So that the spiced wine of love does not turn into water
Do I need to take care of the relationship within the couple? And what role can the Church play in this?
Will not be patient or fall in love
What are the most common options for describing family life? “He’s gotten into love,” “where are we going to get from the submarine”, “it’s too late for us to build something, we live as we live”. Not without a note of hopelessness, right? It is as if a marriage is a kind of conscription, and only in the first months it sparkles and shines like a sea pebble for the first minutes – and after that it turns into a dull gray pebble. It is not surprising that in this situation the eyes of one of the spouses can be distracted by any other sparking in the neighborhood.
And even a person who acknowledges a certain problem here will say: “What does the Church have to do with it?” Indeed, should church structures intervene in spouses? At the level of "intimacy is forbidden in the post!" – Yes, there are enough advisers here. At the level of the contraceptive ban, birth planning, the impossibility of IVF – here too, everyone who you ask from bishops to candlesticks will have their own weighty opinion. But does marriage only consist of this — intimate life and the birth of children —? Why are all the other aspects of the relationship in marriage behind the scenes?
For a couple of decades of the revival of the Church, we got used to the idea that raising children is very important, youth ministry in the parishes, too, but what happens between parents remains outside of church care.
But the state of mind of both children and adolescents, and young people fluttering out of the family is firmly tied to the relationship between father and mother! If there are conflicts in a family or even there is simply no example of mutual warmth, attention and care of parents, if there is no love and a sense of need for a long time, it is difficult to imagine that the children will be happy, spiritual here and will be able to firmly stand on their feet in a further independent life.
The modern Greek preacher Archimandrite Andrei (Konanos) gives a wonderful example that illustrates this.
“Do you know how many young people today do not want to start a family precisely for this reason? They are so disappointed with what they saw in their parents' house that they now say: “No, I won’t have that!”. And if there is peace, love in the family, then they will understand that God is not words, but an experimental path: love and truth conveyed to us by the Gospel. How do they understand this? Everything is simple. “Father, yesterday my father, arriving home, hugged my mother and kissed her with the words:“ Dear, beloved, dear, I’m finally at home. ” And looking at them, I realized that the Holy Trinity really exists, because I saw Her at our place – dad, mother and Christ in their midst. ”
And as a child grows in faith, studying year after year at Sunday school, so his parents could improve their relationship in Christ Jesus by working on them daily. How to work on relationships? Let's talk about it.
Dialogue: so simple and so difficult
What are we talking about with our spouse? “Buy milk and toilet paper”, “where are we going on vacation”, “the parent committee again asks for the deposit”, “must be removed in the garage on the weekend”, “will we plant potatoes at the cottage this year”. At best, stories about what happened at work are added. In almost ideal, a discussion of various church-wide and parish realities.
How long have you been talking with your spouse about your feelings? About your preferences in art? Discussed an interesting movie or book novelty?
One married couple gave a very memorable image of a seemingly strong family. Two, three, four children, parents overcome difficulties and problems shoulder to shoulder, as if horses in a team are carrying a heavy cart together. They feel a shoulder, help, cooperation. But can they turn their heads to each other and see their eyes? What, incidentally, is your spouse’s eye color? Maybe they have changed in 10 years of marriage? How often do we look into them?
The lack of communication does not seem to be so scary – we are not scandalous, more or less we live in the world. But sooner or later, a feeling of loneliness begins to build up, a feeling that they do not understand you. It was not possible to talk about their problems, there was no time to talk about feelings. Resentment is piling up, a transparent wall rises between the spouses. It seems that we are together and in common affairs, but there is no heat. We see and hear each other, but we don’t feel, we cannot touch. And when finally the time comes for dialogue – only com offenses or accusations come from our lips.
Photo: Victor Andriyanov
In order for the conversation to take place, you need to learn a few simple rules. Talk only about yourself, about your feelings. Not “you didn’t even give me flowers on the Day of myrrh-bearing women”, but “you know, I was insulted that no one congratulated me on that day.” Not “again, I am wearing an ironing shirt”, but “I would be so pleased if you stroked my clothes”.
