About Fr. Edmund Dunne, C.SS.R
An ordained priest in Australia, in 1942, and a qualified Doctor of Canon Law (J.C.D) in Rome, 1951, Fr Dunne came to Singapore in 1972. Two year later, he become involved in the Marriage Preparation Course (MPC)) for engaged couples. Since 1978, he has been an Advocate of the Matrimonial Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Singapore. He started Family Life Bureau in 1983 and later renamed and registered as FAMILY LIFE SOCIETY. Having heard so many accounts of failed marriages, he was prompted to write a series of short articles, which were published in the “Family life Line” newsletter and complied into this Book entitled: “HOW TO MANAGE A MAN…THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN”
Fr. Dunne aim is to impart that Marriage and the Family are the priority sectors of the apostolate. Pope John Paul II says, “Humanity passes by way of the Family”. These are the themes of whatever is “real” in the book.
Article 1 – How to Manage a Man
Men are hard to manage because they are proud. They hate to have a woman tell them what they ought to do. There is a clever formula. I heard once for managing a husband: baby him; board him; bed him. It sounds clever, but it is like one of those recipes for a cake which, no matter how carefully you follow the instructions, never turns out to be the mouth-watering product shown in the glossy cookbook.
There is no set formula for this kind of management because there is no set kind of man (or woman, for that matter). Each couple is unique and different. Each woman has to devise her own formula. However, there are certain guidelines for managing a man.
First, every woman must remember that she is more clever than her husband. If she forgets this, all possibility of management disappears. Cleverness in a woman is not connected with brains, degrees or diplomas. It is the faculty she has of being able to guess ahead of her husband. It usually involves knowing what he is thinking about before he opens his mouth. In discussion or dialogue, she can be one jump ahead of him. Her cleverness consists in preventing herself from interrupting him and telling him what he is going to says or that she knows what he is thinking about. If she discloses this, he can get very annoyed.
Some people might say that this sort of cleverness is only the virtue of humility, but I prefer to call it common sense. The very height of the cleverness or the pinnacle of management is for the wife never to tell her husband to do anything, but to suggest it. This is a special technique that is properly feminine. She suggests to him what she wants him to do, but in such a way that he thinks he thought of it first. When this happens, his native pride wills him with pleasure, while the clever woman knows, with a smile like the Mona Lisa, that she has him in the hollow of her hand- so to speak. Meanwhile, he takes her smile as a complement to himself. I cannot describe exactly how to make suggestions in this special sort of way, but every clever woman knows what I mean. (If you are not clever, dear, you will not know what I am talking about. You’d better give up and let him try to manage on his own.)
The second thing for a woman to remember is never to meet her husband head on. Men are so logical and straight-ahead thinkers that arguing with a woman who thinks in concentric circles only confuses them and in the end annoys them. The argument then becomes personal and words become likes laser beams.
A woman should never confront her husband with the formula, “Why don’t you…?” His pride will prevent him from accepting this direct challenge, even if he knows that what he does is wrong. It is fatal for a wife to say, “Why don’t you come home early? Why don’t you give up gabling and wasting so much money?” “Why don’t you wear a better shirt than that one?”, etc. If she encroaches on his spiritual activities – or lack of them, e.g., “Why don’t you go to confession?” or “Why don’t you go to Mass?” he is likely to think, or even say, “Oh, go to hell.”
If it is a question of a real misdemeanour on his part, some moral misbehaviour, proper management can be very painful. It first involves great patience, waiting for a favourable opportunity to tell him she is worried about something, When, unsuspectingly, he asks her what it is, she tells him, without any hint of reproach, that she feels sad or depressed. He presses her for more information. She says something like this: She is sad that the two of them (“we”, “us”) are not enjoying the same spiritual union they once had. He will either be suspicious or belligerent or claim that he doesn’t understand.
Here she needs all the cleverness she can muster. She must have a steel grip on herself, to display an exceeding gentleness. His damnable pride is right there, teetering at the edge of his brain ready to ruin the opportunity she has created of getting under his skin. Let her pursue the subject very quietly and say something like wishing that he could (not ‘would’) join her in prayer, or at Mass, or at Holy Communion.
