Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be tenderhearted, be courteous (1 Pt. 3:8).
Wives must learn this art—to be friendly to their husbands, so they would look at their wives and rejoice. And one more thing.
Girlfriends and wives must take care of themselves, because it happens that in the married life one feels what the other is feeling, and women have what is in their souls written on their faces. For example, she is sad and sullen, and you ask her, “Is something wrong?”
“No, everything’s alright.”
“Are you having some troubles?”
“No, everything is fine!”
“Are you tired?”
“No, everything is alright!”
But it’s obvious! You’re giving off what’s inside of you.
That’s how the male psychology functions, so it’s better if the wife smiles and is friendly, and not gloomy and depressed, because, seeing her that way, the husband gets nervous. He is overtaken by the feeling that he has to do something, and he becomes like a lion locked in a cage.
A wife should learn to bring him this joy—for the husband not to return from work, walk in the door, and find his wife pouring out her problems on him from the threshold. That’s a mistake!
Sarah thus obeyed Abraham, calling him her lord. Ye are her daughters, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement (1 Pt. 3:6). his
This is how it was on Cyprus until just recently, wasn’t it? The husband would say, “This is my lady,” and the wife, “This is my lord!” They don’t say that anymore. Do they talk that way? No. They spoke that way before, but now, if you go to some village, there are still many noble old men who talk that way; and you see that they are very happy people, because they know how to talk to the other—the husband knows how to deliver this joy, because it is very important that his wife would be joyful.
When she is not happy but dejected and with an irritated look, it’s truly difficult to live with her. It’s like she’s carrying a metal-cutting saw under her skirt, and if you were metal, she’d cut you in half! It is impossible for you to go whole and unscathed! You’ll have problems. Necessarily.
Therefore, wives should be friendly and bring this joy to their husbands. And the husband, as I said earlier, shows his wife honor, provides her with praise, tenderness, love, reliability, warmth—everything that a wife needs from her husband.
We must also understand that married life does not rest on intimate relationships—they are but a small part of marital life. If the husband does not understand this, then another sickness will appear in the marriage. They must both understand this before marriage. Therefore, the Church resolutely does not accept pre-marital relations so the husband and wife can learn to respect one another as individuals, and not see simply the opposite sex in one another.
Pre-martial relations destroy marriage. I recently read that even in Western countries (civilized, as they are wont to say), where there is total freedom regarding these questions, people have discovered that preserving yourself pure and chaste before marriage is the main prerequisite for success in family life—because then marriage truly acquires meaning and sacredness, and the conditions for full mutual respect are created. Precisely then marriage becomes a true mystery. Otherwise, everything is trampled upon before marriage, it becomes a usual repetition of something they have already done hundreds of times before, and therefore they don’t see the substantial meaning in marriage.
God Himself says that when man enters into marriage, he should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they will be one flesh (cf. Gen. 2:24, Eph. 5:31). Of course, you honor your parents, but this reverence continues until marriage, and then another person comes into your life, who is your wife. And you leave your father and mother, which does not mean, of course, that you become indifferent to them, but simply that you must always bear in mind that you are to cleave to your wife.
The Scriptures say this mainly to husbands. That is, the husband most of all must leave his father and mother, because if he takes them with him, he will suffer defeat. His marriage will not be successful. Then the bride’s parents, come what may, still sometimes help, watch the children, and so on. But I don’t think two homemakers could get along in one home, because in that case, one of them would have to become a great saint!
We render honor unto all: to our parents and to our spouse’s parents, who are also given to us as parents. But it’s simply a fact that this honor should include a fair amount of discretion, because the connection between spouses must not be shaken due to the interference of parents. Whatever happens, the marital connection must be kept inviolable, at the cost of any sacrifice; we can give our attention to our parents, only if the marital union faces no risk.
When there is an obvious healthy relationship between the spouses, when the husband and wife love one another and are closely tied to one another, then there are no problems with their parents—that is, when the husband loves and respects his wife’s parents, inasmuch as he loves her; and she loves him, inasmuch as she knows and is certain and has confirmation that her husband loves her more than anyone else. She starts to grumble only when she suspects that her husband is under the influence of his mother, or he has secretly given part of his heart to his mother and she still has authority over him—then the wife finds a thousand reasons to say, “Your mother this! Your mother that!”
If you go to see your mother often (but in fact you go see her once a year), then your wife will say to you, “You were just there yesterday!” or, “Your mom called and asked, ‘Where’s my son?’”
When a wife is completely sure that her husband belongs to her completely, with all his body and soul, then, I think, no problems will arise. Problems appear when spouses cease to be inextricably linked, when they are no longer strongly united and a “leak” or “hole” appears somewhere—then problems begin. But when marital life is healthy, when the spouses are united and love one another, then there will be no such problems. Problems appear because there is no unity, which is necessary for marital relations.
