One rule guides the way that I love my wife. It is an extension of Christ’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself”. But it combines that commandment with the spiritual concept that “two shall become one”, to help elevate Christ’s words in a mystical way for marriage. Here’s the rule:
“However I love my spouse, I love myself.”
An inevitable corollary of the rule is also helpful:
“However I diminish my spouse, I diminish myself.”
Two became one. I am her. She is me. How I treat her is how I treat myself. Psychologists observe that when one spouse attacks, betrays or neglects the other, the latter will often ask, “How could you do this to us?” They assert that the unified whole—the “two become one”, the “one flesh”—has been attacked, and not just the individual person. Marriages blur the distinction between spouses, who then see the relationship as if it were its own entity, its own being. They stop thinking in terms of where husband ends and wife begins because marital love has a unifying force so strong that a new identity is born.
So observational experience backs up the idea of this one rule of marriage. Let’s first look at at the corollary of the rule (the ‘diminish’ version) to see all these ideas apply to my view of my beloved.
Examples of the corollary of the rule
I diminish myself whenever I diminish my wife. So here’s how the corollary of the rule works to put me in check during times of interpersonal friction:
If I yell at her for a perceived fault, I am yelling at the part of our marriage that I failed to secure against adversity.
If I tear her down for some perceived misgiving, I become rubble myself because I cannot be steady without her support.
If I am disappointed in her because I have been let down, I only fall into the chasm of pride that opens below me.
If I don’t assist her with chores, I’ve placed a burden on our household that will eventually crush me.
If I stop listening to her needs, then it is I who have grown deaf, unable to hear how she wants to be freed to love me.
I can choose to view her as fully separate from me when something bad happens, but I can never escape the result of attacking the person who loves me, which is to create another crack, another fault, by which the relationship might crumble. And my relationship cannot crumble without myself crumbling with it.
I don’t live just to avoid the repercussions of being a bad husband, though. This is The Marriage Abbey, and the fullest gifts of marriage are available when our spiritual nature is elevated. I try to see things with spiritual eyes and not just emotional ones. I see myself as her. I see all my actions toward her as directed back to me, not just putting myself in her place through empathy, but in treating us as one being. That elevation of who we are—that two become one idea—drives home the idea of empathy but it cuts out all wiggle room in thinking I can dismiss her for even a moment. It removes the sense that we could go unscathed from any surly attack on her character. To put it succinctly:
If I yell at her, I am yelling at myself.
If I harshly accuse her of wrongdoing, I myself am in reception of guilt.
If I scold her, I myself stand in reproach.
If I am disappointed in her, I stand unworthy of all things.
If I place a heavy load on her shoulders, I myself am crushed.
If I neglect her, it is I who have fallen into disrepair.
I refuse to accuse her of evil. More critically, I refuse to entertain a thought of her as evil in any way, for thinking evil about someone, as Christ insists, is equivalent to causing them evil. Katie and I may strongly disagree with each other, we may call out the foolishness of a proposed plan, and we may let frustration spill from our lips. But seeing her as anything less than good is out of the equation immediately.
So this is how I carry my cross in marriage: to place myself in the way of my malice. And this is how I sow peace: to take the blow of my own anger. And that’s why I believe this mindset provides “the one rule of marriage”: I am trying to be Christ Crucified in my marriage so my marriage can then live in the glory of Christ Resurrected.
And we’ll investigate this “resurrected” side in future posts. In the next post on “The One Rule”, we’ll see a snapshot of one night’s unexpected application of the rule. Then we’ll return to see how the rule, used positively, places marriage on a trajectory of ever-increasing joy.