A Gallup poll some years ago indicated some common complaints of husbands about their wives. The list looked something like this:
The wives tend to …
• infrequently have words of encouragement or praise for their husbands
• spend too much money
• neglect the care of the home and/or children, busying themselves outside the home
• meddle in or gossip about others’ affairs
• tend towards being late
Likewise, the wives had complaints of their own:
Their husbands …
• go out too often without their wives
• stay out late at meetings and engagements, resulting in their wives feeling lonely and left out
• show less and less interest in their wives as the wives grow older, yet still seem to be super courteous and attentive to younger women
• are domineering
• spend too much money on themselves and their personal interests but account for every penny with everyone else in the family
Javier Abad and Eugenio Fenoy, in “Marriage, A Path to Sanctity,” write, “Wives would do well to take a close look at these complaints because, many times, they explain why husbands grow indifferent and even negative about them for apparently no reason at all. … (Likewise), husbands should go over (the common complaints of wives) … and see if there might not be some area in them for (their own) improvement.” These complaints are not true with all spouses in all marriages, but since they were discovered to be common ones, it’s not a bad idea to review them and consider their relevance in our own lives.
“… A husband should always be warm and considerate. He should also know how to show appreciation for the small tokens of his wife’s affection — the shoes she has just shined for him, the favorite dish she has prepared as a surprise, some improvement in the decoration of the house, etc. He should also keep physically fit and conserve his manly appearance. Such a husband will be easily loved by his wife.”
Is this advice outdated? I think not.
Considering one major purpose of marriage is unitive — intimate companionship in helping the other get to heaven — (the other purpose being procreative) a smart couple will ignore popular cultural trends to seek self gratification and personal enjoyment only in their marital relationship and seek to serve the other whole heartedly. In marriage, both the husband and the wife give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two but one flesh. (CCC 2364). Marriages that have stood the test of time exemplify sensitivity to the others’ needs and participate in self-giving and willingness to sacrifice. It’s that simple, and that concept is never outdated.
According to an article in Scientific American, numerous studies show that fulfilling intimate relationships such as marriages are the single most important source of life satisfaction. So, nurturing our spouses actually leads to our own happiness. What a win-win! Of course this exemplifies that God’s own plan of harmony is always to our benefit.
Have you ever watched a couple of children bickering? Who really knows how a particular argument starts, but often both children have valid complaints. “She looked at me with a mean face,” one might say. And the other may retort, “Only because he wouldn’t listen and is trying to boss me around. …” As parents we counsel our children, “The bigger person makes the first move to forgive. Let’s not worry how this started. Just let it go.” We need to listen to our own advice and apply it to our spousal relationships. A short memory and a heart of love provide fertile ground for a marriage to flourish.
St. John Chrysostom wrote: “… When a wife is at odds with her husband, nothing will be healthy in the household, even if all other affairs are flowing with the current; so when the wife is in harmony and peace with her husband, nothing will be unpleasant, even if innumerable storms arise every day.”
Wow! That’s fourth century wisdom still applicable today!
The secret to making our marriages better, then, is as simple as a nightly marital examination of conscience. Pondering the list of successes and failures of the day is a discipline that will reap all of us great rewards. In honestly evaluating our actions, we can take personal responsibility for them, and work to improve. This is a pleasure-filled duty to be sure. Overlooking the faults of our spouses while focusing on fixing our own always leads to greater marital happiness.