Within my own therapy experience, I have seen men misquote Scripture as justification for disregarding their wives’ opinions and wishes. The fifth chapter of Ephesians is a popular source for this kind of misguided thinking. Imagine a disgruntled husband, not wanting to lose an argument, telling his wife, “so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:24)
Of course, the very next sentence tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.” Fortunately, Catholics can turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to receive a comprehensive and nuanced perspective concerning marital relations. Although this brief article cannot fully cover the 15-page Catechism section on marriage, I do want to discuss one very thought-provoking idea: husbands should revere their wives as a gift from God.
In paragraph 1605, the Catechism states, “The woman, ‘flesh of his flesh,’ his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a ‘helpmate’; she thus represents God from whom comes our help.” Did you catch that? The wife represents God because she was given to man as a “helpmate.” This profound statement should have a deep impact on how a husband behaves toward his wife, especially in showing her reverence, that feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. The rest of this article offers suggestions on how to express reverence toward your wife during alone time, in front of others, and in front of others without her present.
Interacting with your wife with open ears, an open heart, and a slow tongue is a good place to start. By doing so, you can tap into what St. John Paul II called “feminine genius.” It is an invitation for more frequent dialogue on mundane topics like this week’s grocery list to more important ones like whether the children should be homeschooled. Starting a conversation with her input first not only encourages your wife to express herself more openly but also may expose you to new ideas and solutions to various issues.
Simply put, if God sent women as helpmates, let them help. I am not suggesting that husbands need to follow everything their wives say. However, I am suggesting that their input should be actively sought out. When a discussion gets heated, a husband must do his best to refrain from yelling at or insulting his wife. Both acts are quite irreverent and are poison to effective communication. Additionally, reverent husbands will avoid petty bickering and teasing of their wives.
Showing reverence toward your wife in front of others is also important. Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) When attending a party or a family get-together, the people around you should see the love you have toward your wife. This can be demonstrated simply by not interrupting her, offering to get a drink, or sharing a positive anecdote about her.
As already mentioned, it is very immature and boorish to openly bicker and excessively tease your wife either in private or in front of others. If a husband thinks that pointing out his wife’s faults to the world is somehow affectionate, I suggest that he jump in a cold river and stay there until his opinion changes. The outside world should see a man who reveres his wife through words and deeds.
How you present an image of your wife to others is telling. Do you paint a picture of a loving and generous helpmate or of a mad woman? Be generous and charitable in your portrayal, or else say nothing.
If there are genuine difficulties within the marriage, tell only trusted and discreet friends. Better yet, speak with a counselor or spiritual director about issues negatively impacting the marriage. To everyone else, it is best to share some quick and positive anecdotes about your wife. One of my personal favorites is telling others about the time my wife taught me how to snorkel while vacationing in Puerto Rico.
Even if it’s small talk, make it positive small talk. Complaining about your wife makes her look unattractive and paints you as pathetic. So without overdoing it, a husband should focus on his wife’s virtues and, if appropriate, share them with others. Thus, others will know that this man reveres his wife for the treasure that she is.
Reprinted with permission from FathersForGood.org.