Cultivating Relationships with Family and Friends
Last month, we reflected on how fruitful it has been for us to be intentional about how we spend our time together as newlyweds. Getting into a daily routine that helps focus on our own relationship, as well as our relationship with God, has given us the chance to really savor these first few months of married life. This month, though, we’re back to talk about the need to be intentional about cultivating our relationships with friends and family during this time as newlyweds!
It is tempting, after just getting married, to want to spend all of one’s time with their new spouse. We felt this pull so strongly – we were finally married after waiting so long to be so. Couldn’t we just hole up inside our new home and focus only on one another? We didn’t need to see family or friends or neighbors, right? Wrong. Every time I’ve felt that temptation, I remember a quote from Julie Rubio, in her book Family Ethics: “Sacramental love never simply stays at home…An intrinsically sacramental marriage will model and extend self-gift as a way of being, both inside and outside the family.”
We realized that it is precisely because of the great love we have for one another that we can’t simply stay home and keep it all to ourselves. This love that God has brought into being between us must also overflow outward to those around us. In marriage, a husband and wife form a new communion of persons – a community – which is called not to be closed in on itself, but rather open to inviting people in and letting the grace of the Sacrament flow out. While giving ourselves to one another is paramount, we can’t sacrifice making a gift of ourselves to those around us as well.
Karl Rahner, a 20th century Jesuit theologian, spoke strongly and beautifully of this when he said, “Marriage is not an act in which two individuals come together to form a ‘we,’ a relationship which they set themselves apart from the ‘all’ and close themselves against this. Rather it is the act in which a ‘we’ is constituted which opens itself lovingly precisely to the ALL.” And I’ve got to say, opening ourselves up to the “all” – to our family, our friends, and new work communities – has been so life-giving for our new marriage. Spending time with others has reminded us to not be self-centered, to pay attention to and try to aid the needs of those around us. It has reminded us to take time to celebrate not only the joys of our own lives, but the joys of those we love as well.
Spending time with others has also reminded us that we do not complete each other – we are not the end all and be all for the other person. God has made us to be ultimately fulfilled by Him, but also to be fulfilled by being in community with others, and that community consists of more than just our spouse. So over the past 2 months, we’ve made sure to say yes to those birthday party invitations for our nieces and nephews. We’ve said yes to that Labor Day Cookout gathering. We’ve said yes to meeting up with new colleagues from work. And while we can’t say yes to everything, naturally, and we do have to balance our own time as a couple, we’ve seen the beauty and joy that God has in store for our marriage so clearly when we’ve spent time in community with family and friends.