Catholic men have millennia full of wisdom to guide us in the ways of treating our wives. There are at least 7 things you, as a Catholic husband, can do to be a good husband – and at least 3 things a great husband never does.
A faithful Catholic husband – or any Christian groom…heck, any at all – will consistently take steps towards these 7 staples of married life:
- Get her to Heaven.
- After God, she comes first.
- Nothing belongs to him.
- Actively seek ways to love.
- That love is jealous.
- That love seeks life.
- That love is sacrificial.
That same husband must ward against certain things, too. He must never:
- Be quick to anger.
- Wander and wonder.
- Miss Mass.
Succeed here, and your marriage will flower. Fail here, and you’re doomed. Except that you’re not. Trust me. I fail a lot.
Before we get too far into a discussion about being a great Catholic husband:
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It doesn’t get much more Catholic husband thing than this: Get her to Heaven.
Guess what, buckaroo? You have 5 actual jobs as a Catholic husband. And none of them have anything to do with bacon coming home. We are to know God, love God, and serve God (in this life and the next) (that’s 1-3). We are supposed to get to Heaven. And we are supposed to get our wife and kids to Heaven. Christ isn’t going to be holding a clipboard at the Judgment and be like, “Oh, I see you were busy paying for vacations and buying the right chicken nuggets. I forgive your absolute dereliction of duty when it comes to your soul and the souls of your family members. Come on in.”
So get her to Heaven. How? Start with your own interior life. Too many people worry about the outside world without first taking care of their interior life. A relationship with Christ must be the rotating force in your life. And Christ is found only in the mission given to the apostles and especially Peter. Rotate your life around prayer, service, and love. Then you will be able to serve your wife.
Can she get to Heaven without you? Does Darkwing Duck get dangerous? Of course. That’s why marriage is a sacrament. Sacraments are meant to convey Grace upon the recipients. Dude. Your wife? She is a grace that has been blessed to you. And (here’s the golden point) you are a grace blessed to her. Act accordingly.
God, Wife, then the rest.
Last night, I spoke without context and temporarily upset some of my children. I told them (in jest) that they were all expendable because I love their mom more than I love them. Then I said something like, “Well, you’re not expendable, of course. You’re treasure beyond treasure. But I do love mom more than I love you. And I hope and pray that you find husbands that love you more than they will love your children.”
She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed messaged me shortly thereafter (that is how we have private conversations when there are bite-sized ears around). Seeing with her heart while I saw with my brain, she told me that I may have hurt some of them. So I called all the half-pints back and explained.
“I love you each an incredible amount. I would gladly die to protect and defend you. But, hard as it might be to understand now, I love Mom even more. If, for example, I was ever faced with keeping a promise to one or all of you, and doing something that Mom needed me to do, I would choose Mom every single time. If I had promised to take you guys to the park, but Mom needed me to put the baby down, go to the store and then wash dishes, I would do it. I would probably bring you guys with me, so that at least we got to spend time together. And I want you to know that that is how a real man puts his family first: by putting his wife first. Before his needs and wants, before his kids, before everything except God.”
I want my daughters to fulfill their vocations. Whether those vocations are religious life, consecrated virginity, or finding a great Catholic husband, I’m fine. But, if they do end up getting married, that Catholic husband had better hold her above everything else this world has to offer.
“What’s mine is hers, and what’s hers in hers.”
My dad used to say this. I’ve heard many husbands say this. But I don’t like it. Not because it made my mother out to be a greedy and selfish person. My disdain was deeper.
The supposition is that spousal love is reciprocal in nature. I argue that it is not reciprocal in nature, but reciprocal in action. Because it isn’t love if I only love my wife back. Love is, without expectation, want or need of return.
“What’s mine is hers.” Full stop. By necessity of the industry I work in, I have my own Venmo and PayPal account that Beth has access to, but doesn’t ever check. And the insidious temptation towards secrecy presented by those two is elephantine. I usually combat it by immediately transferring money when clients pay for the month. But if the money sits there for whatever reason, I’m tempted (by books mostly, but also by video games) to spend it on myself. Most of the purchases I’m tempted to make would almost certainly be green-lighted by My Favorite and My Best, which makes all of this paragraph even more ridiculous.
All of that was to say this: I think joint accounts, joint car titles, joint mortgages, joint just-about-everything is best. And the things that aren’t jointly held should be accessible. Surprises can exist. But secrets should not. How can I be cleft to her – how can we be one – if one half doesn’t know what the other half is doing.
Catholic husbands seek her heart.
Get a million men together and hit them with truth serum (and maybe a memory serum, too). Ask them each if they dreamt of being some sort of dashing hero as a young boy. I hold that you could not even fill a movie theater with the men who did not dream such dreams.
