Love is not a means to an end

Zach Rocheleau shared his experience in college learning about marriage and family earlier this month, and I’m excerpting some of that here. It captures so much of the spirit that I saw at work in the life of my grandparents, especially, but also so many of the older pre-Baby Boomer marriages that were still active and alive when I was a child and observed them up close:

In college, I took one of my favorite classes of all time and it was called Creation & Grace. My professor was Dr. Riordan. He was a short man his mid 70’s. His voice was soft but he could speak with so much passion. I could listen to him for days. It was peaceful but yet engaging and inspiring.

The purpose of the class was to show how philosophy and faith can come together to truly give us the ability to see the world in its purest form. To help us see how beautiful this world is and how lucky we are that it was created for us.

One day in class, the topic of marriage and raising a family came up. He explained that there are two ways you can see your wife. He needed to explain the philosophy first to help us understand. He articulated that you have two options when you see something. You can either see it as a means to an end, which is the fact that this thing could lead you to a desired result. Or you can see it as an end in itself, which is that you see the thing as the end goal. He asked the class if we understood and we all agreed.

He then moved back to the topic of marriage and raising a family. He explained that in order to have a lasting and beautiful marriage, you must see your wife as an end in herself rather than a means to an end.

He then went into explaining what this truly means and this is where my life forever changed. My priorities changed. How I saw women changed forever. I fell in love with my future wife right then.

He talked about his love for his wife of 53 years and what it truly meant for her to be the end in herself. He explained that she was his best friend. His teammate for life. Her contagious personality could light up a room. Her cute little cackle when she laughed. How she would blush even after the smallest complement. How she loved more than anything when he would wink at her from across the room. How he would still catch himself standing in awe of her even after 53 years of marriage. He explained that he just wanted her. He didn’t want anything she could do for him. He just loved her unconditionally. He only wanted her.

Then he explained the significance of this. He explained that love is not a means to an end. Love is unconditional. Love is loving someone as an end in themselves. He further explained that a lot of the guys nowadays see women as a means to an end not an end in themselves. Treating them like a physical object that can be replaced rather than something that is truly special and one of a kind. And I got sick to my stomach when he said that because I knew it was true and I was guilty of this.

I’ll never forget that class. I remember before I graduated college, I told Dr. Riordan this exact story and he had tears in his eyes. He was such a kind man and I knew his love for his wife was pure. He then said to me, “Zach, this principle does not only apply to your wife. I want, even if you do not think the young lady with ever be your wife, to treat her like she will be your future wife. He said better yet, like she is your future daughter.”