“Is there anyone to whom you speak less than to your wife?”
Socrates, in Xenophon’s The Estate Manager
Thomas Aquinas suggests that spouses ought to have the greatest of friendships. His central reason is that they share in the “whole course of daily life.”
In Socrates’ discussion of domestic life with Critobulus, he asks the above question about marital conversation. In context the question clearly means: do you speak to your wife in a way that is commensurate with the nature of the spousal relationship?
Here indeed is a point for reflection: what is the quantity and quality of our marital conversation?
Socrates puts the responsibility especially on the husband. Again, in context the question suggests that as Critobulus goes about his business he puts more stock in extra-marital conversation than he does in marital conversation.
Socrates does not explicitly indicate what in his view would be the primary subject of the conversation of spouses. Yet as the main issue of The Estate Manager is just what are the nature and the end of household life, we are left to ponder. Surely the conversation of spouses will itself be, among other things, an exercise in considering this most vital of realities.
Just what is the nature and end of our life together? What is this astounding reality—this natural masterpiece of family and household—that is ours to discover and to enact together? In what ways should we enact it, and how are we doing at it?
In another place, after asserting that the unexamined life is not worth living, Socrates says that he spends his days—every day—in serious discussion about the good life. Spouses have the privilege, even if at times an onerous charge, to spend their days discussing this with one another. For them, the good life will always begin, every day, in the home.
Xenophon (430-354 B.C.) was a soldier, historian, and philosopher of Athens. Like Plato he wrote dialogues featuring Socrates as a great teacher. Among these dialogues is Oeconomicus, translated as The Estate Manager, in which we get an insight into the structure and principles of the ancient household.
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“For them, the good life will always begin, every day, in the home.”
Is there another place it _could_ begin? 🙂
The communication between husband and wife is a vital element towards “building a civilization of love.” This is where it all begins and is also the reason Satan has attacked this relationship by seducing the wife to eat of the forbidden fruit. Why was Eve talking to the Serpent believing she had a right to do so? She should have only been speaking with and conversing with Adam as his helpmate to doing God’s Will to be fruitful and multiply.
Your article puts the emphasis on the husbands role and in this I think you err. The emphasis I believe should be on the wife to call forth love, (not need) and elicit the proper response from her spouse. An obedient respectful wife’s attitude towards her husband releases his ability to fulfill his role as the dominant partner in the relationship to be provider and protector which is the expression of his love for his wife.
Satan has used this principal of union between a husband into the means through which to destroying humanity by seducing the woman to use her gifts to thinking she is entitled to her desires rather than to use them to putting her husbands desires first.
Feminine mystique can be used for good or ill, it is the gift God gave humanity to live in harmony with His Divine Plan.
Being guided by your perception, one could also ask, “where was Adam when the serpent approached her”. If your logic is that a wife should be so taken up in her husband that no other person has that chance to gain her attention, then a husband should be available to be taken up in.
The article puts emphasis on the man, because the man controls the ability to converse otherwise he’s implies to his spouse/significant other that he’s being nagged…
Tom, Thank you for your comment. You take issue with my putting emphasis on the husband’s role, wherein I put the first responsibility on him. You seem to suggest that the wife has a first responsibility to call forth something from the man. This, in my opinion, goes against the very point for which you want to argue–a certain headship of the husband. With headship necessarily comes the first responsibility. In other words, I’m taking issue with suggesting that the wife must take responsibility for calling a husband to take his role. Headship implies that his responsibility is first. Men must take responsibility for exercising their role. Of course a wife has a corresponding responsibility to fulfill her complementary role, which will aid the man in fulfilling his, and vice versa.
I also suggest that speaking of a woman as needing to put her husbands desires first is inaccurate. A husband’s having a first authority does not imply that his ‘desires’ comes first, or that the wife’s come second. He takes the lead in putting the common good of their family over their own desires. That, in any case, is how I understand it.
How desirous! This little post would make a wonderful introduction to Catholic marriage preparations between the priest and couple!
I join Janice in having this insightful text of Dr. Cuddeback used as part of Catholic
marriage preparation. The Lord opens many doors for us and one of the most sacred
is being married to a friend of Christ who becomes your intimate friend.
Thank you Janice and Joe! There are few things as important as good marriage preparation.
Years ago I read Matthew Kelly’s Seven Levels of Intimacy which presented an insightful analysis of the depth of conversations within close/marital relationships. I was reminded of that theme in reading your comments. How easy it is to fall back into superficial ways of relating rather than intentional communication!
Thank you, Karen. I love the notion of ‘intentional communication.’ I’ll have to check out Matthew Kelly’s book.