Communication between a Married Couple, according to Saint John Chrysostom18 March 2019
Today, when the institution of marriage is in crisis all over the world, it might be useful to look at the inspired words of the Fathers of the Church as guides to life.
In an article in Pemptousia Magazine (No. 25), Elder Efraim, the Abbot of the Monastery of Vatopaidi, puts questions to those of us who are married: How well do you communicate? Do you talk to each other? Do you share your thoughts? What actions do you take regarding your everyday communication? Do you devote time, from what’s left over, to being together and talking calmly? Or are you perhaps indifferent to the interests and problems of your spouse and let your tongue run loose?
In seeking answers to these questions, we looked at the wisdom of Saint John Chrysostom, in whose works we read the following:
Communication, verbal or otherwise, is the foundation of married life. The most important factor in communication is discussion on issues to do with the couple’s common life and the family. It’s good if the discussion can take place comfortably, each person respecting the other, in an atmosphere of freedom, equality and love. Only then can a solution be found in the event of a disagreement or conflict. According to Saint John, there’s nothing more bitter than a quarrel between two people who love each other. When you disagree with a part of yourself, that must necessarily cause great bitterness.
Saint John recognizes that the manner of communication needs careful attention if conflict is to be avoided. In other words, the way people speak is important for the outcome of the discussion. To the question: ‘So, what should I say to her?’, he answers: ‘Words of love. I value your love above all else and there’s nothing more painful for me than to be at odds with you. If I have to lose everything, if I find myself in the greatest danger, I can bear whatever happens to me, as long as you’re all right. I love the children very much, since you’re fond of me. Everything’s yours. This is what Paul advises, when he says that a man doesn’t choose what to do with his body, his wife does. If I don’t have control even over my own body, but you do, how much more is everything else yours?’.
And he continues: ‘Never talk prosaically, but with kindness, honour and a great deal of love. Honour her and she won’t find herself in the position of needing to seek it elsewhere. She should be first in your estimation in all things: in beauty, in good sense, and in someone to praise. You should make it clear that you enjoy her company and that you’d rather stay at home with her than go into town. You should prefer her over all your friends, even over any children she’s given you and whom you love for her sake’.
Saint John also writes: ‘Where there is a man and a woman and children, concord and friendship, and where they’re linked by the bonds of virtue, there, in the midst, is Christ’ (On Genesis, PG 54, 616).