From The Wife Desired, Fr. Kinsella, 1950’s
Part One is here.
If anyone still fails to see that personality goes hand in hand with doing and accomplishing things, acquiring abilities and virtues, let her consider the following fact. Most people are interested in those who have reached the top in their calling or profession.
When Babe Ruth visited a school, he had every boy jumping out of his shoes to see him. Why? Because the Babe had done things. He had played baseball as no one before or since. He was worth seeing at close range.
Why would any woman be flattered and excited over the prospect of a visit to her home by the women’s national figure skating champion or the leading Metropolitan tenor? In all likelihood for no other reason except that they have done things for which they have become interesting personalities.
Perhaps by this time a few objections have been forming, because this is being read critically even if with an open mind. What about all the celebrities who have been failures as wives? Have I said anything about celebrities?
All sorts of characters become celebrities these days. An heiress marries one Dilbert after another. She is a celebrity of a notorious sort, no doubt, and a miserable failure as a wife. I have been writing of interesting personalities who have accomplished things. This heiress has accomplished nothing.
And remember, that a well-rounded personality is only one of the points on which we are to insist as essential to the concept of the ideal wife. There can be no doubt, all things else being equal, that the girl with personality has a far better chance of succeeding as a happy and desirable wife.
Another might object that we are talking over the heads of most girls. After all, how many can be national figures skating champions? Only one at a time. How many have the voice and all the necessary favorable circumstances to become an opera star? Comparatively speaking, an infinitesimally small number.
The girl who developed her personality by learning to play a simple game of tennis did not become a national champion, but by learning to play a passable game of tennis she benefited her personality.
Very few girls are ever going to reach the top in anything. There is so little room up there. Indeed, it is better that a girl become adept at a number of things rather than to strive for supremacy in just one thing. In this way she has a much better chance of developing a well-rounded personality.
After reading the manuscript on personality a young wife expressed concern over her situation. Her husband was in Europe with the Armed Forces. He was doing things, seeing historical places. She was sitting at home cooped up in a little apartment with three small children. He was developing his personality; she was stagnating.
When she expressed herself I had no idea what her husband was doing. I did know what she was doing, and it was a heroic task of keeping the home fires burning. Valiant was the word for her during the long months of loneliness as she kept faith with her husband, her children, and herself. Because she suffered nobly the pain of those two years, she is a finer person today. Because she accomplished something worthwhile she developed her character and personality.
During the past year this wife has been reunited with her husband. They have made up for lost time and she is expecting. The new baby to be is their expression of gratitude to God for their reunion after so many months of separation and loneliness.
After the children are stowed away for the night this young couple generally watches some TV. When I dropped in on them one night, I was surprised not to see the usual darning needle whipping in and out of a sock. This evening she had before her a canvas partly covered with fresh paint. For the evening she was an amateur painter.
So young wives, and not so young wives, for that matter, need not stagnate at home, with or without their husbands. They can be, for example, amateur painters and have a lot of fun and relaxation in the effort.
No doubt there are a hundred better ways of developing personality than by learning to play tennis. A few simple examples like the ability to play tennis or bridge are given for the purpose of bringing this discussion of personality down to earth.
There is a lot of vague and mysterious verbiage bandied about in connection with the subject of personality. Our concern is to realize the simple fact, too much overlooked, that growth in personality comes only through doing worthwhile things, simple though they may be.
When I was stationed at an air base in the States during World War II, a young doctor came to me about his marriage troubles. He surprised me with the statement that he was thinking of divorcing his wife.
The doctor lived on the field with his wife and two children. Although my acquaintance with the family was mostly limited to the doctor and his work at the station hospital, I was surprised to hear of his difficulty. His wife was a beautiful woman. With evident pride he mentioned that she had won a beauty contest at a southern college.
He told me that at first he had thought that she was below par physically. Having found that she was in good physical condition he brought her to a psychiatrist. This move only strained their relationship all the more.
All his complaints seemed to stem, as he put it, from his wife’s lack of zest for life. “She seems to be interested in nothing. Oh, she is a faithful wife and devoted mother. She is attractive in her own delicate, pale sort of enervated way. But she will do nothing with me.”
He did not have to explain that the air base in Arkansas did not offer many opportunities for the type of life with which most of us were familiar. On his afternoon off from the hospital he would suggest that she come with him on a drive through the Ozarks. They could have dinner out and be alone. At least, they could escape the enervating heat and dust of the base. But she was not interested. She preferred to sit at home.
