I am Costanza Miriano, I’m married and mother of four children.
I graduated in Greek and Latin literature and I currently work as a journalist for Rai (Italian public television). I also write for newspapers as a free lance about family, education, love relationships and I cooperate with the Pontifical Council for the Laity. My blog had more than three million contacts in two years.
I wrote two books, Sposati e sii sottomessa e Sposala e muori per lei (“Marry Him and Be Submissive” and “Marry her and die for her”) which have sold around 70.000 copies in Italy (a very good number for Italian standards) and have been translated in several languages: Spanish, French, Portoguese, Polish and Slovenian by now. They had sixteen reprints. A very good review of my first book appeared on the first page of L’Osservatore Romano (the Holy See Official Newspaper).
About “Marry Him and be submissive”
It is a collection of letters addressed to my friends, mostly female friends, regarding differences between men and women, engagement, marriage, family life, openness to life, having children, raising children, experiencing sex as a gift from God.
Such letters may look funny (in some bookshops my books are placed in the humour section) but the content is very serious: it is the thought of the Church, actually. The title of the book is inspired by the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.
Women should try to be submissive, writes Paul. I think it means they have to be open, warm and patient. This is not a weak attitude but on the contrary as women are strong and stable, welcoming and easygoing, they are capable of creating good relations with people. Women who are profoundly connected to their nature are truly happy and can give birth to a new life, whether in a biological or spiritual way.
About “Marry Her and Die for Her”
It is a playful reflection on the differences between men and women, the different languages they speak, the different ways they think (a man does just one thing at a time, women so many!). Whereas women tend to take control of the relationship (which is the point they have to work on), men tend to be selfish, to doze off on the couch and they don’t pay attention to what women say.
The woman should be a mirror for his man, she should give him a beautiful idea of himself, encourage him and show him all the possible good so that he can find the strength to give up his life for her and for the children.
As men usually do not like to get any advice, especially from their wives, at the end of each chapter you will find a sort of gift to give to your man to make him understand the message of the chapter: being a real man, being authoritative, being a good father, being courageous.
I receive something like one invitation a day to go all around Italy to talk about these issues: I cannot go everywhere, but I have met thousands of people and I have received hundreds of letters saying that after reading my books they started a new life with their man or woman and now they love each other more than before. Some of them have decided to get married, others not to divorce or to have one more baby.
A chapter of Costanza Miriano‘s book ” Sposati e sii sottomessa – [Woman] Get married and be submissive” translated into English
I had intended to come to your wedding with a beautiful letter for you – Holy Cow, I am the maid of honor! I’m amongst the first characters in the closing credits, the time has come for me to take the scene and to come prepared. At your wedding, at least, since to my wedding, spiritually well-prepared as I was, I was (not) combed and made up, like always – apart from a white eye-shadow that my sister had forced me to buy – and late, as I had gone for a run two hours earlier, and taken by an unstoppable burst (fit) of laughter and cheerfulness that didn’t turn exactly out in me being at my best in the some ten pictures uncle Gianfranco remembered to shoot.
If nothing else, you had Guido wear his tie, a really considerable undertaking. “Why did you wear your cape?”, Lavinia asked his father, disconcerted by this fresh article of clothing. The rest of the family, on the other hand, arrived stylistically unprepared to the princely event of your nuptials; I didn’t find the time to write to you, nor had I provided a flawless outfit for me or for the kids, who, God knows why, are always stained with chocolate, with one shoe untied, pants which happen to be too long or too short, and a torn sock showing a peeping bruise on the knee. Anyway, tattered and ragged as we are, the six of us all came there, and on time even, as I had to sit next to you. It was a celebration full of divine grace and precious hints, even if my girls will especially remember it for your lace train worthy of a local Cinderella, our unbeaten fashion icon.
