Some years back, Mark and I visited with friends of ours, an older couple for whom we had great admiration. Dick and Pat showed near perfect complementarity, worked like a team, and had a way of disagreeing without actually disagreeing. This couple had a way of filling the room with peace and joyful energy at the same time.
We chatted about various things, and then our conversation turned to the workshop Mark and I had just helped to present to young couples. Frankly, I don’t even remember the workshop’s topic, but I do remember the advice Pat gave us about marriage. It bordered on lunacy. At least that’s what I thought at the time.
“The husband should be king of his castle,” she said. Already I was skeptical. “He deserves to be treated well when he comes home after a long day’s work.” Well, I could see that. Sort of.
Then Pat related a scene that occurred some months earlier in their kitchen. Dick came home from work, tired and hungry. Pat was busy cooking supper and he wandered in to say hello and find out what was for supper.
He lifted the pot lid. “Ugh. What’s that?” he asked. “It doesn’t smell so good to me.”
Without any fuss, Pat took the pan, set it aside, and began another supper – something that Dick especially liked.
“My kids thought I was absolutely nuts,” she laughed.
So did I. Even Mark thought it was a little extreme (only a little, though). Trying to please our spouses is one thing, but dumping a whole dinner?
“I would’ve eaten it anyway,” Dick said, embarrassed. “But Pat’s doing that made me feel like I was really important.”
Inside, I was thinking of what I might have said if I’d been Pat. I guarantee, my response would have been quite different.
“But you know what happens when you have a king,” Dick continued. “You also have a queen. It goes both ways. She makes me feel special and I do things to make her feel special.”
That helped. I’m still not willing to put aside what I’m making for supper just because it doesn’t jive with Mark’s sniffer, but I do understand Dick and Pat’s wisdom in treating each other like royalty. When we do that, it’s an affirmation of our marriage vows. Going the extra mile for our spouses lets them know that they are first and foremost in our lives. It shows how much we value them.
Fr. Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968), Servant of God and founder of The Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, taught couples that they should value each other so much that they actually reverence each other, almost to the point that they could genuflect before their spouses. Because God dwells in their souls, we should treat our spouses as reverently as we do Christ in the tabernacle. Our Lord in the Eucharist is a gift to us and a means for our salvation. So, too, are our spouses, although not in the same form, ontologically speaking.
“Love that lacks reverence destroys. Real love only begins when it is borne by deep reverence,” he said in a training course for pastors in 1933.
Pat wasn’t cow-towing to Dick. Rather, she was showing her reverence for him. She didn’t have to start a new meal. She wanted to because it was her way of telling Dick that, of anyone, he matters most to her. She was willingly serving him, and by serving Dick, she was serving the Christ within him.
Unless I completely ruined it, I’ve not discarded a single supper. Even though I’ve cooked a number of doesn’t-smell-so-good dishes over the years, the dinner-dumping never caught on with me. Instead, I’ve tried to show my reverence for Mark in other ways, and he’s done the same for me. Sometimes it’s something big, like planning a special night out. Other times, it’s something more subtle, like bringing a mug of hot, savory coffee in the morning. The intent has more impact than the gesture itself. Whatever is done in reverence will cause genuine love to flourish, whatever is done without reverence will cause it to wane.