By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life
A fear I have about my column in OND goes something like this: One spouse reads my column and thinks I have written something that his/her spouse needs to read. This spouse takes OND and marches up to their beloved and says, “Here, you have to read what Krejci wrote in his column because he is talking about you!” I envision that this is not done by a spouse to point out to the other how “loving” or “caring” they are, but instead the person uses my column as leverage to get the other to change something about him or herself. And so, with some trepidation, I take up the next line covered by Pope Francis in “Amoris Latetia”: “Love is not jealous.”
This was a tough column to write because I have raised a topic but will be unable to give a clear answer for your marriage. I will share my thoughts about a particular type of jealousy but my concern, following the premise from the first paragraph, is that one spouse will think I am making a point that fits their marriage while their spouse will think what I write has nothing to do with it. The jealousy we will consider in today’s column is TIME.
Are you jealous of your spouse’s time spent away from you? I have heard many scenarios on this topic. Forgive my stereotyping but I have heard from couples’ concerns about the husband spending too much of his time hunting or fishing with his friends. I have heard about wives who spend too much time with friends working on hobbies or meeting for coffee. I have even heard wives and husbands who are jealous about the amount of time their spouse is spending in activities connected to their parish. I have been asked from time-to-time, “How much is too much time spent apart from each other?” I cannot give an answer that is exact. I cannot say that, outside of an 8-hour workday, spouses should be apart no more than an average of 32 minutes, or perhaps 1 hour and 20 minutes, or even longer (some people look for an answer that specific). The right answer depends on the couple. I do not mean how long will the couple “tolerate” being apart but rather what is in the mind of the couple when it comes to time.
Are you jealous of how your spouse spends their time? On one hand, we should be happy when our spouse is able to find satisfaction in catching their limit of 6 walleye (or sitting in a boat for hours without a nibble from anything larger than a sunny i.e. my fishing life). On the other hand if a spouse is doing this so many times this summer that you (and your children) are being neglected then shouldn’t you be concerned by this? How about the case of a wife golfing with her friends? We should be happy she enjoys the challenge of the golf course and relishes winning her women’s golf league. But what if she joins so many golf leagues that she is gone every day and/or night?
Jealousy is a form of envy which, according to Pope Francis, “... is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being.” If you think your spouse is spending too much time away from you, is this thought motivated by your envy of their happiness or is it motivated because you miss them? If one person in a marriage is repeatedly concerned about the amount of time the other spends away from the family, it needs to be addressed because concern can grow into frustration and even anger. When you address this I suggest you raise the topic but then, rather than “solving” the issue in one conversation, take time to pray about how you spend your time with and apart from each other.
I wonder how many readers are now thinking, “That’s it? That is all he can tell us about this complex situation!” I am sorry to say that this is as far as I can go because every marriage is unique and I am running out of space. For me to be able to give any specific answer you would have to give me a call and we would have to talk for some time to work through your specific situation. That is why I am recommending prayer be at the center of this conversation – give God a call and openly offer this topic to God and listen for his answer. It will come out of God’s love for you as husband and wife and you will take that love into your marriage and find your answer.