From that day onwards, I can hear them whispering to each another, “This is for when my prince comes and marries me,” while they give out plastic tiaras and earrings. To be honest, the boys especially remember that fatal day because that was the day of the Roma F.C. vs. Sampdoria soccer game, which cost the “maggica” the Premier League Championship that year. What can you do with them? They are male, the basic model. Despite it, they are not rednecks, at least not yet. Bernardo is a model student, he can’t get less than an A at school, a little soldier always ready to carry out orders. Tommaso, a little less precise (at home he’s also known as the drain man), the other year, i.e. in the fourth grade, had called me at night to ask me when the Teheran Conference was held – a historical episode totally unknown to me, as the latest historical fact I knew was the fall of the Western Roman Empire. And, a few evenings ago: “Mom, what is dialectic materialism? I’m calling Dad if you’re not sleeping now” – I tried to scare him while I frantically browsed the Philosophy section of the encyclopedia or the History handbook that I learned to keep close at hand, together with the fundamentals – like the West wing DVDs or mother Speranza’s novena – ever since I began perceiving my flawless ignorance (a Flaiano quote). If I catch him in front of the Pc, it’s easier for me to find him reading news on the Visigoths than playing Texas Hold’em. But, belonging to the male gender, he also has an almost universal taint. His brain turns dumb when he sees a rolling ball. I know men who can be defined as normal, even as special as the one I married, that undergo a mutation at the starting whistle of a game and they instantly turn without batting an eyelid, from the violent films of Sam Peckinpah to La Signora in Giallorosso – a talk show on a local Rome tv -, from a re-reading of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot to Big Mario’s radio, losing any restraint. I’m only telling you, so that you can get ready, as you took one of the same species for yourself, and not for a weekend getaway, but for all of your life, until death do you part. Exactly because of this, I really care about giving you my real wedding gift, much more precious than the other one, the one that arrived on time, at least. It is the secret for a holy wedding, which is the same as saying a happy one. The secret is for a woman, in front of the man she chose, to make a step backwards. And, as you know me well, you also may well know this is not in my nature at all, being one who took for herself the motto of my grandpa, the Colonel: “Wall or no wall, three steps forward”. I believe I represent one out of seven or eight cases on a world scale of people who hit a car while going for a run: I got a concussion, she was pretty dented. Unfortunately, I would like to fill the story with epic details, but no, she wasn’t an Aston Martin, just a Fiat Punto. Anyway, I’m not exactly a docile person, but I have turned to one I believe, I hope, because I think this is what being a spouse means: to embrace, first of all. And you know that I, just like anybody to say the truth, don’t like losing. I’ve been more than competitive at school, at university. Even more in sports: the only “break” I would grant myself, from when I was studying during the seventh grade until my pregnancies. Some fifteen miles running between a Homer and an Eschilo, just to clear my mind a little bit. And then, in the years when we lost touch, you don’t know that when I was preparing some marathon I could even go running at three in the morning, when I was supposed to be at the editorial office at five for the tv news. I left home in shorts in a city that is not mine (Rome), in the dark, and it even seemed normal to me, even when I met an all-naked mad man in front of the altar of the Unknown Soldier, who, seeing me, probably asked himself, in turn, who that crazy woman was. And even now, being a lady almost turning 40 (enough of the “boys” after their forties) and running when I can without preparing races, if someone passes me – even a pigeon – something still gets to me. But when it comes to life as a couple, you have to compete in the opposite way: wall or no wall, two steps backwards. And you must do it even when you don’t understand why, when you’re intimately convinced you have good reasons. In that very moment, perform an act of trust towards your husband. Get out of the logic of the world, “I want to get the better of him”, and enter the logic of God, who put at your side your husband, that saint who bears you after