Married love is a TOTAL gift of self to another person. This means you hold nothing back from your spouse from the moment of your vows and every day afterwards. The vow of totality refers not only to honesty and integrity (don’t keep secrets from each other!!! This could be an entire post in itself) but also to the reality that each spouse gives himself or herself entirely to the other, physically and emotionally. This is most obviously seen in sex when the couple is utterly vulnerable and open with each other in a unique and precious way. But beyond just that, you give your spouse all of you—your attractiveness, your messiness, your humor, your crankiness, your cooking skills, your lack of organization, your punctuality, and your tendency to repeat yourself—you give your spouse all of yourself, the good and the bad. Can you trust that person to love all facets of you? Can you receive all those facets of your partner? Total love means loving everything—the good and the bad—and helping that person to become even better.
Renowned theologian Katrina Zeno breaks open this characteristic of marriage for us: Pope St. John Paul II’s “favorite passage from all of Vatican II contains the word gift: ‘Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for himself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self’ (Gadium et Spes, No. 24). If John Paul II hadn't been elected pope, this passage might have receded into oblivion. Instead, the pope incorporates this passage into almost every document with the hope that it will eventually find its way into every day Catholic conversation. But how are we to understand this phrase, ‘sincere gift of self’? By going back to the Trinity and using it as our translator. We are called to make a sincere gift of self in the same way as the Father and Son - in a way that is total, complete, holds nothing back... We can also see this gift of self on the cross for there Jesus' eternal gift of self to the Father is made visible for our eyes to see. His offering of self on the cross is total, complete, holds nothing back... This is the gift of self we are called to imitate.”
Think of your current boyfriend or girlfriend (or the sort of person you would like to date someday). Can you imagine marrying them and imitating Christ's total gift of self? Is this the sort of person that you love for his or her own sake? Could you feel comfortable committing to being faithful to them? If so, why? These are the sort of questions that can help guide your discernment both as you consider whom to date and once you are already dating someone.