It is very important to be able to express your feelings directly, and not indirectly. An indirect expression of feelings is to slam the doors and yell at the children because of the annoyance that dinner is still not ready. The direct one is to clearly say about your chagrin: "It is unpleasant and painful for me that no one pays attention to the fact that I get tired after work." It is better to speak about grievances and other unpleasant feelings immediately, without accumulating for weeks, so that then the dam does not break through the scandal. “You know, it hurt me how you shouted at us sharply when you spoke on the phone.” “Sorry, I didn’t even notice: the chief called, and the children were dumb.” Simple and straightforward dialogue, right? But if it is not spoken, it will turn into pouty lips, small taunts, and possibly even a refusal of marital intimacy.
It’s worth talking about pleasant feelings right away – “thank you for washing the dishes for all of us, how clean and good” (even if the wife does it every day), “I’m so grateful that you have time to take the children to kindergarten and I can calmly pack up ”(even if the husband has been doing this for years). Psychologists constantly write about the need for praise for the child, but no one remembers that it does not cease to be necessary for an adult!
A conversation between spouses is extremely important, and not only for clarifying relationships and expressing feelings. There are some things that can not be said on the run. Well, really, you won’t answer a family dinner at the question: “How are you?” Answer: “You know, my existential crisis seems to have moved to a new stage, I feel that the old connections began to weigh, but without communication I heavy". Or at the weekend, between cleaning and purchasing food: “I read Rilke here, and you know, his description of his inner feelings turned out to be so close to me! I even want to read to you. ”
Never mind? No, it is extremely important! We are getting married and not marrying a bag of potatoes, a good salary, a delicious dinner, and a to-do list. We love the person, and it is vital for us to see the person in us.
How to arrange a conversation "about nothing and everything"? It is necessary to allocate a certain time for this, perhaps agree in advance.
This may be, say, evening tea when the children are laid. Saturday evening, specially freed from all the troubles. It is important to learn to listen to each other – for some it is very difficult. “When we talk, you don’t let me insert a word, you say everything and you say it yourself.” Is that familiar? It may sound funny, but my husband and I, when we have not enough time, but we want to talk, we set a timer. Ten minutes speaks out one, ten minutes – another. Twenty minutes is not enough not to find time for this. But ten minutes, as practice shows, when they listen to you and only you (naturally, without looking at your smartphone, TV or even a plate of food), it turns out to be enough to tell a lot of important things about yourself.
A joint prayer – a kind of dialogue in the presence of God, can also become a dialogue option. A friend of the priest suggested a simple prayer scheme in our own words, which we use with children and with our spouse – “thank you, I'm sorry, I ask.” We thank God for what happened today, ask for forgiveness for something, and then we ask Him for what is urgent for us. In such a prayer, family members hear each other, find out the most intimate that everyone has in their souls. And it is very close.
Couple time: date each other
How long have you gone somewhere together? No, not with children, not with friends, not in a hypermarket and not even visit mom. Only together – to the cinema, to a walk in the park, to the exhibition, to the theater? What, from the "flower-bouquet" period has never been possible?
The answers “once, and no reason” are completely wrong here. If everything is fine with you, you will rediscover the long-forgotten, but beloved in each other. If it’s not at all good, sometimes it’s important to stop sorting out relationships, sulking, getting angry, boycotting, and just starting to nourish yourself and each other with positive emotions. After all, when everything is bad, psychologists advise "to open your chest with jewelry." Everyone has such “jewels”, one just needs to remember. A surprise surprise in the form of a long-awaited first-class bike. Huge bear from dad at graduation. Mom's advice to spend the first salary on a gold ring. Grandma’s pies, which my grandfather specially brought to the airport when you were driving through Moscow. And then it could be – a romantic dinner with his wife in a restaurant when she was unusually beautiful. A new exhibition of a conceptual artist: they didn’t understand anything, but they laughed so much together. Blooming sakura and a selfie with her husband in the Botanical Garden – what a happy look we got!
