by the Rev. Mark Connolly
I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a quality that should be in everyone's marriage and home. The subject can be summed up in one word - honor. The basic theme is that as you increase honor, you increase harmony in the home. The more you understand about the subject of honor, the more you try to bring it into the lives of those with whom you live and work. Honor breeds and generates harmony in marriage and the home.
On the day of your wedding each spouse said, I will honor you all the days of my life. In your early Catechism days you knew from your commandments that you must honor your mother and father. People receive honors. People are called honorable. But what does this quality of honor mean in our relationship with your spouse and family? The word honor as it applies to your partner in marriage means that that partner is not of the ordinary cut of cloth. That partner has nobility, chivalry in their personality. You honor a partner not because that partner is awesome and is of extraordinary value, but because that person embodies in his or her psyche a collection of values that can be found in no one else. To honor a person is more than just to respect or reverence, but it is more like cherishing a treasure that generally comes only once in a lifetime.
If you do not make the efforts to honor your spouse, no matter how long you are married, then you bring dishonor into your relationship. If you refuse to change or adapt from where you were when you were first married, then dishonor can easily erode the relationship. Why do you honor? Because you see the image of Christ in your spouse.
How do you cultivate this quality of honor towards your spouse so that your marriage grows strong with each passing day?
First, by realizing the fact that each partner comes into a marriage with the same ideals and has the same goals to have a marriage of harmony filled with love and commitment. That having been said, then the next step that husbands and wives have to constantly remind themselves about is that each one has his or her kind of logic, that each partner has his way of doing things. What partners have to learn is that male and female come into a marriage having a brand of logic that is different and that can be fashioned in such a way that two people can think as one and still have their own space, their own creativity. What are these differences?
The basic difference is that men think from the left side of their brains and for all practical purposes women think from their right and their left side, the right and left hemisphere as it is called.
Men have to realize that women for the most part are relational. And that men are not. Men have a tendency to try to be objective. Women do, but it is also mixed with their desire to be personal. Men have a tendency to establish their identity through their jobs. Women through their friends and surroundings.
Both husband and wife want the best for each other, but their approach to achieve this is quite different. Just as men have to realize that women think differently so do women have to realize that men think differently. Their daily approach to facing life is quite different from that of their wives. In many cases women pass men in certain forms of testing. In many cases they do not. Men are generally at peace if in the home there is a plan. Men don't stay awake at night trying to think up ways to cause confusion in the home. Their acts are based on their thoughts and it is only when a woman understands this that harmony will become a reality. What women have to realize is that men have to be educated as to what sensitivity and intimacy are all about from a woman's point of view. They might have knowledge of these topics which is academic, but not relational. This is what most women want. What women have to realize, even when we talk about the left side and the right side of the head, the left and right hemisphere, is that men have a thicker skull than women. (Many women believe this already.) Men don't deliberately try to be insensitive, any more than women try to be nagging individuals. Each one has to be educated in a marriage to the sensitivity of the other. Let me give you an example.
Recently I heard a story of a married woman who thought that she had operatic ability and she did not. So every Saturday, all the windows for the summer were opened, she would start her practicing of these operatic selections. And she was terrible. At the same time that she would start practicing, her husband would take the power lawn mower and go out and cut the grass. And this built up for weeks. Until one day she was livid and said, "why do you cut the grass at the same time I start singing?" And he said, "honey, I just don't want the people to think that I am killing you while you are practicing."
What do these differences have to do with the word honor? A sense of honor towards each person in a marriage helps bring about three ingredients that a marriage must have. Security, meaningful communication and romance.
First security. Every spouse, husband or wife, wants to have the security that the spouse is committed. Each husband and wife wants the same things, that there is a lifelong commitment from the other partner. No partner in a marriage can say I will love you if you do this or that. Forget it. It does not bring harmony. It does not make for a happy marriage. Commitment can never be conditional if you are looking for a happy marriage.
The second quality - meaningful communication. If you are a married person put this in your mind. The average husband speaks about 12,000 words a day. The average wife speaks about 25,000. So when the husband comes home from work, he has virtually spoken his quota. The wife is just getting ready to start conversation. Communication is a two way responsibility in a marriage. You have to talk about the ordinary. You have to talk about the mundane. You have to listen to the fact that Christmas might be spoken about in July. The greatest way that husband and wife can insure meaningful communication is to have a date with each other once a week. Meaningful communication has to be (and not all at once) at least one hour a day.
The third quality that helps honor become a reality is that of romance. You are intelligent. while the engagement and courtship are talking place there is the ever present gift, the flowers, the cards, the obvious romantic concerns from one to the other. When the marriage takes place a lot of this stops. Men have conquered. Therefore, there is no need to continue that which preceded the conquering, which is quite sad. The romance of a couple who can hold hands. The romance of a couple who can just bring a small inexpensive give to each other. The romance of sending a card without any reason. That should never stop. The man or woman who makes every effort to keep criticism to a minimum. The man or woman who tries to develop the art of timing for discussing something, particularly a grievance. The husband or wife who is never short on praising the other. The one who makes the other feel adequate even when things are not going as they should. This is the sign of one who knows what the quality of honor is all about. Most psychologists will tell you that 80% of the women in this country have a great appreciation and love for the hug, the touch, the kiss, the tap - the sign that she is special.
Security, meaningful communication, romance are all associated with the quality of honoring a person. When honor is present, disharmony is at a minimum; when honor, that sense that says my spouse is awesome, my spouse is God's gift to me, work to produce harmony in the home; when honor for each other is present, there is a touch of the grace of God in those who are practicing it.