knowing that eros without agape quickly devolves into selfishness and abuse? Unfortunately most people who call themselves adults condone these couplings out of ignorance or lack of courage. If we care about people, including our own children, we will not want them to fall into this trap and will remind each other of what is written in our nature.

Paul Murano teaches philosophy at Rivier University and North Shore Community College, hosts Beneath the Surface radio show on WCAP and co-hosts Paying Attention podcasts. He possesses a doctorate in marital theology, two masters’ in philosophy and theology, and is certified in health care ethics. He is founder of Heartbeat Pregnancy Help in Burlington, and is a singer-songwriter-musician. E-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com