everything, and who, incidentally, is also a handsome guy. And if something he does is not fine with you, it is God Himself you have to confront, to begin with: get down on your knees, and most time you’ll solve anything. Luigi is the way God chose to love you, and he is your way to heaven. When he says something, then you must listen to him as if God was talking to you. With full discernment, clearly, in wisdom and cleverness, of course, because he is a creature, but with respect, because he often sees more clearly than you do. Our vocation, whatever it is, is always to make us happy. As Pavel Evdokimov says, the Russian Orthodox theologian, if the objective end of the wedding is generating children, the subjective end is to generate ourselves. Margherita is not fully herself without Luigi! Can you realize how great, invaluable a thing you have in your hands? In this enterprise you just started, with the grace of God, you will generate yourself. “But how do you do that?” you asked on the phone some thousand times. Do I have to let him have the better of me even when he’s wrong? I say yes. In the first place because it seems to you that he’s wrong, and if, as we were saying, he’s the one who leads you to your wholeness, to your completeness, it is exactly when he thinks different from you that you have to open up to him, and embrace him. It is exactly then that what he tells you has a precious meaning to you, it adds something, it makes you whole, has you grow, lets you make a shift. If you just embrace what corresponds to you, to what you think, you are not married to a man, but to yourself. While you must submit yourself to him. When you two must choose between what you like and what he likes, choose in his favor. And this is easy. When there’s a decision to take, and after you weighed the pros and cons the answer is still not clear, trust him, and let him have the last word. And this is a little difficult sometimes. When, of your positions, it seems to you that his is completely wrong, for the two of you, even for the kids, maybe, still keep trusting his clearness of mind. This may seem to be an unbearable effort. You will be afraid, because abandoning your beliefs is scary. But you’re not jumping into the void, you’re jumping into his arms.
Nice words, aren’t they? When you read them you could think I’m an angelic creature, but really I have just read and listened to good words. I’m not sure if I’ve been able to live them in real life. Not always all of them, for sure. But I let my husband take a look at what I’m writing you, and he didn’t show any strong or loud protests. Not even blowing a raspberry. That’s something. I would even say he likes the idea of submission elevated to the rank of a theory. “Are you done with the bath, my lovely dear?” he asked me yesterday evening. He is Roman, unfortunately, and he always finds a way to put an end to my lyric bursts.
You’ll see, I can swear on it, a man cannot resist a woman who respects him, recognizes his authority, who makes a sincere effort to listen to him, to let aside her own way of seeing things, who tramples on her ever-biting, teasing, failure-highlighting tongue (we’re very good at that, no doubt), who accepts to walk on paths that are extremely different from those she would naturally choose, just out of love.
Day by day, he will start asking you what you think, what to do, which way your family should go. And this respect you achieve through respect, this devotion through submission. This is why, having finally won my husband’s respect, I now feel ready to calmly explain to him how greatly beneficial it would be to build a walk –in closet in our bedroom (the first benefit would be that I wouldn’t have any more piles of black t-shirts down there, and I wouldn’t, believing I had lost them all, buy seven more next season).
And even when the fruits seem to be late (I won’t have my wardrobe closet), we Christians must know they are ripening. We are happy in hope, aren’t we?
We know what happens to us is not to be measured on the world’s meter. We know any suffering, even a little one – you don’t have the same idea, you wouldn’t have planned that thing, you wouldn’t have picked that vacation or that evening – produces sometimes mysterious, yet never lost, fruits, if accepted with love. “Let those things causing you suffering be held more dear to you than the Hermitage,” St. Francis used to say, he who would have spent any minute at the Hermitage of the Prisons, in the sweetest, continuous prayer, while he accepted to stay amongst people who did not understand him, friars included, sometimes.
