On Some Obvious Norms of Family Life

Originally appeared at: Pravmir

The longer I serve, the more often I come across some strange, either ignorance or misunderstanding, of some obvious and self-evident norms of family life. Therefore, like it or not, I have to return to what has already been said and once again talk about the obvious. Although is it really obvious? There are many simple truths in family life, but there are always those for whom even the obvious things become discoveries. Therefore, I think it would be useful to dwell on some obvious (but not to everyone) noticeable things.

Every time after the end of the Sacrament of Marriage, I turn to the newly-wed couple with the same proposal: since each of them knows best what their ideal partner should be like, it would be useful to write down the basic requirements for each other in writing. Therefore, in the near future, as soon as the celebration and all the issues associated with it end, I suggest they take their pens, take a sheet of paper in front of them and write down what their ideal spouse should be like. When the spouses write down their requirements, they should take this piece of paper, fold it and hide it so that they won’t be able to find it for the next few years. It would be best to find it after twenty something years of family life together and, after reading it, laugh over it heartily together. Because over the years, the spouses will probably learn some important things. For example, the fact that none of them will be able to meet the criteria of the other person, no matter how anyone wants it. Because we are all human, we are all different and we all have the right to be so. Therefore, changing your neighbor under your own standards is the last thing to do. First, it will not bring happiness to anyone, and second, it is not at all necessary. The only person whom we should change in the process of family life is ourselves. Hence the main words that a husband or wife say to themselves are “I must”. We often say that the main principle of a Christian’s attitude towards the Lord’s commandments and the Gospel is perceiving them as given to me personally. Not to my neighbor, not to a stranger, not to anyone, but to me personally. God speaks to me, God commands me, God instructs me. Naturally, I myself will answer before God.

Roughly the same principle works in family relationships. These relationships cannot be formed from the “you should” or “you must” position. It is necessary to demand things only from ourselves, to compel only ourselves and bear responsibility, of course, exclusively ourselves. From a Christian point of view, family life is a school of love, in other words, a school of continuous giving of ourselves. Therefore, family life, if, of course, the spouses are guided by the Scriptures and the experience of the Church, can fundamentally change both, especially in terms of selfishness, pride, laziness and cowardice.

But what do we do when there is an obvious flaw in our spouse? In addition to love, which can cover any human flaw, spouses should have a lively interest in each other. We should be interested in our loved one. It is this interest that often helps us to see a problem, a natural characteristic, or a new, hitherto unfamiliar facet of personality, behind a flaw. After all, in addition to obvious vices, sins and passions, we easily write down as shortcomings of our neighbors (especially our closest ones) absolutely everything that we personally do not like about them. When you feel a lively, genuine interest in your loved one, then like it or not, you become more objective in your judgments.

And, finally, experienced spouses are well aware that it is impossible to live one’s life and maintain good relationships, relying only on the feeling that arose during the period of their falling in love. No matter how much we love someone, sooner or later we get used to each other, we get used to constantly seeing this person nearby, and we get used to loving them. From being the gift of God, love becomes commonplace for us and imperceptibly fades into the background, displaced by problems, everyday life, work, household chores and childhood illnesses. At such moments, we should remember that the feeling of love must be warmed up in ourselves periodically. That is, spouses need to periodically fall in love with each other again, to rediscover their soul mate, to love not the one whom they fell in love with two or three decades ago, but the one with whom they have lived together for years and the one who is now next to them.

These are some of the obvious norms of family life. Certainly, not all of them. But after all, one of the main principles of both family and spiritual life, and indeed life in general, says: everything happens gradually.

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