“What we share now is this home of ours.”
“So, my dear, we must recognize what God has assigned to each of us, and try our hardest to carry through our respective responsibilities.”
Xenophon, The Estate Manager
Marriage is often an exercise in recognizing the gift in what does not appear to be one. In this way it is a microcosm of human life.
Sharing in the same home is a central and defining blessing of marriage. That doesn’t prevent unexpected lengths of time in home quarantine from being very difficult.
I have been reading the sketches of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar in Plutarch’s Lives. If there is one thing these men exemplify it is the disposition to make the most of every life challenge. It sounds trite, but how wonderful it would be to respond to each new situation with the eye of a good general! What opportunity do I have right now?
Xenophon has clearly enunciated two principles of married life. One: what is given to us as a couple is to make a home together. We are to be life-crafters together, responsible for this little community, beginning with our relationship. Second, we will have to learn to see God’s natural plan for this simple but oh so arduous and at times vexing project. This ultimately means we have to “try our hardest to carry through our respective responsibilities.”
Part of the challenge is that the responsibilities are different, and so we can’t simply watch what the other is doing and repeat it. As a man I am especially charged with recognizing that I should be initiating certain things in my home and in my marriage.
In that spirit, here are three things a man might resolve to do today, as a good general responds to the reality before him.
If these things are too basic or obvious, I apologize in advance. These are the things I know I need to do. In human life, our choices develop into deep dispositions—into who we are—through daily practice in the little things.
1. Do something behind the scenes to make my wife’s life easier.
Begin by choosing one thing I can do today. The idea here is that the more explicit steps we take [like #3 below], while very important, have a danger of being, or in any case appearing to her as, something to make us feel good about ourselves or to earn some credit. Doing small, less noticeable things is a great way to enact and strengthen my resolve to love better.
Examples: do some chore I don’t normally do, either in the home such as dishes, make the bed, clean the bathroom, tidy the lawn, pay the bills, or outside such as shopping or driving the children; ask if my wife wants a little free time or to get together with someone.
The key here is to do it sincerely and without fanfare. Maybe I then move on to some bigger things, such as stepping up to take the lead in addressing a challenge we’re having—or my wife is having—with a child, or in a relationship with family members, relatives or friends.
2. Show how much I appreciate what my wife does.
Start today with one thing. Again, I should do it with sincerity, straightforwardness and without fanfare. I am not a six-year-old who was told to say thank you. This is not play acting, where we watch ourselves do it and pat ourselves on the back. We should try to make it look and feel like what we want it to be: a sincere appreciation.
Examples: I notice how you always do X for me, thank you. I so appreciate your encouraging attitude. You have a marvelous competence in X. I love how you speak to the children. It must be hard to X day after day, thank you so much.
3. Ask my wife how I can be a better husband.
This must be done right, but it’s not very complicated. I have to mean it; that is, I recognize I need to learn from her about my shortcomings, and I’m really willing to listen. She might say, “What? Have you been reading some blog about how to be a better husband or something?” This is where my resolve and my intention are tested. I look her in the eyes and persevere—making clear that I’m in earnest.
In the end, it’s up to me. I can choose to try, and I can choose to mean it. I might wonder: why isn’t she doing the same things for me? Actually, she might be, and I’m not noticing. But the bottom line is that I must be willing to love her first. Didn’t I do that when I asked her to marry me? My love for her is not a response to what she does for me, or how she makes me feel. It’s what I want to give to her. This is being a man in marriage. I can start again today.
Interested to consider this further or ask questions?
Special Today: LIVE VIDEO Wednesday 8—9pm (EDT),
Men in Quarantine: 3 Ideas for Rediscovering Marriage
at Bacon from Acorns/LifeCraft Facebook page.
You can email me questions beforehand at ‘contact,’ or write-in questions during the video at facebook. Video will be recorded and viewable afterward.
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.