A key explanation of why happiness is so elusive is in the answer to this question: Why are some homes more a ‘home’ than others? This is no surprise, since the wise tell us that home is where our heart is at rest. Indeed, where else would our heart be at rest?

Life experience brings to light what to the young might not be so clear. Real rest is elusive. Ironically, or rather paradoxically, rest must be cultivated with much effort. The natural starting point is in the home. And marriage most makes a home be a home; and this especially where spouses forge a friendship with one another. We might say a home begins in marriage; a happy home begins in a happy marriage; and a happy marriage is where spouses are deep friends.

This is a matter of good philosophy and logic. In an assertion with far-reaching implications, Aristotle wrote:

For it is the special property of man in distinction from other animals that he alone has perception of good and bad, and right and wrong and the other moral qualities, and it is partnership in these things that make a household and a polis. Politics (emphasis added)

In short, truly human life, while enacted in a material world just as for other animals, is essentially a moral and spiritual affair. And, partnership in perceiving and pursuing moral character is what ‘makes’ a household.

What a radical notion! Household, the primordial human community, is especially characterized as a partnership in the daily project of trying to live a morally good life! This takes us at once to the very foundations of marriage and life itself. What most constitutes human life also constitutes a human home—seeking, cultivating, and discovering virtuous human living, together.

The implications are breathtaking. Aristotle also writes, “Hence in the household are first found the origins and springs of friendship. . ..” (Eudemian Ethics) Of course! In the household are the springs of friendship because a household itself springs from friendship. Beginning with spouses.

Human life begins—in several wonderful senses—when a man and a woman are joined in the friendship only possible for spouses; or in any case, joined in the intentional pursuit of it. And so they make a life together every day. And their home becomes precisely that: a home. Where people love to be. There. Together.

The formula is at once stunningly simple and profoundly challenging. The first step is to realize this, and to set our sights on it. And work, and pray. Otherwise, it will remain out of reach.

Aristotle saw that true friendship is all about virtue: it is rooted in virtue; it grows through virtue; its goal is virtue. Spouses have the best natural opportunity to discover and enact this reality in a context perfect for friendship but also more than just friendship. Theirs is a relationship intrinsically oriented to generating and cultivating the life of others; and as a sacrament, their relationship takes on even deeper spiritual signification and implications.

The almost overwhelming difficulty of marital friendship might cause us to wonder. Can this whole plan really work? There seem so many ways things can run amuck and that we fall short in our marriage. Could it be that the ‘theory’ of marriage is great in the abstract but in reality it leads to much pain?

I think the answer is yes. Both are true at the same time. Here we are at the heart of human life, the center of existence. Part of the plan, in a real sense, is that it overwhelms us. It makes us question, and perhaps even be tempted to despair. The great issue then is what we do next. Are we willing to accept that the plan is that demanding even as it allows for human shortcoming? Are we willing to accept that Mercy is essential to the picture, and so open ourselves to receive it?

…all this, as we keep trying, ever starting again, from wherever we happen to be. All for the sake of them–our loved ones. And for Him, who in the end might only be accused of devising a plan so astonishing that too many of us find it a stumbling block. ~ ~ ~

NEW PODCAST EPISODE, #6: FRIENDSHIP IN MARRIAGE: Can It Be What You Hoped It Would Be? Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or view on Youtube:


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