For the second time, I watched Revolutionary Road, the 2008 film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, and learned something I missed the first time I saw the film, and that’s the danger of loving to a fault.
After 4 decades of research, study, and real-life experiences loving to a fault causes many sorrows in marriage, especially where children are involved. The problem comes from loving another person and making them your god or loving yourself and making yourself a god. There is only one God we can depend on for true happiness and well-being, and that love reaches through our passions and longings in all of our relationships, not just in a special one. We need to see through this cloud before we put our hearts, minds, and souls on that one particular person and believing they complete us. It’s not their job or our purpose, and it’s unfair to lay this burden at their feet.
We are naturally all a bit self-absorbed, but sometimes there are great differences in relationships, in which one person is more obsessed with self-love than with their spouse. In such cases, it only takes one person of the couple who is giving love to all around them to provide the necessary balance, especially in a marriage where there are children. Using the powerful principles of keeping a heart open to God is instead the truest measure that keeps families together through most adversity.
At Dachau, Viktor Frankl started an underground psychiatric practice for suicidal prisoners: “We had to teach the despairing men that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us,” he explained later. The key to survival was to “listen to what your conscience commands you to do and to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.”
After the Allied forces liberated the camp, he made his way back to Vienna, where he learned of the death of his wife and his mother. For a year, he was close to despair. But in 1946 he returned to work. “Despair is suffering without meaning,” he wrote. “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
That year, over the course of nine days, he dictated his best-known book, published in English as Man’s Search for Meaning. At the heart of the meaning that we discover is love: “The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
As we look deeper into the crosses we all carry, there’s much openly shared in the world about the crisis of particular diseases or afflictions that many families carry with grace, and they are rightfully due to every praise, support, and empathy. Sadly, there still is not enough said about the silent crosses and afflictions most people carry, including the heartbreak of having a death of a spouse, parent, child, or a child born with a disease, and how life-long disease or death changes the entire family’s meaning of life forever. The family matures in most all areas of their lives more than most other families — even those with excessive wealth, education and standing in the community. Their hearts, once broken open, forces them to grow, mature, and reach out to others to respond with love, a response meant to broaden their hearts, minds, and souls for the benefit of everyone.
Imagine another scenario of having a loving father or mother addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling or over-spending, and a family bearing every conflict related to this form of addiction. That parent may still be a working alcoholic, addict, gambler, over-spender who sadly doesn’t realize the harm they do to themselves and their family. They aren’t fully available to handle their family responsibilities, forcing the rest of the family members to fill in for them to keep all of the members of their family together, learning to accept these issues the same as any other afflictions of physical diseases and sickness.
Think about the good marriages around you and how they might’ve survived their particular crosses that in the end have actually benefited everyone. There is one characteristic they all had in common: at least one parent accepted the responsibility of loving and caring for their spouse and their children. Sometimes the happiest, most successful marriages and families have endured adversity through the efforts of one partner alone rather than together, and that person became the missing limb or heart or soul, whose sense and spirit of wholeness helped everyone around them. Loving a special person to a fault might bring sorrow when two are in the same self-serving mindset and no one is loyal to God. That, sadly, is the most disguised of all relationships.
About Catherine Nagle: Catherine grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old-school Italian parents. Catherine’s artist father’s works graced churches and public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures, the works of Marianne Williamson, and through various conferences on spirituality.
She is an Ambassador of the Society of Emotional Intelligence and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global. The mother of two children and a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband. She is the Author of “Imprinted Wisdom” and “Absence and Presence” and “Amelia” and a contributor to Anne Born’s, “These Winter Months.”