And the really good fairy tales aren’t actually about a knight saving a princess from physical peril. They are about fulfilling an unreachable (by herself) heart’s desire. Our innate desire to fix things is not meant to abrase their innate desire to share their problems with us. The two are meant to fulfill each other. But us husbands too often get bent out of shape when our wives come to us with a problem and
What?! Seek her heart. She needs to know that we understand what’s going on. In my experience, she will likely ask for your advice eventually. But the love has to come first.
Gary Chapman’s love languages help here. But we have to remember to respond to her in her love language, not ours. After the kids make a mess all day, if she’s a Physical and you’re an Acts of Service, she’s going to be needing a hug while you’re cleaning up the mess. Trust me, she wants the mess cleaned up. But first she needs physical reassurance that you’re in her corner.
Jealousy is good.
Catholic husbands should be justly jealous.
I’m not talking about the kind of jealousy that sees lovers behind every work relationship. But we are created in the image of a perfectly secure, yet definitely jealous God. I am God’s son and God is my father. And when I willfully, lazily or ignorantly transpose my adoration for him with an undue love for anything else (food, money, affection of others, comfort, social activism, political party, church factions, anything), God is rightfully jealous.
I do not think, nor have I ever thought, that She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed has a wandering heart or eye. But every once in a while, I see someone who likes like a guy that (unbeknownst to either her or me) tried to take her out on a date while we were at a bar with some friends almost 2 decades ago. And my jealousy rises again. I am hers and she is mine. That bond rightfully brooks no interlopers.
The opposite is true, too. We must guard against intentional and unintentional interlopers. Being careful who you spend time with, what you share with them, where you spend that time, and what you let your mind and heart wonder about are all ways that we respect that our wives are rightfully jealous of us.
Catholic husbands love life.
Plainly spoke: real men choose life. What kind of limp-hearted, soul-crushing, manboy thinks that crushing a baby’s skull for any reason is OK? This isn’t even a logical point of debate. (But, just in case you somehow don’t understand this, you can go here.)
Catholic husbands love their wives to death.
I once thought that this meant to love her until one of you dies. Sure. It does. But that’s not “Love her to death” at its best and most meaningful. Followers of the Way. Ancient Jewish Death Cultists. Christians. We are called to love as Christ loved. His love was complete. Do it. Love her bravely. Fully. Lay everything down. Your dreams? Bye. Your comfort? Sayonara. Your money, days, nights, hobbies? Drop ’em.
Bro Diddley, Bro Diddley, don’t you fret. She’s gonna give them back, yet. But (see above) you can’t expect it to come back to you. Just give them up. Dying to your own wants and desires for love of her should be a reflection of the way you love Christ and his Church anyhow.
St. Joseph did exactly this, even to the point of such meekness in life and death, that we know very little about him. He gave up everything to orient his life towards giving his foster Son and Our Lady everything they needed to eventually launch Christ’s earthly mission. As husbands, in St. Joseph’s example, we are to be less worried about what we get done in our lifetime and more worried about what fruit we bear that will bless the world for lifetimes to come.
But that’s not it.
Don’t be quick to anger.
A rock thrown into a river can be tossed around, but it won’t wear out – at least not for millennia. But a river with a rock thrown into it doesn’t even notice. Be the river. Even when a rock large enough to change anything is dropped in the river and it changes rapidly, it settles back down. Sometimes we change course a bit, but we’re still moving toward the sea. Be the river. Not the rock. (Of course there are times to be a rock. But perfect metaphors don’t exist.)
And be much quicker to forgive. I have been known to wake up Beth to apologize for something. Although, nowadays, I’ll message her. Anger eats away at your soul and relationships. Don’t let it.
Don’t wander, and don’t wonder.
Your affection is for your wife alone. And your flights of imagination are for your wife alone. Allowing either to bubble up is only asking for trouble. Just don’t.
Don’t miss Mass.
“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit'” of our lives (CCC, 1324). And it, partially directly and partially indirectly, solves any shortcomings. Multiple times during Mass, we ask for expiation of our sins. And in order to receive the Eucharist, you must be in a state of grace (forgiven for any mortal sins). Therefor, if you’ve messed up on any of these things, you can start again.
Going to daily Mass for 3 years straight will expose you to almost the entire Bible (there are some numbers-heavy passages that don’t make the cut). Daily Mass refuses to let you stray too far. Also, coming before the altar of the Lord Sunday through Saturday makes you a better Christian, a better man, and thereby a better Catholic husband, father and citizen.
Ain’t none of us perfect. That’s for sure. But, by holding our selves against a perfect example, we can try to be better all the time.