Man is naturally a social creature. By this I mean that in general one will seek to establish relationships with others. These relationships can be a practical end in and of itself in so far as one is seeking to fulfill his natural desire for human intimacy.
Part of this desire is that man seeks a fullness of experience, the “timeless moment”, the “absolute ability”, the “everlasting gobstopper”®. Man finds that he himself is limited, but that he is different than everyone else (not a difference of nature, but a difference of abilities, experience, perspective, etc.). Through relationships with others, he expands the “horizons” of his experience.
However, man also establishes human relations as means. Man is not self sufficient. Although he may be able to provide all his most basic material needs in solitary, such a life is difficult and will only be pursued for some great end. However, man quickly finds that he can fulfill his physical needs much easier and/or more fully by cooperating with others. It is the old, “I make shirts for both of us (since I’m better at it) and you make shoes for both of us (since you enjoy making shoes) and then we will trade” (this principle is called “division of labor”). Thus is the beginning of economics.
Man is also naturally family-oriented. The natural differences in the sexes (and in individual personalities and interests) and the mutual attraction of the sexes is part of man’s desire for human intimacy. The best way I can find to put it tonight is that in human relations (relations as an end), men generally seek respect—a rightful admiration for what they do well. Women seek self-gift—they wish to see people with “potential” do well. (Is it any wonder that men are braggarts and women are naggers?) This might just be a rephrasing of the old “Men are project oriented, and women are people oriented.” Anyhow, the complexity of this dimension is what raises human sexuality above a purely “animal” level—men and women share an interpersonal relationship, a “knowledge” of one another on a deeply spiritual (aka. non-material) level. A man will sacrifice himself when that sacrifice is received and respected. A women respects a man by recognizing his sacrifice and receiving it. (This is not to say that women don’t sacrifice or don’t sacrifice for men. Because women are “people oriented” they are often much quicker to give of themselves for others in need. However, I think the converse of this is that men tend to insist upon doing what they think they should do not for the respect others give them but because they need to do it for their self respect.)*
This mutual attraction reaches its fullness in the total self gift of conjugal union (to see this explained, see Theology of the Body of course). By nature, this union can become the source of a unique form of a human relationship, the family.
*Footnote* Is it any wonder that couples face so many difficulties? The man’s “pride” that bugs a woman so much is his implicit desire for self-respect (‘rightful’ admiration of self—The conformity of what he would like to say about himself with what he really is) in conflict with the woman’s wider view. She sees many people with needs that the man ‘should’ focus on, and whom the woman does focus on. A perfect setting for conflicting priorities.
C.f. Eph 5:33 (NAB) “In any case, each one of you [husbands] should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.” (Why the difference, why are husbands commanded to “love” (i.e. give of themselves for another) and women to “respect” (i.e. “Willingness to show consideration or appreciation”)). Anyhow, I am sure if I continue I will not only face the criticism of every member of this blog, but someone will also challenge my credentials by pointing for better or for worse that I do not have nor have ever had a girlfriend. As they say, for what it’s worth.