For goodness’ sake don’t say, “Why don’t you…?” If nothing comes of this interchange, she may have to wait, perhaps for a month or longer, before another opportunity arises. If she tries too frequently, he will become suspicious and refuse to entertain even the most innocent suggestion. Once sown, the seed must be allowed to lie in the ground until the rain comes to bring it to life.
If she discovers that her husband has been having an affair, she will be extremely distressed. The bottom drops out of her world. Some women literally feel they would like to shoot, strangle or poison their husbands. The possibility of divorce floods her mind, and she wonders how she will support herself and the family. She schemes to find out who the other woman is. If she does learn her telephone number, she wants to ring her up and tell her off. There is not much future in this procedure. Her husband is the problem.
If she is clever, we suppose she is, she has to think back on her married life and try to discover where it went wrong. It is very rare that one party is totally innocent and the other totally guilty. Had she been in the habit of confronting her husband? Was “Why don’t you…?” One of her favourite questions?
Had she been trying to manage him too openly and transparently that he had seen through it, and finally became sick of it – and her? These are painful admissions she may have to make If the sum total of her honest self-examination is that she was innocent, the only recourse she has now is to win him back. This will call on every ounce of love, prayer and patience she can manage and endure. In reality, only God will be able to change her husband, and make him see what a fool he is. Sometimes, it would seem, this woman’s real vocation in life; to be God’s instrument in the version of her husband. Her marriage to this fool, this sinner, was only an introduction for what she really had to do with her life, i.e., to be the instrument or at least the occasion of his salvation. St. Paul says somewhere “the unbelieving husband is made one with the saints through his wife.” I believe we are justified in substituting ‘immoral’ for ‘unbelieving’ in certain case.
However, how painful a vocation it [email protected] There are such women who are so called. They are very close to God. It goes without saying that if an injured wife behind to complain to her mother, or her mother-in-law, or to anyone who will listen that her husband is a woman chaser, she will lose the chance of the high vocation I am talking about.
In conclusion, let us say that the management of men is the art of arts.
It is in this that women display their greatest powers. There is not a man born of woman who can compete with them.
Addendum: How to manage a woman?
Answer: Love her, love her and tell her you love her. If a man does this, she will stop trying to manage him.
Article 2 – The Trouble with Women
The trouble with women is that men do not understand them and women leave it that way. The result is that women suffer from men, more than men suffer from women.
I have been very exercised over this lately. Why is it that when women are half the human race, just as intelligent as the other half, men cause such damage? They start all the wars and continue them (exception: Margaret Thatcher and the Falkland Islands’ war. However,, is she really acting as a woman? Her voice is female, but her policies are masculine). Men commit most of the murders and carry out ninety-nine percent of the hijackings.
A man might retort that women have all the abortions, amounting to more than all the deaths through wars this century, but the answer to that is, that it is clear that women are exploited by the medical profession, mostly male, who perform all the abortions. Let us leave abortion and get back to the point I am making.
I think that the cause of most of the trouble is that both sexes suffer from an exaggeration of their own natural inclinations – but the women come off worse.
Men are naturally active – perhaps we should say aggressive, while women are passive. It is a sexual characteristic. The male pursues the female; the female receives the male. In her receptivity, she is rewarded with fruitfulness. It is a question of a tendency of an inclination. Note that “inclination’ is a word for a slope; an incline. If you don’t watch yourself on a slope, you can run or slide down at an ever increasing rate.
This is what happens. The dominance and aggressiveness of men easily gets out of hand until it cannot stop unless there is a curb; a brake. The slides becomes an avalanche. It happens in wars. The aggressiveness of some political leaders, supported by men like himself, is unleashed to become an insane frenzy of the senseless deaths of thousands of young men, plus the deaths of women and children. As for women, it is clear that their passivity in our time has gone downhill too, until they have come to the point where they have no say in the running of the world. Men run the government, begin the wars, start the strikes, decide whether abortion and capital punishment will be in or out. Would this be possible if women had not allowed their passivity to run so far downhill, that most of them say, “What can we do?”
The trouble with men is that they do not understand women and women leave it that way. So men put it over them by their aggressiveness. Men, their minds obscured by ignorance and passion, think they have the edge on women in brains and intellect because women have occupied themselves in producing babies and caring for them – incidentally preserving the humans race from extinction. Distracted by these tasks, they have not written so many books or delivered so many speeches. They have allowed men to amuse themselves while they got on with the essentials. Sadly, however, passivity caught up with them, ruled them, to become their dominant quality.
