Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

January 3, 2009

Sexual Complementarity Follow up

Props to Agatha, as my students would say, for her post on complementarity. I just taught this principle most notably found in the Theology of the Body to my senior classes about a month ago, and this addendum to Novak's post would have been helpful in addition to Agatha's section:
Further, man and wife, though assuredly equals in marriage, are not identicals. The one sex is opposite to, not identical to, the other. In this difference lies dynamic complementarity. (The great English journalist G.K. Chesterton once marveled during his first long stay in America, that Americans can seek divorce “on the grounds of incompatibility.” “I would have thought,” he commented dryly, “that incompatibility is the reason for marriage.”)
Thus, the complementarity between a man and a woman in covenantal marriage—a privileged image of God—is designed to increase the best of all forms of happiness among human beings: growth in the ennobling habits of the heart, in virtue, in honesty, and in mutual caring, “until death do them part.” This complementarity is also designed to generate productive, creative, and ever-advancing societies, driven by dreams of perfection yet to come (and never to be fully realized).
Many theologians hold onto "complementarity" in the strict sense, locking in on the physical nature of man and woman, and how in our sexuality we were designed to fit together "like a puzzle piece." All of this is true, of course, but we theologians (if I may humbly add myself to the bottom rung of that ladder), often fail to go where Novak goes, and to talk about the mutual aid in growing in virtue, precisely because we pick up where the other person lacks, and vice versa (and he brilliantly adds that this is only fulfilled in our individual souls by God's supernatural grace in heaven). Marriage and sexuality are designed to point us to our fulfillment, and in my opinion, complementarity is but a shadow of how God and man each partake in the other's natures...human and divine...which mysteriously and perfectly complement one another in the Incarnation.

In any event, I think at some point I'd like to write about the complementarity not only of gender, but of personality traits, in spousal relationship and in friendships. Maybe another post, but it would be something to start thinking about how opposites never really attract, but complements do.

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