98. 9. A love for the opposite sex in a person is not the origin of conjugial love, but it is its first stage, being thus like any external natural quality in which an internal spiritual one is implanted. We are referring here to truly conjugial love, and not the ordinary love which is also called conjugial, and which in some cases is nothing more than a love for the opposite sex that has been restricted. Truly conjugial love in contrast exists solely in people who are eager for wisdom and who accordingly advance further and further into it. The Lord foresees these people and provides conjugial love for them. In such people conjugial love indeed begins with a love for the opposite sex, or rather, through the agency of that love, but still it does not originate from it. For it springs up as wisdom advances and emerges into light in the person, wisdom and conjugial love being inseparable companions.
 We say that conjugial love begins through the agency of a love for the opposite sex because before a married partner is found, a person loves the opposite sex in general and regards it with loving eyes. In their company he also treats the opposite sex with courteous morality. For the adolescent is in a period of choosing, and at that time his external nature grows pleasantly warm from a deep-seated inclination to marriage with one, which lies hidden in the inner sanctum of his mind.
We also say that conjugial love begins through the agency of a love for the opposite sex for the further reason that decisions to marry are delayed for various reasons, even till half one's youth is spent, and in the meantime the beginning of conjugial love is felt as lust, which in some cases goes off into love between the sexes in act. But still, in such people, it is not given free rein further than is healthy. This refers, however, to the male sex, because it suffers an enticement that actively arouses it. It does not refer to the female sex.
 It is apparent from this that a love for the opposite sex is not the origin of truly conjugial love, but that it is its first stage, being first in time, but not in end. For that which is first in end is what is first in the mind and its intention, this being the primary objective. But no one reaches this primary objective except gradually, through intermediate steps. These steps are not primary goals in themselves, but only means of advancement to that which is primary in them.