“The beloved is said to be in the lover… [even] in the absence of the beloved, because of the lover’s longing towards…the good he wills to the beloved with a love of friendship.”
Thomas Aquinas

One thing my marriage has taught me is that really ‘being-present’ to someone must be learned and practiced. It would seem this should come naturally—given that it is at the very heart of human life.

Perhaps it comes ‘naturally’ in the sense that true love grounds and calls for such presence. But that does not mean it comes without effort. Experience shows that even when we love, we can still be quite distracted, and even fail to ‘be there’ for loved ones in basic ways.

This has the most obvious significance in marriage. Here, as in all deeper relationships, there is the dual challenge of being really present when bodily present, and being present when not bodily present.

I don’t think it is an overly romantic ideal that in some real sense we ‘be together’ all the time. Indeed, is it not a reasonable goal that spouses, as likewise all true friends, never be ‘alone?’

From the perspective of a husband who must spend a significant amount of time ‘away’ from wife and children, there is a simple exercise that has amazing fruits. Go, in mind and heart. Be there, with her, wherever she is, by concrete acts of thought and will. Such ‘going’ is no metaphysical slight of hand. It is as real as the trees outside my window.

I am a person. And where I go in thought and will, there I am in a very real way.

“I love you dear.” “I am with you.” Even, “I’m sorry, and I’m going to try to do better.” Such declarations in no way replace the declarations directly given. Rather, they can follow them up, and prepare for them. They cultivate dispositions in our soul, while bringing us into contact with the beloved.

Here, to be clear, I do not mean using technology to send a message. That can certainly be a good practice too. But this is different. I’m convinced it has a unique and irreplaceable power and effect. It engages our soul in a special way. It can be done anytime and anywhere.

And we will not be surprised, some time later, when we say, “I was thinking of you, I was with you,” she will say, “I know. Yes, I know.”

Here is a video version of today’s post:

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