The apostle very highly values marriage and the marital relationship. That is, looking at your wife, you learn to look at her as a person, with whom you will be a co-heir to the Kingdom of God. When does our prayer face obstacles? When our conscience wounds us. When our conscience tells us that something we did was bad and we have something against our brother, then we cannot pray, because we have no boldness before God. A man has boldness when his conscience clearly shows him that he did what he could. Therefore, it’s very important to look upon the other as upon a co-heir of the Kingdom of God, and upon marriage as upon a common podvig: This is why we live together—to labor and enter the Kingdom of God together.
We get married not to live happily ever after, to have children, a house. No, the main point is to enter the Kingdom of God together, and that means I am ready at any moment to pay any price, to make any sacrifice, and bear any difficulty in marriage. Therefore, you mustn’t break up your marriage at the first appearance of trouble, or even if the trouble continues, but it must be preserved.
You may say, “Yes, but nowadays marriages are being dissolved!” Yes, they are being dissolved. But it’s a fact that marriage should rest upon and be built upon this foundation, and that mutual relations are built and strengthened on the spouses’ mutual walk towards the Kingdom of God. And that means they should support one another, and they will move ahead together towards the Kingdom of God.
It’s very important for spouses to learn to pray together. Therefore, do not avoid common prayer, but pray together!—at least two minutes, but stand together before God and pray together. You will see that those who will pray together every day will never feel any problems. Why? Because the hour of prayer will come, which disperses all problems.
For example, we fought today. But either way, in the evening, we will go to pray together. What can you do? One from his corner, the other from theirs, but we come to stand before God together. We do as it says in the Paterikon, where one abba went to another and said, “Geronda, my brother seriously grieved me, and I cannot forgive him. I cannot!”
“Well, alright! Then come, let’s pray!” the elder answered, and he began to pray. “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and do not forgive us our debts, as we do not forgive our debtors.”
The first abba began to object: “No, Father, it’s a mistake! We say, ‘And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors!”
But you won’t forgive him! How will God forgive you? Thus, “We greatly entreat Thee, Christ: Forgive us not our sins, as we, accordingly, do not forgive the sins of others…”
When you go to pray to God, you are humbled. Pray together with your spouse, and the first softening will come, the wound will begin to heal, and a bridge will be built.
This is even more beneficial in the case of children. It is very salvific for children to see their parents praying together. I know many families where everyone prays together. What can you say here? I believe that the best images are imprinted in these children when they see their father getting down on his knees to pray, and their mother too. Do you think this picture will ever be erased from their memory? Never. The child will begin to greatly appreciate his parents, love them so strongly, and will honor them, and this picture will be his most powerful weapon, even when his parents cannot give him any advice.
It is proven that a house in which people pray is very cohesive—especially if we learn how, through life in the Church, before praying and going to bed, to ask forgiveness from one another, saying, “Forgive me, I messed up!” and thus going to sleep. Such a house is no longer a house, but Heaven—it is truly the best thing that can be—Paradise! When discord begins, the house turns into hell, and it is fearful.
And don’t think that children don’t understand this: They have colossal intuition. Remember yourself, when you were a child, or, if you have children, watch them. I see three and four-year-old children, how they accompany their parents to confession. These children have great intuition; they understand when their parents are not getting along as they should. Perhaps the parents don’t show anything outwardly, they don’t fight in front of the child, but all the same, he understands that they have a problem. Therefore, parents’ have a great responsibility. You and I are already grown, and even if we yell at one another, we won’t develop psychological problems, but children are very sensitive, and they are traumatized and develop problems from this.
Therefore, it’s very important for parents to learn to pray together. Children born in such spiritual conditions, that is, where the parents prayed, have every precondition for complete harmony in his spiritual world. In the Old Testament there is a wonderful scene with Tobit. When they got married, and in the evening went to their room, before doing anything else, they knelt and prayed to God thus: “My God! Bless our union and unity and grant us a blessed child, blessed fruit, and keep us in all our days, that we might be well-pleasing before Thee.”
Do you understand what kind of children will be born under these preconditions and how the family will be? And when children are born under the very worst of conditions—in sin, passions, voluptuousness, and shameful deeds, then you understand what will come out of this.
I don’t say this alone with the Church, but psychology as well. Today there is an entire science of “embryonic psychology” that teaches about how important is the moment when a woman conceives in her womb a child, which bears within itself the genetic code from that very moment.
Elder Porphyrios always spoke about it: He would advise spouses to have very harmonious relations before conceiving their children, because you are facilitating the coming of a person into the world. Do you realize that you are becoming a co-worker with God, contributing to the appearance of a man in the world? After all, you’re not giving birth to some kind of beast or a kitten, not some kind of furniture, but a whole man, for whose sake God Himself became man.
But this sacred act of marital life has been turned into debauchery, and they make advertisements and videos with it, which they sell. The most sacred act of creating a man has turned into a disgusting spectacle that can be performed anywhere…