“From the beginning, family duties are distinct; some are proper to the husband, others to the wife. Thus mutual needs are provided for, when each contributes his own services to the common good.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
There isn’t anything else quite like it. Marriage stands out in all of creation. It is the very archetype of the astounding reality called ‘complementarity’: where two are different for the sake of one shared good. A common good.
Sometimes, even often, it can feel as though something is simply wrong: Why are the differences between man and woman—and the reasons and implications of the differences—so hard to discern? Why are they so hard to live out? Why do they seem to be unfair, at least sometimes? Isn’t the difference between man and woman commonly the very thing that breaks rather than makes a marriage?
Surely, this—the complementarity of man and woman and all its implications—is one of those gifts that comes with a challenge and a cost. Here we are called to reckon with a primordial truth: human life was not designed to be easy. It was designed to be stunningly rich. And the sooner we think in terms of our own life as an arduous good that demands more than we could have imagined, the sooner we position ourselves to succeed in it.
For those of us in marriage, or preparing for it or deliberating about it or simply seeking to help those in it, the complementarity of man and woman should be a central object of study and discernment. It is complex, especially in the sense that it has multiple levels or aspects, all of which are intertwined. Beyond the obvious biological complementarity in the conception of children, there is complementarity also in the raising of children—the richness of which might be missed. But there is more.
An unrecognized effect of the evisceration of our households—i.e., their transformation from productive centers of life to bunk-and-entertainment-houses characterized by activities of consumption—is the loss of another and essential aspect of complementarity: the complementarity in the daily work of a household. The ancients took this complementarity for granted. Indeed, common life in most times and places took this for granted. And of it, we taste all too little.
To rediscover it calls for breaking through caricatures and misused models. It calls for creativity and discernment in what we can do in our homes in our current context. It calls for humility and courage, and perhaps most of all loving patience, in helping each other see and start to practice something that might feel alien.
But of this, I think, there is no doubt. Married couples—and thus really all of us—are suffering mightily from the diminution of the lived, concrete, daily, natural complementarity of husband and wife. And a simple first step in addressing this is for husbands and wives to commit to spending more time, together, in the home. Here, we will surely start to see and to taste how we ‘fit together’ even more than we realized.
MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: TODAY MY WIFE DIRECTLY JOINS THE WORK OF LIFECRAFT… now at… Sofia’s Corner
Sofia has from the start been an essential part of everything here at LifeCraft. Most of what I know of the gift of marriage and home life is from observing and responding to what God has given me in Sofia.
At Sofia’s Corner, she will share resources to give more flesh and concrete direction for living the principles of LifeCraft. This brings me great joy, and I think you will share my excitement, now that you too can taste something of the genius that animates from within all that I do, and even more, all we do in our home.
Right now she has three focuses: Reading in the Home, Singing in the Home, and Celebrating in the Home. Be sure especially to check out the Advent/Christmas resources, such as the video on making an advent wreath, and lists of our favorite Christmas read alouds–which we hope will materially enhance your time together at Christmas. And coming very soon, resources to make Christmas Caroling at home easy! Visit Sofia’s Corner HERE
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.