Three Misconceptions About Marriage

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

The origin of Conjugial Love is the marriage of Good and Truth. (CL 83)

  1. Introduction

    1. That wonderful song says, “from fire that melts and welds the twain in one; a perfect union, all the dross consuming. Behold one angel when its work is done.” (Hymn number 53, by Evelyn E. Plummer)

      1. A beautiful ideal. A wondrous vision, but is it what the Writings really teach about Conjugial Love?

        1. How do the Writings themselves define Conjugial Love? (Don’t worry - when recently polled, most ministers got this one wrong.) The Writings define Conjugial Love as “the marriage between one man and one woman”1 – and then go on to describe at some length how that can be raised from the natural to a spiritual relationship.

    2. Have we inadvertently turned the Doctrine of Conjugial love into an unattainable ideal? Have we created something in our own imaginations that no one can ever hope to understand or live up to, and so we stop trying? How can we approach the Doctrine of Conjugial Love so that it is both realistic, obtainable, and comforting to each of us, either in our own marriages, or in our potential marriages?

      1. What we are going to do today is address three of the most common misconceptions about the Doctrine of Conjugial Love in the hope that in so doing, the doctrine will be demystified and seen to be most practical in our daily lives.

  2. The Three Misconceptions

    1. Misconception #1: Conjugial Love is Romantic Love

      1. You don’t have to be married to be in Conjugial Love (although you don’t experience it in fullness until you are)

        1. One partner may be in it but not the other

      2. Conjugial Love is not outside of self.

        1. Conjugial Love is being the right person, not finding the right person. Do you want to know who your conjugial partner is? Look at the name on the marriage license.

    2. Misconception #2: Conjugial Love is the Conjunction of Two People.

      1. It may be seen from reason that it is not conjunction into one, but adjunction, near and close according to the love, and in the case of those who are in love truly conjugial even to contact. (CL 158)

      2. You remain two distinct individuals. The two individual natures touch each other “when the loves agree.”

      3. CL 44 says, “as though one.”

        1. Conjugial Love is not conjunction but adjunction.

        2. Conjugial Partners Will and Think alike

          1. The statement, “one as to thought and affection” which is found in the wedding ceremony is not actually found in the Writings themselves (although there are a lot of passages that are real close to that idea).

            1. They love it when it happens, but it does not happen all the time.

            2. Such an idea takes away from the wonder of the union of complimentaries or even of opposites.

        3. Conjugial Love is when two people become one.

          1. Conjugial love is not attained by giving up one’s own personality in a marriage. You are, and always remain, individuals.

            1. Identity Loss, Fusion, Enmeshment

              1. The partner asks, “Who am I in this relationship?”

                1. Professional marriage counselors say that most often, it is the wife who leaves a marriage, because it is more likely that she cannot find a way to express her own needs and personality in a satisfying way. Modern society is set up to allow men to do this through their work, but women have no equally satisfying outlet. If, in such a marriage, a loss of personal identity occurs, the person may seek to reestablish their identity by leaving the marriage.

              2. A symptoms of such a problem is the need to suppress the individual’s own feelings to the point of becoming a nonentity. Even when married, we are individuals with our own unique characters, loves, and uses, that need to be expressed for the sake of mental health. If we are constantly withholding and submerging our self-expression and identity, eventually the personality becomes ill and bizarre behavior can result.

              3. One partner very responsible, while the other is irresponsible.

                1. Either there is the inability to take a stand on any issue and fight it out, or there is endless fighting between the partners: The partner struggles to establish the personal identity which has been lost by conflict with the marriage identity which has replaced it, and yet does not wish to change the basic flawed relationship because there is a need to sacrifice self to the ideal of the “we-ness” of marriage.

                  1. Symptoms of a dysfunctional family will show up in the children’s behavior with their friends, and at school. For the sake of your children, you need to have a healthy, adult marriage relationship.

                  2. A feeling that the partner is there to provide happiness: By submerging their personality into the “we-ness” of the marriage, a person can come to believe that the marriage (and therefore the partner) is responsible for their happiness, and if they are unhappy, the fault is with either the marriage or the partner. The fact is that a healthy person recognizes that they are responsible for their own happiness and act in responsible, caring ways to achieve it.

                  3. In the words of the Writings, we would say that unhappiness is caused by our own evils, and these cannot be removed by anyone else, neither by our partner, our parents, or the Lord Himself. We alone are responsible for our own self-examination, repentance, and reformation.

                  4. This is a danger of thinking that in marriage we become one person; we then put the responsibility of shunning our own evils on someone else, and when they are not by the partner (or the Lord), as they cannot be, we are unhappy, and blame our partner (or the Lord) instead of our unrealistic expectations.

    3. Misconception #3: Conjugial Partners agree on everything and never fight.

      1. Working out differences is the essential work of marriage, and will lead to the regeneration of both partners.

        1. A related misconception is that anger has no place in the Conjugial relationship

          1. We need to sanction the marital fight

            1. When self-identity is lost in a relationship, there comes a belief that couples should agree in all or most things and should never express their disagreements with each other or fight.

            2. Open disagreement and the working out of differences is the essential work of marriage, for this fosters and encourages the individual regeneration of the partners.

            3. By working together toward this common goal, and by working through the areas of disagreement with the resulting spiritual growth by both partners, they will draw closer to each other.