Here and there, feminine voice have been raised trying to make women aware that the bottom of the slope has been reached; it is now time for women to look back and see the high pinnacle where they ought to be. However, several of these voices have been too strident; they have screamed, “Injustice!” until people put their fingers in their ears, look at one another and say, “Feminism! Frustrated spinsters!” When this happens the game is lost, misunderstanding continues, and women remain where they are – second class.
There are no indications that men are going to give up their position of superiority. If a woman or two manages to get into Parliament, to become a lawyer, judge or architect, men are not worried. Two swallows do not make a summer. Bird watching is a pleasant pastime. It is time the birds began to fly in a different pattern; to sing a different song.
There is no doubt that women are more essential for the human race, since they produce the babies and care for them, but they need not stop at being satisfied with these delightful duties. They must pull up on their passivity and try to supplement what men have so far failed to do – to make the world a better and safer place.
I want to blow a trumpet for women to call on them to raise a new voice – of women who are intelligent, aware, courageous and vocal. It is a tall order to assemble such an array of qualities in any one person . Most men do not possess them. There are some women who have them but they feel alone. Yet the very fact of possessing them shows that they can resist passivity if only they can be given opportunity and leadership.
So, you women, who are intelligent enough to see you are treated as second class, come forward. Express your awareness. Courage does not flow from the muscles, but from the spirit. If you have it , you have it.
All you need is a voice. A voice that will protest against the exploitation of women through abortion, in divorce, in industry and in advertising. A voice that will demand a share in decisions that will affect peace in society and in families – the areas that women understand better than men. A voice that is reasonable and persuasive, that men of goodwill will heed, and other women will follow.
The above considerations will be seen as inspirational, and some may view them as merely rhetorical. Other may object that there are already organisations of women in Singapore, striving to make their ‘voice’ heard.
This is true. I wish them success. However, it is obvious that a certain component in all women’s movements in Singapore must be missing. Probably the most outstanding achievement for women was the passing of the Women’s Charter in 1961. I t established and protected a large number of women’s basic rights as human beings. However, the component that is missing is responsible for the need of a ‘voice’ and the objectives of that ’voice’ spelled out above.
I think that there exists in Singapore a number of women who realise what is missing, but as yet have found no way to begin to apply the remedy. There is no need to develop this remedy here. That must be left to another occasion. In the meantime, leadership must be given the opportunity to develop. It will develop when likeminded women begin to exchange their views. Please, let them come forward.
Article 3 – The Secret of Marriage
The secret of marriage is talking to one another.
Immediately I hear some joker say, “We must have a successful marriage – my wife talks all the time!” Another, more bitterly, says, “My wife’s talking ruined our marriage.”
Wives, for their part, complain that silence of their husbands exasperates them. Attempts at conversation and discussion, meet stony silence. Yet, with other women, their husbands are animated and lively. To observe this is like a knife in their hearts. Apart from these cases, there are different levels of talking.
The first is the curious one, in which the parties are not friends with each other, and neither are they enemies. Conversation is limited to whatever is necessary to carry on the ordinary business of life. The relationship never gets any better, and yet it never gets worse. This is part of the curious thing about it. It is also curious in that the marriage lasts a lifetime without any sign of discontent in either partner. It seems to resemble those unions in nature in which certain animals and birds retain the same partner throughout their lives by an instinct proper to themselves.
The basis of these permanent unions seems to be the resonance of male and female. They complement each other by each other’s presence. The man likes to have the woman around, while the woman feels safe if the man is there. However, the relationship stops there. Such marriages seem to be confined to very simple temperaments; hard-working, non-intellectual and unreflective characters. They are found in traditional, rural communities, or among uneducated laboring classes in certain countries. One might envy the relative calm of these marriages, but they could never satisfy a desire for personal fulfilment once a man or woman has become conscious of the desire. The other partner cannot respond and does not understand.
The second level of talking is practiced in those marriages that are long lasting, but unsuccessful – often achieved bin cases where the partners are completely opposed to divorce from religious or personal conditions. The male/female resonance is experienced, and the sexual life is relatively satisfying, but conversation remains on a superficial level. It is confined to business, money, food, politics, the children, the weather – anything except what concerns the intimate thoughts and feelings of the parties.
