In the early part of Pope John Paul II's catechesis on the Book of Genesis and Christian marriage that we know as the Theology of the Body, he discusses the concept that he refers to as "original solitude." If you read the second creation account closely and dig a little deeper into the original Hebrew you will find that before Eve, Adam was referred to as "man." Afterward, he was referred to as "male" (is) and Eve was respectively referred to as "female" (issa).
"Solitude has two meanings: one deriving from man's very nature, that is, from his humanity. . .and the other deriving from the relationship between male and female. . ." (Papal Audience, October 10, 1979)
We need to find our identity in our own person as well as in our relationship with others, particularly our spouse.
All too often in any relationship we tend to pull our identity solely from our significant other, in other words only from that second meaning of solitude derived from our relationship with others. This happens for most often in "young love" when couples spend excessive amounts of time with one another and just can't bear to be apart. Teens are notorious for this.
This can happen with spouses too, especially when kids come around. Spending time with your spouse is essential, but if you never take some time for yourself you can't be the best spouse possible. We need time to recharge and find our identities away from our spouses so that we can come to them with the qualities that they fell in love with in the first place.
"Thus, the created man finds himself from the first moment of his existence before God in search of his own being, as it were; one could say, in search of his own definition; today one would say, in search of his own 'identity.'" (Papal Audience, October 10, 1979)
3 Ways to Find Constructive Personal Time Away from Your Spouse
1) Go to a coffee shop and read. This is a great way to feel like a grown-up and get a little time to yourself. Find a good book. Read it and reflect. If you are a mom, take Lisa's book (or books!) with you. The handbook is a great programmatic way to reflect on various areas of your life.
2) Work out. Go on a run or head to the gym. I have done some of my best thinking while doing a little exercise. You'll feel healthier and feel better about yourself. This will pay off big-time when you're with your spouse.
3) Go to daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, Reconciliation, or some other devotional practice in a sacred place. Taking time for personal ritual prayer is a great way to find yourself and connect with God. There are so many ways we can make this personal connection "before God." If you have little kids like me, you need some time to pray in solitude without chasing little kids in the pews or holding crying babies. Find some alone time with God. Jesus did it all the time.
One final note: Try not to make work your only asylum. All too often we make our work our escape from our spouse and family. I truly believe we should be passionate about our work, but don't let your work be the only think that defines you. Who you are is not always about what you do for a living. How you do it, though, is much more important.
Copyright 2012 Jared Dees
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