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Six Obstacles To Consent That Need To Be Overcome For A Successful Marriage

Dec 15, 2007
Marriage is the most important act in the life of the majority of men and women. When it is a good marriage, it brings men and women to the fullness of the life God intended for them.

The difference is this: in the first case, the existence of any contract is denied; in the second case, the existence of a contract is admitted, and the contract is made, even though at the very moment of making the contract one has every intention of violating it.

Is it only a pleasant companionship which may not survive the trials and tribulations of family life? No one can hope to realize the full fruits of a good marriage without first understanding what marriage is.

Many erroneous notions regarding marriage are still being circulated these days, particularly in reference to its permanence and its obligations. The reason for these errors is the failure to recognize the sacredness of marriage. Marriage is not, as some seem to think, a legalizing of sexual relationships between a man and a woman. It is, instead, a relationship established by God Himself primarily for the generation and education of children. The very name "Matrimony" signifies this: it comes from two Latin words. matris munus. meaning "the office of motherhood" or "the duty of the mother," which duty is the generation and education of new life.
What Is Marriage?

Marriage is an institution as old as the human race itself. It started in the Garden of Eden with our first parents. God blessed Adam and Eve: "Increase and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28); and God's fundamental laws with regard to marriage are well expressed by Adam: "Wherefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).

Thus, marriage can be defined as a lifelong union between a man and a woman who are lawfully capable of giving irrevocably to each other the right to acts necessary for the generation and education of children, mutually obliging themselves to a common way of life in order to work out their eternal salvation. Among the baptized, every true marriage is, in itself and by itself, a sacrament instituted by Christ to produce grace.

The most essential factor in marriage, of course, is the contract. A contract is an agreement between two parties, each assenting to give something to the other or to do something for the other for a definite length of time. There cannot be a contract without the free consent of both parties.

There are six obstacles to consent.

1. Lack of the use of reason, infants, the seriously mentally ill, the intoxicated, the drugged, the hypnotized cannot give true consent.

2. Defective knowledge. In order to give consent, the person must
know the essentials -- that marriage is a permanent union of a man and a woman for the purpose of procreating children. He must know that this requires bodily cooperation of husband and wife. After puberty, it is presumed that the person knows these basic facts. It is not necessary that he know all the biological mechanisms involved in the sex act, conception, pregnancy, and birth.

3. Mistaken identity. If you "marry" one person but thought that
you were marrying another (his twin, for example) there is no true consent.

4. Pretense. People who say "I will" while acting out a marriage on the stage or in a movie are, of course, not married. There is no intention of getting married and, hence, no true consent.

But if a person is a bride or groom in a real wedding ceremony, his external consent by saying "I will" is taken as evidence of true internal consent. He would have great difficulty trying to prove later that he said "I will" but did not really mean it.

5. Force or fear. Canon Law is specific on this matter, saying that "invalid is a marriage entered into through force or grave fear unjustly inspired from without, such that in order to escape from it, a party is compelled to choose marriage. No other fear, even if it furnish the cause for the contract, entails the nullity of marriage" (Canon 1087).

If you are forced into a marriage by a force that cannot be resisted, you have not given true consent. There is no marriage in such a case.

What about fear? Notice the conditions. It must be grave or serious fear. It must come from without, that is, from some other person. It must be unjust. Finally, it must be fear of such a nature that the only way to escape it is to marry. If fear fulfills all these conditions, it results in forced consent and there is no marriage.

6. Intention contrary to the essence of marriage. If one or both parties would deny that marriage really is a contract binding on both parties, or that marriage gives the right to sexual intercourse, the marriage would be invalid, because denial would indicate a failure to understand what marriage really is. You certainly are not making a contract when you do not believe there is a contract.

And you are not making a contract involving sexual intercourse as one of the things promised if you do not believe that sexual intercourse is one of the things promised. But, as we have defined, marriage is a contract involving promise of sexual intercourse.

However, if one or both have the intention of not having children, or of refusing sexual intercourse,. or of not fulfilling other duties, the marriage is valid. It is considered that they freely accept and consent to the married state but are not willing to fulfill its duties.

When it fails, it leaves behind a trail of faded hopes and dreams and broken lives. For those who are planning marriage, therefore, it is vitally important that they know what marriage really is. Certainly no one can find the secret of successful marriage without first having a clear understanding of what marriage is.

Is it merely a civil contract, entered into by a man and woman mainly for companionship and social and material security? Is it the result of a purely physical attraction, thoughtlessly embarked upon in the full bloom of youthful ardor?
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