“I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Couples married in a Catholic wedding ceremony vow to live these words in their marriage. We speak of love all the time but rarely did either of us recall people talking about honoring their spouse. As we were talking, we decided to see what Webster had to say about the word. He defined it as high estimation, respect, consideration, reverence and veneration. Those certainly gave us a place to begin looking at ourselves and how we live out the promise we made on our wedding day
High estimation—do we help affirm our spouse’s thoughts and beliefs about themselves. We normally write about ourselves but in this blog a couple of examples from our children seem appropriate. A couple of months ago our daughter-in-law, Stacey was interviewed by the local station of a national television network about the not-for-profit company for which she works. The night it aired Michael posted the information on his social networking page and added, “I’m so proud of my wife. She rocks!” Our daughter, Maria, is nearing the completion of a doctoral degree. Our son-in-law, Mike, tells everyone he talks to about it, even fellow commuters on the train ride into New York. He is already making plans for her graduation celebration. Dan, our son, easily praises his wife Rhonda and all that she does at her job as a bank executive, even in these days when bank officers are often considered “bad guys.” What a wonderful tribute each makes about his wife. That’s what high estimation is, as St Paul says, rejoicing in the accomplishments of the other.
Respect—I’m (Rita) not sure how we fell into some of the things we do to show respect but we have done them for as long as I can remember. We never open each other’s personal mail including greeting cards, invitations, or medical test results. While we are “two in one flesh” we still respect the individual rights of the other. This flows over to our sexual relationship as well. I have to be conscious of Bob’s sexual needs and desires and respect the person that he is when we make love to each other.
Consideration—I love shoes. I operate out of the framework that no woman can have too many friends or shoes. In our closet organizer that Bob built, he made sure I had adequate storage for my shoes. He always indulges me to shop for shoes if we shop together and has on occasion made an extra trip to the car to deposit my purchases. More than that he shows his consideration as he allows/encourages me to do things on my own that recognize the talents that I have like helping another Catholic school evaluate their curriculum. He sometimes encourages me in ways that give me confidence that I don’t have on my own.
Some time ago at the prompting of our youngest son, Matthew, we began to ask each other what’s the POA (plan of action) at the start of the day. When we were working we most often did this on Saturday mornings before we got out of bed. Now I do it nearly every morning. That enables each of us to know that the other wants or needs to accomplish that day. We can then readjust what we wanted to accomplish as need be or be free to do what we planned without the pressure of worrying whether that might interfere with the other.
Reverence and veneration—we often think of these in our relationship with God but they also apply in our spousal relationships. While worship and adoration should most likely be left for God, reverence and veneration are qualities to think about as we look at how we are living out our marital relationship. Bob has helped me experience life, including my life with God, in more ways than I thought possible. If for no other reason than that, he deserves reverence and veneration. That means I don’t speak negatively about him to others. The settlement of any kind of disagreements or unhappiness in our relationship must begin with him. Recognizing that he is the most valuable gift God has given me, other than our children, means that I must cherish him and do all I can to keep him and our marriage number one in my life. Now that we are both retired we spend our days together. It takes an effort to remember to say I love you to him each day, to stop when we are each doing separate things to be conscious that Bob is in the house as well and to ask what he is doing and how things are going and, more importantly, to recognize that some days what he is doing is more important than what I’ve been doing. Often that means just listening to him a little. Bob has a place in my heart that only he can occupy. To love and honor that is what I promised on our wedding day.
(Bob)As I think about honoring Rita in our daily lives, I realize that, though we are “two in one flesh”, we are still “two”. We are two distinct persons who intimately share our lives. Honoring Rita requires me to acknowledge her individuality and personhood. I do that in a variety of ways.
One of the important parts of our relationship is the fun we have teasing each other. In fact, we look upon our teasing as a measure of our closeness to each other. When we are good we tease a lot and laugh a lot with each other and at ourselves. When we are fighting we back away from teasing – it ceases to be funny and easily becomes hurtful. Sometimes I think I am being funny, but Rita isn’t comfortable with what I am saying. One way of honoring her is simply recognizing that her experience at that moment is different from mine and I back off – even apologize and ask her to forgive me. It sends a message that I care about her and how she feels, but also that I respect her right to respond to a situation differently than I do.
When Rita was teaching it was not unusual for a student or parent to come up to me and tell me how wonderful she is. My response was: “I know, and I get to live with her!” I recognize her special gifts and offer a reverence for them and am delighted by them. They are a part of the great blessing that God has bestowed on me in having Rita in my life.
When we write a blog or presentation we usually have a discussion about what we want to do, then we each start writing. After finishing a draft of a section, we each read what the other has written. We do some basic editing and bring up changes – rewording, adding a sentence or paragraph – that could improve the document. We seldom make any substantive change in the other’s part without their permission. I am honored and find a great sense of self-worth in Rita’s respect for what I write. Her critiques and suggestions for changes are always delivered in a way that is open to discussion and allows me to work with her to make our work the best it can be.
Sometimes couples have the idea that being “in one flesh” means that we have to do everything together – some fear that they will lose their individual personality and be swallowed up in the relationship. That is not the case. This week I am going to meet with the board of the retirees’ association at the college where I taught and stop by to visit with members of my old department. Rita will have lunch with the new religion department chair at the high school. We each recognize that we have individual friends and interests and that we experience parts of our lives without the other. We do, however, always get together later and share those experiences. I am interested in that part of Rita’s life and enjoy her accounts of her separate activities.
During this Lenten season it might be good to look again at the wedding promises we made and use the remaining days to be aware of how we live out the love and especially honor we promised our spouse on our wedding day, whether that was a few months ago or 50 years. Isn’t marriage wonderful!
Please leave a comment below. How do you honor your spouse or how does your spouse honor you?
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