by Fr. Peter deSousa
Life is full of new beginnings for all of us. We get used to persons, places and structures so that we may make the necessary adjustments. But the problem with adjusting is that we learn certain patterns of behavior that will enable life to go on smoothly, so smoothly, that we do not further discover each other and the endless possibilities that can make a relationship richer, fuller inexhaustible.
Newlyweds learn how to keep house, meet each others expectations and adjust to each other. After a while there is a routine in their lives that is predictable. The only excitement is when there is a party or change of job or house or when a baby comes along. Again patterns of dealing with problems and organizing their life become routine. So an exciting match, a shopping spree, a celebration or a movie brings in some excitement for a while. Then it is back to the routine.
A routine and a timetable enable us to fit in a lot of work and to keep going without anxiety, worry or fear about how we will manage. But it also leads to our taking each other for granted and feelings of being used and unimportant.
So, for a healthy conjugal relationship, it is necessary to rediscover the person you are married to as your bride or bridegroom today. What are his or her needs, expectations, desires, hopes, disappointments, joys and sorrows, fears and frustrations, possibilities of growth and flowering as a human person.
In courtship one is open to learn, listen and discover who your partner is. He or she does not have to conform to your expectations, but rather complements and challenges you to grow and develop your potentialities as a person, with the encouragement of someone who cares. In a good marriage, this will continue. Even after menopause and retirement, the two of you can continually rediscover the other as a person and go out of your way to keep romance alive in your marriage.
There are different dimensions in every conjugal relationship: Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Rational are some of them. Have you begun to live as strangers in the same home? Do you rarely touch and that only when you have sex? Do you take each other for granted? Are there frequent quarrels or indifference and coldness to each other? Perhaps its time you took stock of your marriage. What are the assets? Count them and do not take them for granted. Enhance the positive and play down the negative in your partner. Instead, help him or her to grow with your encouragement and support.
What we tell ourselves causes our feelings. If we are negative people who find fault, act sarcastic, make fun of the other, rarely express encouragement and appreciation, want our own way at all costs and are poor listeners, we will have one-sided marriages that are unhappy and unfulfilling. We will not see the good in the other or the attempts the other is making to adjust. It is not much fun being married to a door-mat or to a dictator either!!
But we can change and begin again. Learn new behaviors that will make your life-companion feel needed, loved and accepted for who he or she is. Make sacrifices for each other and be enriched by your differences. Increase your behavioral repertoire in your conjugal relationship, just as you would when you take on a new job or emigrate to a new country.
Is all this part of your matrimonial spirituality? Yes indeed. Incarnation means entering into the otherís world to walk in love with your spouse as a gift of God to him or her. One leaves behind oneís superiorities and pride to listen, learn, understand and accompany oneís spouse at that moment, as a channel of Jesusí love, joy and peace.
In prayer, we see ourselves through the eyes of God as his beloved child, no matter how we have behaved. His love accepts and restores us as his beloved one. The precious blood of Jesus is so powerful to wash away our vilest sins and selfish behavior. The Holy Spirit anoints us so that we may offer his love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, forgiveness, faithfulness to our spouse. He has called, chosen and empowered us to be lovers everyday. So through the sacraments and the Word of God, we meet Jesus and he comes to live in us.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, washed by the blood of the Lamb of God, carried in the arms of our Father-God, we can go afresh to our spouse each day to love him or her and begin again to live according to Godís wonderful plan.
Pray earnestly to the Holy Spirit, read Philippians 2 verses 1 to 11 and write a loving letter to your Spouse. Make it positive, noticing the good in the other and the efforts you see the other making. Ask forgiveness for the lack of love on your part. Ask him or her how you can love him or her more, in a Christian marriage blessed by God.
We who are Priests and Religious are advised to have a daily meditation of one hour, a dayís monthly recollection and an annual retreat of eight days so that we may open our hearts and lives to the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Through his eyes we see ourselves and begin again. Married couples also need from time to time to see their spouse and children through Godís eyes and begin again. Yes , life is full of new beginnings.
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