Do you have such treasures? If not, urgently start saving them! And then on the most cloudy day, the memory of the fact that there is a sun, there is happiness with “this person”, too, can very well warm and heal.
Time in a pair is the second of what is important and seemingly simple, but so difficult to implement. Even if you select a specific day, something will always hurt. Perseverance, investment of effort and even money (for a nanny for children, if necessary) will help us. Remember each other's priorities and give the joy of joining NOT your interests. My husband likes to remember how he sat for me for the 5-hour opera The Legend of the City of Kitezh. And for many years I did not understand why I should spend time going with him to a basketball game: after all, you can go with children who also love basketball! It’s good that I nevertheless understood how important it was for my spouse, and recently we had a great evening, desperately clapping blue-white-blue crackers.
Group communication: “happiness brothers” also happen
Photo: Andrey Yarygin
Like-minded people help in all problems and joys. In our case, we are talking about families who also care about relationships in pairs. This is not a “husband’s friend” and “wife’s girlfriend”. And do not “gather in families” when women talk about children, and men on the sidelines – about their own. Namely, a community of married couples – by the type of youth or professional community.
It can be meetings at the ward or at someone's home, joint trips, various discussions of pressing issues – about financial planning in the family, about relationships in a couple, about different languages of love, about family leisure, about the ability to resolve conflicts. Such groups (they should not be large) – except for Christian content and ordinary friendship – can function in the format of 12-step and other communities or as psychological trainings. For example, the presenter sets a specific topic, and then everyone speaks out in a circle.
In this case, you need to follow simple rules: the heard is not taken out of the group, the statement should be in the form of an “I-message” (that is, about yourself), the participants do not comment, do not discuss, do not dispute, but accept what has been said as a gift. The leader in small groups can be a priest, if it is a meeting at the ward, or some kind of initiative experienced couple. In such a group, you can share problems and ask for prayer or some other help.
Photo: Andrey Yarygin
Time to overcome time
Spousal service is a very important thing in the Church, especially if you remember that half of even married marriages break up. Such service is carried out today only in some parishes: on the Internet you can read about the program of the cleric of the St. Petersburg diocese, Archpriest Alexander Diaghilev, “Matrimonial Meetings”, you can find information about the matrimonial movement “Cana” and “Welcome to Cana”. It would be nice if such a service was organized at every parish!
But even if there is nothing of the kind nearby, you can revive the flower of love at home! It just needs to be given time and effort, and sometimes money. After all, wasn’t it a pity to spend money on a giant bouquet for a beloved before? Boo dinner in a good cafe? Give a fishing rod? Call on a ski trip?
But today, the spouse is no less loved, and the era of gifts and signs of attention, the era of romantic travel together did not at all remain far behind!
It will be a mistake to think "everything is fine with us, we don’t need it." Any flower, if not taken care of, will begin to fade. And therefore, smart spouses, without even reading this article and not knowing about the existence of the marital movements that exist throughout the Christian world, must spend, for example, part of their vacation only together. Some of my wife’s acquaintances on my birthday go at least for a couple of days somewhere without their three children. Other, “four-child” parents arranged their schedule in such a way that once a week they must devote morning hours to a common pastime – walking, talking.
Photo: Stanislav Marchenko
Learning to engage in dialogue with each other, to pray together, to set aside the obligatory time “only for you and me” in the routine of affairs — these are simple recipes for building a long, happy marriage. And then the fresh water of the usual union can turn into wine – and it will have an amazing taste, like the wine that Jesus Christ created in His first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
The material was prepared on the basis of the “Matrimonial Meetings” programs of the St. Petersburg Diocese and the international Christian matrimonial movement “Cana” for the magazine “Living Water” No. 6, 2019.
The summer session of Kana this year will be held in Ramenskoye near Moscow from June 2 to 8, more details here
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