What to Look For in a Wife

In this, our enlightened modern age, physical beauty is the lodestar of romance. Everyone aspires to be trim, botoxed and ‘beautiful’. Men are looked up to for having many romances. But it’s a fools errand – for it is only passion which sees physical beauty and that lasts but a month or two, “but then no longer. Familiarity wastes away the admiration.” For then the sad lover is back to the beginning, looking for love in physical beauty, not in the “beauty of the soul.” St. John Chrysostom speaks to the root of this folly. If you want to live a great life, a joyful life, and enjoy a true love that will last a lifetime and grow deeper with age, “seek instead for beauty of soul”.

“Praise her, but not for her beauty. Praise and hatred and love based on physical beauty belong to unchaste souls. Seek instead for beauty of soul. Imitate the Bridgegroom of the Church. Outward beauty is full of conceit and great license…But has it any pleasure? For the first or second month, perhaps, or at most for the year, but then no longer. Familiarity wastes away the admiration. Meanwhile the evils which arose from the beauty still abide, the pride, the folly, the contemptuousness. But in one who is not this way, there is nothing of this kind. Since the love began on just grounds, it remains ardent; its object is beauty of soul, and not of body.

Tell me what is better than heaven? What is better than the stars? Tell me of what body you will, yet is there none so fair. Tell me of what eyes you will, yet are there none so sparkling. When these were created, the very angels gazed with wonder, and we gaze with wonder now – yet not in the same degree as at first. Such is familiarity; things do not strike us in the same degree. How much more in the case of a wife!

Let us seek in a wife affection, modesty, gentleness; these are the characteristics of beauty. But let us not seek loveliness of person, or upbraid her upon these things, over which she has no power. Rather, let us not upbraid at all (it is rudeness), neither let us be impatient or sullen. Do you not see how many, after living with beautiful wives, have ended their lives pitiably, and how many, who have lived with those of no great beauty, have run on to extreme old age with great enjoyment. Let us wipe off the “spot” that is within, let us smooth the “wrinkles” that are within, let us do away the “blemishes” that are on the soul. Such is the beauty God requires. Let us make her fair in God’s sight, not in our own…

Show her that you set a high value on her company, and that you would rather be at home by her side than in the marketplace. And honor her before all your friends, and above the children who are born of her, and love these very children for her sake. If she does any good act, praise and admire it; if any foolish one, such as girls may chance to do, advise her and remind her…

If any poverty overtake you, cite the case of those holy men, Paul and Peter, who were more honored than any kings or rich men; and yet how they spent their lives in hunger and in thirst. Teach her that there is nothing in life that is to be feared but offending God. If any marries this way, with these views, he will be hardly inferior to monks; married, but little below the unmarried.

From Husbands, Love Your Wives, a homily by St. John Chrysostom. As copied from The Father’s of the Church by Mike Aquilina

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