Some couples claim, when asked about this matter, that they are talking all the time; “they discuss everything”. However, it is noticeable that they lack “togetherness”. At times, one may not even know the other’s whereabouts. They are certainly not always seen together. When together, they do not look at each other’s, as lovers do. They are, in fact, not in love with each other. The marriage is an amicable arrangement, which is satisfactory as far as it goes. However, it is not successful, because it is not fulfilling; it lacks intimacy. Their sexual life is and remains only biological. They have not achieved the level of exchange with each other that promotes the secret satisfaction of love.
The third level of talking has been indicated. If the subject matter of the conversation is something of everyday life, it is elevated from a ‘business’ level to being also a channel of understanding and acceptance of each other’s viewpoint. In almost every conversation, there is an undercurrent of intimacy that is a union of mind and spirit. There is a continuous desire to share feelings with the other, whether of joy or sadness, or simply to describe “how I feel”. One knows also that the other is receptive and willing to listen to “how I feel”, and there is no resentment, scorn or contempt. There may be amusement and both can laugh, but there is never rejection. These are some of the facets of intimacy.
Since only God can completely satisfy the human heart, and He does this only after this life, there are depths to be explored and vistas to be viewed that are foreshadowing of Heaven. Literature and art are correct in their estimate that human love is a paradise on earth. It is intended, in fact, to be an introduction to paradise.
After all our praise of intimacy, the problem remains: how to achieve it? The answer lies in talking; conversation; dialogues. The boy and girl in love before their marriage are captivated by the wonder of romance. It is an experience of discovery: I am not isolated; there is another who responds to my spirit. From this discovery arises the desire to share. It can be the beginning of intimacy. Some attain it immediately. Courtship is almost an ecstasy. Too often, however, they are too young to discriminate among the topics that affect them deeply. Their sharing Is too superficial and about things that do not matter – films, entertainment and sport. They are easily distracted by sexual stirrings, especially the boy.
A distinct danger lies here. Premarital sex, intimate as it is, is often the death of intimacy, precisely because it is physical. It shows lack of self-mastery and generally exploits the girl; innocent and trusting. It consumers attention, and crowds out the possibility of sharing at a higher level.
Pregnancy and the hasty marriage or the abortion which follows, heap tragedy on the vision of what had promised to be an earthly paradise. Pre-marriage courses are so necessary to save young people from the risks of ignorant romance, something of which their parents should have waned them, but of when they, too, had probably been ignorant.
Sometimes intimacy is learned gradually, in the first years of marriage, when their ‘bonding’ either becomes deeper or they begin to take each other for granted – one of the worst enemies of marriage and intimacy. Here, too, outside help should be available, but unfortunately it is not.
It is not yet realized how vulnerable the young marrieds are. If the secret of intimacy is learned early, and the parties are ready to work at it, increasing maturity aids them to realize what a treasure they possess. If this is reinforced by Marriage Encounter, they are on the way to a satisfying marriage which brings personal maturity and fulfilment, enriching each other and equipping them for a long responsible parenthood. Intimacy may be stumbled upon, as when, almost accidentally, one party realized the depth of feelings enjoyed or suffered by the other. If opportunity is realized and seized, it may lead to a renewal of the marriage.
Again, Marriage Encounter sometimes provides this opportunity. Intimacy, not surprisingly; is a reward. The good marriage does not arrive automatically. It needs to have been preceded by ‘normal’ parenting and youth. Unhappy families seem to perpetuate themselves. The courtship should be a conscious preparation for the marriage; not a reckless sowing of wild oats. Both parties need an extensive preparation to help them to cope with this career, for which they are ill-prepared. Indeed, preparation is largely the duty of parents, who generally neglect it, and of the community to which they belong.
If these matters have been provided for, the young couple gave a chance to work at deepening their intimacy, and this in turn involves a panoply of virtues whose reward intimacy becomes. If they practice tenderness towards each other, repressing the desire to dominate and control, accepting each other without resentment, and above all, literally listening to each other without interruption, there is a strong basis for the intimacy. This is the beginning of a fulfilling and rewarding marriage intended by nature and the Creator: It is not good for man to be alone.
