In Lesson Three we treated the five "a's" of vices/sins: artificial contraception, abortion, adultery, abuse and abandonment. We purposely separated the sixth "a", which is addiction, because it is not necessarily a mortal sin whereas the other five are. Addiction can become a mortal sin, but it more readily begins as a venial sin and builds. Often an addiction can be something that slowly but surely strangles a marriage, like a deadly vineweed that wraps itself around either the husband or wife and can choke the love out of the marriage, extinguish the flame of family love.
We know because we almost fell into this deadly trap. And believe us, it is a clever trap that lucifer lays. Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. It can be television. Oh, that is a great one for causing the chasm to widen between husband and wife. We call it satan's tabernacle for it truly is. How many countless couples sit for hours and hours and hours passively watching TV. Think of the lost moments, hours, days, years wasted through this vast wasteland. Consider how communications breaks down. At first, when a couple is newly married, TV programs are to share and they are the exception rather than the rule, but after awhile the siren of the boob tube lures them apart. Sometimes the wife gets hooked on soaps, the husband on evening programs, staying up later and more isolated. And what are they watching? Probably not Mother Angelica and her excellent EWTN that's for sure! It seems today everyone has cable. Why? Because they can get 200 channels. What, on God's green earth are we going to do with 200 channels? The answer is live vicariously through the virtual reality of what they see on the screen.
Don't believe it? Examine your conscience. How many PG-13 and R rated movies have you watched? How many senseless, witless, very, very offensive sit-coms have you sat through? How many must-see-TV dramas where family virtue and fidelity is a thing of the past; as many are fond of saying, this isn't Ozzie and Harriet Nelson anymore. It's too bad. At least those early shows had substance, upheld family values and morals, confronted problems and always resolved them in the right way. But who wants to watch black and white prehistoric TV when you can have digital, surround sound car chases, explicit violence, steamy sex and every profanity known to man? Oh, satan is indeed having a field day and we're puddy in his hands.
What's the answer? Easy. Ask yourself, would Jesus and Mary sit with you and watch it. If you can say 'yes' then by all means enjoy what you're watching. But 95% of the time, if you're honest with yourself, you're going to say 'no.' When you do, then change the channel, or better yet, turn it off and turn to your spouse or children and strike up a conversation. Take a walk, go for a drive, play a board game, conceive of something different to do for variety. That can be the spice of life rather than watching spice on TV. To do the former will enhance the aroma of a holy marriage and loving family; to fall prey to the latter will only result in making marriage and family life taste bitter.
In our own case, we made the mistake of allowing the television to serve as a babysitter. Nothing separates family faster than built-in passive entertainment. In the early years, though we spent much quality time with our sons, we didn't spend enough, depending on the TV to keep them content while we kept ourselves busy with this and that, often noble projects, but not at the expense of letting family togetherness slip away. We thought we were sheltering them from the world, the flesh and the devil, but, in truth, we were unknowingly paving the way for the evil one by not monitoring fully what they watched. There is an old saying, "How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree. (Paris)?" How do you teach abstinence, moderation, a clean mouth, respect for authority, etc. when what they're being exposed to something that teaches just the opposite? And we were homeschooling them, thinking they were protected!!!
As closely as they were guarded the world has still affected them, but though they are in the world, they realize they are not of the world for thankfully their Faith is strong and they know right from wrong. They need to make their own mistakes, but if they have their priorities right, then the mistakes will not be ones that can ruin a life such as violating the virtue of chastity. Yet they have the same temptations every other teen does and we can only turn to Heaven and ask God and His Guardian Angels to protect them and guide them.
That's where nurturing and prayer come in. This series is not a compendium on how to raise children for each child is different and we are far from being experts in perfect parenting. There is a happy medium that must be reached. You cannot shelter them from the world for they need to know what is out there, but at the same time parents need to rein in their offspring. Parents need to establish at an early age the assurance in their children's mindset that they will always provide what they need, but not necessarily what they want. Parents need to make prayer part of the family life day in and day out; not mandatory prayer, but willing, loving prayer where nurturing takes place because the children are taught from the earliest age - many times while still in the womb - that God is very much an integral part of the family unit. He is family! To foster this nurturing, all couples need to shed addictions that would interfere.
That is why the sixth "a" - addiction can sometimes be far more destructive than the other five evil "a's" because it undermines in such a subtle way. Couples can deal with the other five because they are so extreme, but addiction comes in all colors, shapes, sizes. The word "addiction" has the connotation of drugs and/or alcohol. While these substances are a reality and true addictions, there are also many others that can effect a marriage. As we said earlier, not all addictions are necessarily evil, but may well fall into the category of character faults, of which we all participate.
Let's begin with these "character flaws" or human failings and faults to which we are subject due to Original Sin. One of the things that can destroy a marriage, when, in truth, it should lift the marriage into the mystical realm are those character flaws and human failings each partner brings into the marriage.
God knows exactly who we are, with all of our flaws. He knows our humanity. He knows every inch of us, especially those things which we are not conscious of, or which, through pride, we deny and hide in the recesses of our hearts and souls. This is one of the primary reasons He joins together a man and a woman within the bonds of Holy Matrimony, for the virtues as well as the flaws of each partner are to compliment and strengthen the other, while ennobling both.