            4. How are the bonds of friendship actually forged? In shared conflict. In working together towards a common goal in spite of difficulties. If you played sports in school, you are more likely to remember the other people on the team than the members of one of your academic classes because you opposed a common foe together in the mock combat of sport. Fifty five years after the end of World War II, men still travel great distances to reunite with their old units. Such friendships overrule such considerations as race and religion. Surely, we can see that this extends to marriage, and that if partners are to become eternal friends, it is through their sharing the battle against hell – spiritual death – in their own lives.

          2. Zeal

            1. Zeal is a God-given energy to correct what is wrong or harmful in a relationship.

            2. It is a fundamental error to believe that all the solutions to life’s problems are to be found outside of self, in other people, things or experiences.

            3. Too often we believe that by just getting married we will solve our problems, that the other person will fulfill all our needs, and we can relax.

            4. For example, one of the greatest issues facing young people is the control of their sexual drives. Marriage apparently solves this by giving society’s sanction to what had been forbidden. But marriage is not a life of sexual license. Even in marriage such drives have to be confined and controlled, and if frustrated, the tendency is the blame the other for being inadequate and insensitive, rather than looking to self for self-control, for the discipline and maturity that will allow the Lord to turn love of the sex in general into the love of one of the sex, the lovely, eternal relationship with one that is promised to those who live chastely.

          3. Such an attitude of blaming others for our problems leads to “co-dependence” which often leads to all kinds of addictive behavior because we ignore the fact that the only one who can solve our problems is ourselves.

  3. Conclusion

    1. All the above misconceptions are inflamed by a fundamental error that all the solutions to life’s problems are to be found outside of self, in other people, things, or experiences.

      1. This is the fundamental lie of hell. In psychological jargon, it is called co-dependence. Doctrinally, this is the doctrine of faith alone.

      2. The Heart and Lungs

        1. If you want to know about the relationship between will and understanding in marriage, look at the heart and lungs. (CL 223)

        2. No one could ever mistake a heart for a lung

          1. They are completely and utterly different

            1. Yet they must perform in perfect cooperation for there to be life.

            2. The blood from heart to lungs lacks oxygen, truth

            3. The blood from lungs to heart lacks pressure, good

            4. Only when each does his own, individual use does the body live.

      3. We marry the one who is capable of healing us by love

        1. Why do we chose the partner we do? How many of us have looked at the choices made by others and said, “why did he/she chose him/her?” Because the Lord leads us to find the one who will give us what we need to finish the job of becoming human.

        2. Tell your partner specific behaviors you need and want

          1. As each adjusts, through self examination, repentance, and reformation, true love grows

          2. The giving heals, as does the receiving

          3. This brings cooperation, not competition

      4. Conjugial Love is regeneration

        1. The True Christian Religion is the “Universal Theology for the New Church”

          1. Yet Conjugial Love is not discussed

          2. Not necessary, because of Self Examination, Repentance, Reformation, and Regeneration

    2. Summarize the three misconceptions:

      1. Conjugial Love is Romantic Love

      2. Conjugial Love is the Conjunction of Two People

      3. Conjugial Partners agree on everything and never fight.

No one can come into Conjugial Love and be in it except those who approach the Lord, love the truths of the Church, and do its goods, because that love is from its origin celestial, spiritual, holy, pure, and clean, … and these cannot exist except with those who are conjoined to the Lord by means of good according to truth in the Word. (Paraphrase of CL 70, 71) AMEN.



1st Lesson: GEN 2:18-25

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” {19} Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. {20} So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. {21} And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. {22} Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. {23} And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” {24} Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. {25} And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Amen.

2nd Lesson: MAR 10:1-12

Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. {2} The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him. {3} And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” {4} They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” {5} And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. {6} “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ {7} ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, {8} ‘and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. {9} “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” {10} In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. {11} So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. {12} “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Amen.

3rd Lesson:

158. II. THAT CONJUGIAL LOVE CONJOINS TWO SOULS AND THENCE MINDS INTO A ONE.

Every man consists of soul, mind, and body. Being man’s inmost, the soul from its origin is celestial; being his mediate, the mind from its origin is spiritual; and being his ultimate, the body from its origin is natural. Things which from their origin are celestial, and those which from their origin are spiritual, are not in space but in the appearances of space. This, moreover, is known in the world; wherefore it is said, that neither extension nor place can be predicated of things spiritual. Since, therefore, spaces are appearances, distance and presence also are appearances.

That in the spiritual world the appearances of distance and presence are according to the nearness, relationship, and affinity of love, has been frequently pointed out and confirmed in treatises on that world.

It is mentioned here, that it may be known that the souls and minds of men are not in space as are their bodies; for from their origin, as said above, they are celestial and spiritual. And, not being in space, they can be conjoined as into a one, though not at the same time their bodies. This is especially the case between married partners who inmostly love each other. But because woman is from man, and this conjunction is a kind of reunition, it can be seen from reason that it is not conjunction into a one but adjunction, near and close, according to the love, and, in the case of those who are in love truly conjugial, even to contact. This adjunction may be called spiritual cohabitation, and it exists with partners who tenderly love each other, however distant they are in body. There are many evidences of experience even in the natural world which confirm this.



1Conjugial Love 44:6, 48:1