The practical end to this discussion is that those who have discovered the secret to intimacy should, with discretion, pass it on to others – a couple to couple.
Article 4 – Mother-in-laws
There are so many jokes about mothers-in-law that I suspect there is some truth in them. It is quite a relief to hear a young wife say, “I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She is truly a second mother to me.” This encourages me to say something for and against mothers-in-law.
If a mother-in-law reads this, the first thing to remember when her darling son grows up and marries the girl of his choice, is that it is his choice. In a real sense, he no longer belongs to her, his mother. He belongs to his wife. The ancient Hebrews used to keep the words of the commandments tied to their foreheads in a little tube or box to fulfil the words of Deuteronomy (6:8), “To keep them before their eyes. “ Mothers-in-law ought to keep the following text before their eyes. (There is no need for a little box.)
A man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and they will become one.
The connection between a mother and her son at any time in their lives, is relationship, not ownership. Marriage is the final severance of any possessiveness a mother might have had over her children.
In the minds of all mothers, there is a desire that their children should have happy marriages. They have secret dreams about future grandchildren. When there is a large number of grandchildren, one of the items they are very ready to share with friends and acquaintances is, “You know, I have either grandchildren, and another one is coming.” This does not interest me at all. I am more concerned as to whether the marriages are happy.
Happy marriages have to be worked out by the young couples themselves. The happiness of a marriage depends very little, if at all, on the presence of the mother-in-law. No doubt the mothers have had the experience of marriage and family life, but there is a limit which they must impose on themselves in giving advice to their newly married children. It is such a delicate area of sensitivity that I think a good rule would be not to give advice unless it is asked for. There is hardly anything more annoying than to hear one’s mother-in-aw repeating: “Why don’t you put more clothes on the baby?” or “He’s too hot, take some of those clothes off him,” or “Feed him with this or that – I made it specially for him.”
No one can guarantee that unsolicited advice will be acceptable. This can be said more bluntly so that most people will understand: “Mind your own business! Keep out of other people’s marriages, especially your son’s!”
It would appear that some mothers are actually jealous of the affections bestowed on the young bride by her son, the bridegroom and husband: “She has stolen my darling boy!”
She cannot warm to the girl and cannot love her. She might concentrate her attention on her own son and in practice ignore her daughter-in-law, who eventually begins to feel like a stranger. The young husband is sometimes so thick-headed that he does not perceive this feminine battle and brushes aside any complaint his wife might make. Or, he knows what is going on, but feels helpless to solve the problem. He does not want to offend his mother and he does not know how to please his wife. This robs him of the joy and peace he ought to have in the company of his wife. The situation becomes so bad, that the only remedy is to face his mother and tell her gently, if possible, otherwise bluntly, to keep out of his marriage. She will be terribly hurt, but her pain is much less than the damage an eventual divorce will bring – as the marriage will certainly break down unless an adequate remedy is applied.
Some mothers have gone too far as to dictate how many children a son and his wife should have. They demand openly: “When are you going to stop?”, and if they have no principles, they will propose an abortion for a newly announced pregnancy. In such an extreme case, I would advise the young couple to get as far away from his mother as they can – to some other city, or even some other country.
Thus we have these pontificating females who are the exact opposite of those actually entrusted with guarding the faith and morals of the Church, whose authority they contradict. Some of these vociferous females, belonging to non-Christian groups, have more than once decreed that a new baby, especially the child of an eldest son, was not to be baptised, even though the young husband was quite aware that it was a grave obligation in conscience of his Catholic wife and had made no objection at the time of marriage. Then, because of fear of his mother, he would not agree to Baptism of the child because his mother “would not allow it.” The anguish of the young Catholic mother can be imagined. Such interference in a son’s and daughter-in-law’s marriage is outrageous and should simply be rejected and resisted. It is difficult to judge whether this will eventually lead to a divorce or that the child will grow up unbaptised and without any religion. The young Catholic wife needs to be particularly determined to have her baby baptised, and at the same time encourage and strengthen her timid husband. If her mother-in-law will not speak to her for a while, it does not matter.
Another troublesome area affecting both the young husband and wife is the matter of support for the mother-in-law of either husband wife. One of both of them have been giving their mother allowances from salaries before marriage.