On a fine Sunday morning a few weeks later he might suggest that they take a stroll through the meadows and woods. They could pick some of the spring flowers. The two little girls would enjoy it even more.
No matter what the doctor would suggest they do together she still was not interested. She wanted to sit at home.
The only difference between some people at night and at day is that at night they lie down.
I do not know what happened to their marriage. Shortly after he talked to me I was transferred. Of course, I had tried to dissuade him from such a futile action as divorce. He admitted that he wanted to keep the marriage but he had a problem, and only she could solve it. Obviously, his wife was lacking sadly in personality.
Very likely she has retrogressed during their nine years of marriage. She had her husband, a promising young doctor. She was secure, so she sat back on her sofa and existed.
Happiness tends to spread itself. The best explanation for God’s creation of the human race is the happiness of God. He needed nothing, wanted nothing, but He was so happy that He flowed over into the creation of man. He desired someone to share His happiness with Him.
With us it certainly is true that joy bubbles over. A boy hears of a circus coming to town. A girl on the inside track with teacher hears of an unexpected free day. Both can hardly contain themselves till they tell their friends, till they spread their happiness over the good news.
A young man receives a raise in pay. He does not fall asleep on the way home from work that evening. He is anxious to rush into the house and break the good news to his wife and see in her eyes the joy which he has brought about.
People who reach outside themselves are happy people. Selfish people are unhappy people. There can be no doubt that selfishness leads to loneliness and unhappiness.
The girl who develops her personality sidesteps the pitfall of selfish introversion. The girl with personality does things and with other people. She expresses herself in her various hobbies, avocations,and accomplishments. She has opened up and blown off, as we say. Wonderful tonic psychologically.
The self-seeking person withdraws usually in self-pity inside herself like a clam. “Poor little me. The world does not like me, so I’ll hide within myself.” The world does not dislike her. It does not know that she exists. She flatters herself, if she thinks it does. (Notice that the person who does nothing tends to develop just the opposite of the virtue of humility.) She never gave the world a chance to know her.
How else except she do things could the world get to know and love her?
The selfish and begrudging person is unhappy because she is all wrapped up in herself. She has only her poor, little, empty self, a very insufficient source of happiness. Because she is unhappy with herself, she fails to bring happiness to her husband. She does not like to mix with people, even her husband’s friends and business associates. A wife of this type is no asset to her husband.
The outgoing and generous woman is happy because she has forgotten about herself. She is interested in other things and persons. Other people are interested in her. Remember that happy people spread their happiness.
The happy wife brings happiness to her husband. He loves to be in her presence because he is happy there. She fascinates her husband for the simple reason that those who make the effort to reach outside of themselves fascinate everybody.
The self-centered woman, lacking in personality, is a problem to her husband. The husband stupid enough to marry one will as a rule not have the intelligence, to say nothing of the patience, to be a child psychologist. That is what he has to be to deal with his wife.
The self-serving woman takes a few quick looks at the world, finds it very frightening, and pulls back into her shell. She might have a pretty shell, though, well-fashioned by God and pleasing to the eye of man. Her future husband becomes infatuated with this beautiful shell. He thinks that he is in love with her.
That could not be, because this blushing little creature is so far back in her shell that he could not possibly know her, and not knowing her, he could not possibly love her.
Oh, yes, he is infatuated with her shell. But it takes some shell to keep a man infatuated over the years. As usual, the infatuation soon wears off: and then our Dilbert begins to lose interest. The wife never comes out of her shell and does things.
She never develops her personality. So, when Dilbert looks hopefully beyond her shell, he finds nary a thing there. There is no inner beauty within that body which I have been calling her shell.
The selfish and begrudging woman has little beauty of soul, little personality.
How these girls expect to hold the interest of their husbands is not at all clear. Certainly not just by inhaling and exhaling which any chimpanzee or chipmunk can do. Soon she becomes a dead weight in the life of her disillusioned husband.
“Keep a hobby and ride it with enthusiasm. It will keep you out of mischief, to say the least; it will keep you cheerful. Here as in all things you can apply the Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (for the greater glory of God).” – Fr. Lasance, My Prayer Book
You see, we don’t marry Prince Charming and live happily ever after. We are humans and we have faults….many faults….Both of us, husband and wife. It takes consistent effort to make a good marriage. Every day, every hour, every minute, we need to be thinking the right thoughts, praying the right prayers, listening to the right people and doing the right things…
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