Independence or interdependence?

| Kate Soucheray | July 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Catholic Marriage support

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In modern marriage, there seems to be so much emphasis on independence, and yet, the foundation of a Catholic marriage is interdependence, which in many ways, is a reflection of our dependence on God. This can be seen in the concept of mutuality, which in marriage and family therapy is defined as showing empathy, support and like-mindedness with our spouse. The concept of mutuality may be seen as the fulfillment of the concept of “shalom” in the Jewish tradition.

Shalom, for our Jewish brothers and sisters, is the incidence of placing the needs of others ahead of our own and providing peace, or a sense of well-being, for others. It is the belief that unless we provide a sense of peace for family, friends and acquaintances, we will not have it, either. It is only when we provide for the sustenance and security of another that we ourselves receive it in return. In other words, we will not experience shalom when we know our spouse does not have it, as well.

In this sense, modern marriage is much more concerned with interdependence than independence. As the Second Vatican Council document “Gaudium et Spes” contends, marriage partners are to “become conscious of their unity and experience it more and more deeply from day to day.” In a modern, Christian marriage, spouses are to bring each other to holiness through the spirit of Christ. The purpose of one’s entire married life is to bring glory to God through faith, hope and charity. If children are borne of that union, the spouses are to raise them to be the living presence of Christ in the world.

In our increasingly individualistic yet constantly overly-connected world, the idea of bringing family members to greater holiness through the sacrament of marriage seems often not only foreign to us, but also counter-cultural. As we remembered Independence Day in the United States earlier this month, we were reminded of the individualistic nature of America’s colonists. They were known as hearty, rugged people who could fend for themselves and persevere, no matter the trials they faced, all on their own accord. And yet, as the documents of the Second Vatican Council demonstrate, such independence and ruggedness are not the vision of marriage at all. Rather, it is an enterprise in which one spouse leans on the other for support and sustenance, providing for their well-being in return, which creates a relationship of interdependence.

In this, the concept of interdependence creates not neediness, but rather a durable, well-supported society in which all members learn to give and take, so that ideally, everyone is provided for. Such a vision creates a bond of connection and love that permeates not only the marriage relationship, but also the entire framework of the family, thereby strengthening the unity and security experienced by each individual. This, then, is the foundation of a strong and resilient society: marriage relationships marked by interdependence and mutuality.

Such interdependence is not without its difficulties, for couples must overcome the hurts and frustrations often created by years of misunderstanding and negativity. A sense of trust must be formed and supported through the risk of leaning on each other and finding the other trustworthy. As “Gaudium et Spes” reminds us, such an attempt to develop a relationship of trust can only be attained through “unflinching effort under the help of grace.”

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul.

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Category: Simple Holiness