Should this arrangement continue? This is particularly a mother-in-law problem, but it often causes friction between the young husband and wife: “Why do you give so much money to your mother? We need all the cash we can earn for ourselves and our children.” This problem should be settled before marriage and agreed upon.
I would never advise a young couple to live with a mother-in-law from the start of their marriage. This is the very time that they need to be together and alone, to begin the important task of bonding together as man and wife. It is understood that sometimes it seems to be absolutely necessary: They are ready for marriage, but the lack of finance has prevented them from moving into a dwelling of their own. The arrangement might be tolerated for a short time, but if the long term view is that they will have to wait for two to three years, it is questionable whether they are, in fact, ready for marriage. On the other hand, if the young couple begins to cohabit in the as-yet-unpaid home without the benefit of marriage, another sinister ogre appears. Those who cohabit have a higher incidence of divorce than those who live together only after they are married. Whichever way one looks at the problem, it seems to be insoluble, but, at the risk of being hard-hearted, I repeat: If at all possible, do not live with a mother-in-law.
Finally, after all the brick-brats have been thrown, let us praise good mothers-in-law. To put it colloquially, they are very handy. They can be called upon for all kinds of help and they love it. The principal area where they can do most good is the ‘baby area’ – before and after birth of their grandchildren. They can be a wonderful support for a young wife, whether in her first, second or third pregnancy. They remember their own young days and their struggles alone, without modern day facilities. They feel young again, but proud with the experience life has given them. They are eager to share it with the young wives. Many a young mother has exclaimed: “I don’t know how I could have managed without any mother-in-law!” This Is high praise.
Artile 5 – The Family
The first expression of joy and happiness in the Bible is when God brought the woman to the man. The man exclaimed,
“This at last is bone from my bones,
And flash from my flesh!
This is to be called woman,
For this was taken from man.” (Gen 2:23)
At last he had a companion, one who would share his life.
It is a clear indication as to where our happiness on this earth lies. If we take a survey and ask 500 people where they have found their greatest happiness, you can be sure that the majority would say: In my family; in the beautiful romance we had; our wedding day; our first child; the happy early years…. No doubt our supreme and final happiness is to be found after this life with God in Heaven, but in this life, it is in the family. How people look back in memory to their early days: This little joys that they had, the love of father and mother, the companionship of brothers and sisters – all that spells happiness. If some say, “In my family there was no happiness. My mother and father never loved me,” it only points up the argument that that is where happiness should have been found and you had right to it. You have missed out on what God has intended for you. Through the ignorance, stupidity and sinfulness of your parents, they have passed on their own unhappiness to you. You have been deprived of the basic source of happiness through no fault of yours.
What can I say about the family that is new? Nothing. It has all been said before. You have heard it all before. Pope John Paul II has been going around the world proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and the priority of the apostolate of marriage and family. He says the family is the secret: As the family goes, so will humanity. The future of humanity goes through family.
If a young woman makes a mess of her life and if sons become wife-beaters, child batterers or drug addicts, it is always lawful to ask: What was the family like? If a young man becomes a terrorist and shoots down innocent people as if they were animals, as happened in Africa, Rwanda, Bosnia and other places, you can rightly ask: What sort of families did these young men come from? After human beings or are they animals themselves?
Here we have a chance to review this most important subject. How can I inform myself of the truths and principles that will help me make a success of my marriage and family life?
I can give you some ideas. You have to think about them, discuss them with other families and form a united front against the evils that are present in today’s world which threaten the family.
For many centuries, each family was like a little fortress, especially each Christian family. Religion was their protection. The sacrament of matrimony was the source of life-giving grace and the sacraments were their spiritual food. Each child was presented for Baptism and the children grew up in an atmosphere of prayer. The family might have been poor but it was spiritually strong.
However in modern times, insidious forces began to penetrate the family. There were new ideas and the attraction of towns, industry and higher education. The bond of religion was weakened and authority was questioned; even the authority and teaching function of the bible and the church. Ideas which once were regarded with horror, began to be accepted. Chief among these, which especially attacked the family, were acritical contraception, abortion and divorce. The little fortress that each family represented already had weak foundations. Today, the family is really under attack; the very source of natural and spiritual happiness is being weakened and destroyed.