For example, one might be better equipped to handle financial matters, while another might be gifted in the various works of keeping a house together - a handyperson if you will. It is not possible in this day and age to say that one person might do better in the workforce than the other, for today the vast majority of all marriages see both the husband and the wife in the workplace which ultimately takes a toll on the unit of the family. Thus satan makes his entrance into the mystical state. Both husband and wife bring their individual talents and skills to the marriage, and both bring their physical, emotional, and virtuous shortcomings to the union.
It is within these very weaknesses that the couple can find addictions, ones realized and those that are not.
The obvious addictions start in the workplace. Both husband and wife may be too dedicated to their particular job. Or, if only one is so dedicated, the partner is left alone, fending for his or her self. As an example, say the husband's job is very demanding. He may even have to travel for a large part of the year. This preoccupation with work, whatever the job may be, leaves the wife to be the sole caregiver in the household to the children, and to herself. In this instance, it is all too possible for the husband to become more and more entwined in work, in his business acquaintances, etc., while the wife, feeling the absence of her husband, becomes either withdrawn, concentrating on the children in being both father and mother to them, or feelings of resentment both to her husband and ultimately the children whom she begins to view as a burden rather than blessing. This has its repercussions in the family particularly when the children get older and need to be influenced by their father. In a case such as this it is possible that the wife dominates the home to such a degree that the husband, not realizing his preoccupation with his work, returns to his home and feels shut out from the family unit due to his own "addiction" to work, and the wife's "addiction" to the children.
Also, in such a case as described above, the wife may have no outlet for her own needs. Who is her emotional support? She may not realize that she is depending on the children for all of her emotional needs, thus denying herself the proper care and emotional depth she deserves, which is the role of her husband. The husband, seeing himself as the breadwinner by his zealousness, his addiction to work, relies solely on the job for his outlet, and seeks his wife's emotional embrace only superficially, and their mutual love becomes more of a biological need, rather than the fullness of Conjugal Love that God intends in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. The wife, in this scenario, may also take up an outside-the-home activity that provides an emotional outlet, an adult interaction, rather than the constant interaction particularly with young children. Perhaps she belongs to some type of club, perhaps one at church, or one that her neighborhood provides for stay-at-home-moms. Perhaps, too, the children become active at an early age in extra curricular activities, and mom is the person who takes the kids from one place and game to another, making friends with other moms in the same position, thus providing adult contact, exclusive of her husband.
Is this right? Of course not! Yet, we believe it is right because it is the standard of society. Often times this acceptance by society and the fragile nature of the couple's relationship can lead to the temptations of an affair. That can't be ruled out when a person is feeling rejected or unloved. In those cases when the bud is bruised and the tree is gloomy both are susceptible to the lures of where they think the grass is greener. Both husband and wife are ripe for this deadly trap and often use the excuse, "he doesn't understand me" or "she doesn't care." That is a red-flag to a marriage and an open signal to those willing to seduce.
These are the extremes, but often it is the little things that can be just as destructive in the long run.
What are some of these other types of addictions? For instance, the husband may be too addicted to sports. He may be home regularly, but on those occasions, TV dominates the household, rules the household, and the family life must revolve around the TV set, and not the unity of family as God intended. The wife, too, may become addicted to TV, and both father and mother might rely too heavily on TV to "entertain" to "baby-sit" the children while the parents do the normal work that was not done at the proper time during the day. In all cases, anything that interrupts the harmony of the marriage, anything that leads the couple into isolated scenarios, that puts stress on the relationship, is an addiction, and it must be dealt with if the couple are to enter into the unitive way of mystical marriage that Our Lord desires of all Whom He has called to this state of life.
Alcohol or drugs definitely are a major obstacle that block the charisms of Conjugal Love. So are excessive emphasis on job, looks, sports, television, hobbies, hang-ups, even politics. In other words any obsessive behavior of any type can be destructive. This can even be habits the husband or wife have that bug the other. If they cannot communicate lovingly, candidly and often, then the littlest things - the molehills become mountains. From squeezing the toothpaste to throwing clothes on the floor; from taking too much time getting ready to snoring; from interrupting to one-upping the other; from uncharitable remarks to quirks; all of these can build to a crescendo of resentment and gradually, like terrifying termites, eat away at the foundation of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage until the walls come tumbling down.
Husband and wife must also guard against allowing the children to come between them. This can happen by favoring one over the other or pitting child against the other parent. This is easier than you think. Consider an argument between a couple. Often times, because of emotions, care is not taken to hold these heated "discussions" behind closed doors. Therefore the kids hear the fighting and naturally take sides. Even afterwards there can be problems because the children can use these arguments to "blackmail" a parent into loving them and thereby they begin to manipulate their parents, sometimes consciously, often times subconsciously. While many say money is the cause of many arguments, the end result is the damage to each other and the empowerment of the children in dictating selfish ways the family goes. If these are the cause of a chasm between husband and wife, then the couple is compelled to seek the proper help from God so that He may free them from addictions so their love may be purified.
There is so much more that can be written about addictions. We have mentioned just a few. Search your own hearts and do all you can to weed your matrimonial garden of these deadly weeds.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Five: Nobody's Perfect