Alice Von Hildebrand, By Love Refined
That you found the idea of a spiritual treasure chest helpful makes me very happy, but I rejoice even more over your renewed readiness to sacrifice to perfect your love for Michael – even as you’re discovering how many sacrifices are called for in marriage.
Sometimes the possibilities for disagreement seem endless. Close as you are to each other, a cause of enjoyment for one of you may be boring or even unpleasant for the other. This is part of the deep drama of marriage: the constant call to “die to yourself” for the sake of your loved one.
You and I love Italian cuisine and, given a choice, we always prefer spaghetti all’italiana to hamburgers and french fries. Yet now you often cook American-style food just because Michael loves it. I know you take long walks with Michael when you’d prefer to stay home. I’m sure that to please you, he, too, often gives up a wish, such as going out with his male friends.
I’ve often found that when I adopt a loving attitude, I can discover in previously boring things the fascination that others find in them. You and Michael might try to learn from each other in this way so that you can come to share more interests.
When you fail, however, the only solution is sacrifice, which doesn’t at first seem appealing. Yet it’s strange how even seemingly trivial sacrifices can give unexpected joy and nurture love between two people. “God loves a cheerful giver,” says St. Paul, so when you do make a sacrifice like going to a baseball game with Michael (Is it such a sacrifice to be with the person you love most?), do it cheerfully so that no one will notice. Advertising sacrifices is a poor way to make them.
The sacrifices I’ve mentioned so far cause neither of you real harm. It doesn’t hurt you to watch baseball, just as it doesn’t hurt Michael to go to an art museum with you. There are, however, situations in which one person enjoys something that actually causes harm to another. A case in point is smoking. Suppose Michael smoked, and you (like me) were allergic to smoke: his behavior would hurt you. In such a case, he should give up his pleasure to avoid hurting you, because that must take absolute precedence over any purely subjective enjoyment he might receive from smoking (which is, of course, hurting him, too -but I won’t speak of that now).
Sometimes sacrifices come from spouses being together; sometimes they come from spouses having to be apart. I know very happy marriages in which husbands go fishing while their wives stay home or visit friends. I also know marriages in which the husband, because of his ardent love for his wife, doesn’t enjoy anything, if she isn’t present and would gladly renounce his favorite activities to be with her. You and Michael will have to use trial-and-error to find out how sacrifices can best serve love in your marriage.
You’ve already taken the most difficult step by realizing that every love calls for sacrifice. And I imagine you’ve discovered what a joy it is to sacrifice for the one you love!
I keep you in my prayers constantly,
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