It has become necessary to proclaim the teaching of the Bible again, particularly, the gospel, the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is my duty especially, to warn you lest you be robbed of your precious heritage; that you might be on your guard against the ideas that could overturn the source of happiness that God has given you in your family life. You, parents, especially must know these teachings and pass them on to your children. Do not wait until they are young adults for it will be too late. Instruct them while they are children. Let them see you, husband and wife, their loving parents, enjoying the happiness that God intended you to have.
I remind you of the three great forces that undermine marriage and the family today. I will mention them but no expand them.
I return now to the positive side of family life. How shall we find a prescription for happiness in family life? We have to start again at the basic.
So many marriages are unsuccessful and unsatisfying – as many as 60 or 70% do not maintain the happiness and hope with which they began. The reason is that most young people are unprepared. In fact, marriage is the most ‘unprepared – for’ career. It is unprepared because parents neglect one of their primary duties; they do not know how to manage their own marriage and cannot impart all the secrets and skills to their children. It is necessary to learn. Many husbands and wives do not even know how to talk to one another. They cannot speak five works without shouting and becoming angry. The first ingredient is missing; TLC – Tender Loving Care. Love is the secret.
No doubt love starts them off. That wonderful, romantic love of youth and courtship – that gift which God gives to young people to draw them together so that His plan for the human race will be fulfilled. However, after that you have learn how to love. Love is only a feeling in the beginning. At your wedding day, you make a decision: I will love you and honour you all the days of my life. What happens to the decision to love? It is lost in anger, annoyance and selfishness. Adultery is the great sin against marriage, but it frequently comes when the spouses tire of each other, cannot communicate and the disappointed partner finds someone else’s shoulder to cry on.
Selfishness, although it may not break up a marriage, tenders it unhappy. Happiness cannot flourish when one party lives for self and comfort. Let me tell you – men tend to be more selfish than women. There are two questions concerning love between lovers. True love answers, “yes” to these questions: am I doing this for you? Do I love you for yourself? If the answers are, “No,” it is a selfish situation and the marriage can only be unsatisfactory or downright unhappy.
You about it yourselves; share each other’s feelings. If you do not know how to do that, talk to your friends, set up a marriage support group or enrol for the Marriage Encounter Weekend. This is called dialogue and communication. Without it, love dies and the marriage weakens; happiness disappears or becomes impossible.
A very important part of Tender Loving Care is love for the children. You would think it would be superfluous to say that parents ought to love their children. Indeed, many parents love their children for themselves and not for the children’s sake. They want their children to be healthy, beautiful, smart, at the top of the lists, to get straits A’s… For whom? Ah… for themselves, of course, so they can boast to their friends.
Do you know a new type of sickness has begun to appear in children-parent-induced emotional illness. There are mentally disturbed children who need psychiatric care because there is no joy; no fun; no play in their lives. They must work, study and succeed or else parents will be displeased or even beat and punish them for failing in examinations. Do you know that more children are committing suicide theses days because of parent-induced emotional stress and pressure? Is what I say true? If you know it is true, you must get together, discuss it and save your children. How many grown-ups will look back on their childhood and say, “My parents never loved me. They robbed me of happiness.”
The next ingredient, already included in what I have said, is religion. Marriage is invented by God. It is a divine institution. It remains a holy situation even for those who are not Christian or who have no religion at all. For us, Catholics, we need the help of prayer and the practice of our religion. Does your family pray? The family that prays together, stays together. We need the help of the Sacraments, Confession and Reconciliation, and then forgiveness and reconciliation with each other.
In our Marriage Preparation Course in Singapore, we have a little ceremony, for both the engaged and the married. They ask pardon of each other for the times they neglected each other; for always insisting on being right; never making the first move to be reconciled and living as if the other were not part of his or her life. Next to “I love you”, the most tender words are “Please forgive me and I forgive you.”
The last ingredient is Responsibility. Marriage is not for children. It is not a picnic. We have to be responsible and answer for our conduct. We have to answer to our society and our Church. If the Church is weak and ineffective; if the society is lawless and contaminated by many criminal acts, it is because the families have lost their sense of responsibility. As the family goes, so does humanity. As usual, we come back to every individual. Each man and woman must answer for his and her actions. We are responsible for our families and our families are responsible for us.
Copyright © 1997 by Family Life Society
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