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Dear Jil, I want you to be sensitive in your marriage. It’s the seeming lack of sensitivity that is causing the problems you have in your marriage. Of course, you’re not a selfish person. Forgive your husband for saying that in anger. He ought to have been careful about what he said. He’s going through some tough time in his business. You need to be sensitive about that. To his credit, he’s still meeting all the obligations at home, though he sometimes strains himself. Of course, he knows you’ve been a solid partner, picking up the slacks, doing your bit quietly. He knows you’re understanding, fundamentally. And that’s good.

However, there’s that sensitivity thing. It’s about right demands and right moments. If you’re ill for example it will be highly insensitive of him to demand sex. It’s a wrong demand given the circumstances. And if you’re grieving over a relative it will be insensitive of him to ask you to come to a party. Those two demands are in themselves quite legitimate but they’re wrong because of the circumstances. So there’s the right moment to make legitimate demands in marriage. When legitimate demands are made at wrong moments in marriage they come off as uncaring and insensitive. The Philosopher said there’s a time for everything. We must make demands at the right moment in marriage. You have to be sensitive to what’s going on in your partner’s life. There are things which are legit but which sound frivolous in wrong circumstances.

So when we talk about understanding in marriage we’re not just talking about knowing your partner. Understanding in marriage also includes exercising judgment and discretion. If he’s having a tough time financially for example, that’s hardly the time to ask for summer vacation. If you do, you come across as insensitive and unserious, someone unable to appreciate the circumstances of life. And there’s a reason he married you. He was counting on your maturity. Both of you must be sensitive to each other’s circumstances, to each other’s emotional state. These things matter in marriage. Your job in those low moments of his is simple comfort, not aggravation. It is hardly the time to pick a quarrel over a trifling, and it’s hardly the time to find fault over the mundane. For marriage to succeed parties must be absorbent of each other’s imperfections. It’s those imperfections that make the compelling case for love in marriage.

Love is not just emotional titillation. There is the dutiful responsibility of love as well. Unlike our modern culture where we tend to use the word love, univocally ancient Greeks stratified the definition of love. Ancient Greeks understood the definition of love in terms of responsibilities and configurations of relationship. So they had a term for friendship love, another for parental love, for sexual love, and for love of the gods. The word “Philadelphia” came from the Greek stratification of love. It means “brotherly.” The word erotic came from the Greek word “eros,” which refers to sexual love. The Greek word for parental love was “storge.” And the word for love of the gods was “agape.”

All the four ancient Greek definitions of love come into play in marriage. There’s friendship love in marriage. It’s why you go to movies together, play together, chat together. There’s parental love in marriage. It’s why you take care of each other. It’s the love of care and protection. There’s of course erotic love in marriage. It’s what governs sensuality, sex. It’s eroticism. But then there’s the love of the gods called agape. It’s unconditional love. The whole concept about agape is that the gods are so far removed from us they’re unmoved by what we do. The agape type of love is very critical in marriage. It’s being able to accept people despite themselves. And so all four Greek notions of love have to be present in a marriage if it’s to succeed. There has to be care, friendship, sex and unconditional acceptance in marriage. Those are the four loves. And so in his difficult moments what’s required of you is the love of a parent. Just care. You don’t focus on yourself at those moments. When those things pass you can return to status quo. If he snaps at you in those moments or if he’s uncommunicative, don’t get angry. Just switch to accepting love. When he’s so down you can also apply the principle of friendship love. Make offers to make him happy. Whatever you do calls for judgment. You have to be able to make determinations as to appropriateness. It has to be all about him at those moments, not you. And he’ll appreciate that. If the table were flipped and he’s on the other side, I’ll expect him to do the same for you. It is these sort of things that bind couples to together. A lot depends on judgment and discretion. You have to exercise wisdom in marriage, know when to make demands and when not to make demands. But if you make unreasonable demands you’ll create a character portrait of yourself that’s not flattering.

Given the foregoing I think you should make amends. You made mistakes. Wise couples amalgamate their strength in crisis, they don’t fight each other. They leverage each other’s potency. Marriage is the supply of that which is missing in the other party in order to create greater value. Marriage is a potent partnership. When that partnership is leveraged, incredible things follow. Just go and comfort him. Just be there for him. Let him know he can count on you. Sincere and honest friendship has no ending. In trying to be husband and wife don’t forget to be friends. I wish you the strength of unity.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

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Tags : Peace, Appreciation, Understanding, Sensitivity, Selfishness

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