And you know we don’t stand mortification for mortification’s sake, we are not austere ones, for sure: we like chatting about our interior Castle and of the latest nuance of the Chanel nail polish, the unobtainable dove gray, reading the Dialogue of the Divine Providence and gossiping – in acclaimed bad faith – of Carla Bruni’s short neck (divine justice exists). We like mortification just in sight of a wider good, and this good is embracing your husband, therefore generating a new self. May I confess, then, without you feeling offended, that when you tell me he makes you angry it always seems to me that it’s all about silly things? They’re just little stings to your pride, little attempts at your too weak self-esteem. When you know who you are and how much you are worth – a lot, trust those who know and love you – you are not afraid of some criticism. True, you’re not a skilled cook yet, nor a perfect landlady. What’s the problem if he tells you so? Tell him that he’s right, and you are going to learn. Seeing your sweetness and humbleness, your attempt at conversion, he will convert, too. Without speeches, but seeing himself through you. You’ll feel like you’re losing months and years, to exercise patience for an endless time with Luigi, to be in an away game whose score is never zero, but it’s not like that. No gesture of love will go lost, none of your steps backwards will miss to be transformed into a step forward for the two of you, no useless word unuttered will be regretted. It’s a difficult and perhaps inexhaustible path. You’ll feel like you’re the one who gives the most – we fit the victim’s role very well, just an instant and we dress up like housewives in the Fifties, round skirt, hair set and all- but are you really sure? He’ll probably feel he’s the one who walks the longer distance to meet you, too. I believe in these cases you do not measure who gives more, but who can give more. Even if now you feel like a martyr. Balances can change infinite times during a lifetime. And then, you believe you love him the way he wants, but maybe you are loving him the way you want. You write him little notes, while he would like you to do something concrete for him: inviting his mother to dinner, for instance. You want a bunch of flowers, and he tells you that he loves you by going to buy an octopus and cherry tomato pizza. Speak his language, that of concrete gestures, and he’ll learn to speak yours, that of the love declarations down on his knees with violins playing. You complain about the fact he doesn’t speak, but where have you been living till now? Don’t you know a man only issues a statement when has the need to give you useful and pertinent information? It took me a couple years, but I eventually renounced dragging my husband into a whole series of conversations, like those involving the sentimental life of human beings. But if I really want to talk to him, it is sufficient for me to emit a very sharp, and most probably wrong, opinion, on the 4-4-3 formation of Roma F.C. soccer team, or the war in Afghanistan, to have the certainty to obtain an answer.
It is a continuous effort of elasticity, and it may also seem to you that you gave a lot, while in fact you remained in your selfishness. For instance, I would always like a house full of people; my husband, also known as “add a place to your table”, lays a claim to the etymology of his name (he who lives in the forest), and he’d rather emigrate to the woods than share companage and double the cheerfulness. The balance is quite difficult to reach, and it requires tolerance on both sides. Measuring who moves towards the other is pretty hard, also because in the meanwhile we have added four more places to the table, and those are permanent: lunch and dinner, on a daily basis.
When in doubt, anyway, please obey. Subdue yourself in full trust. To make another example, in my view, everything is to be planned, so we can squeeze in as many appointments as we can, like pinball: the more goals we achieve, the more points we score. In my husband’s view, on the other hand, the best ideas happen in boredom, in the void, and I must admit that sometimes it works; it happens, just because we have three spare hours, that we randomly watch together “Luci della ribalta” or the undergrounds of san Clemente, or we have an endless football game including all of us three girls, who sometimes leave the field to pick flowers, or that we invent new games, even if the most popular remains the dear old “tell me you’re fat if you dare”. Let’s also say that from time to time planning has its own reasons, if you consider pediatricians dentists parties little friends catechisms matches competitions, but I am beginning to be a little more flexible, the supreme quality of any wife and mother. You will need, in fact, much more flexibility, when not only your husband, but also your children, will rotate around your capability of embrace. Their wellbeing, their serenity will at least partially rely, at least hopefully until they’re on their own (how many more years to come?), on your capability to absorb their bad moods, whims, tiredness, discontent. I don’t know why, but this is a privilege that remains all ours. Our children give their worst with us, and this is well-known. On the other hand, who do you vent to your anger to, if not to whom you know is going to love you after you’re done? With whom do you put down any mask, any restraint, and you display the whole catalogue of your deepest degradation, if not with whom will never abandon you (like your best friend from college, which would be me, by the way, and viceversa)? “Look, now I need to complain a little bit”: we both know it, now. When the phone calls open that way, you just have to listen, be noisily quiet, to sympathize with conviction, to admire exaggeratedly and absolutely not to give bright suggestions. Because on those moments one doesn’t want a solution, but just energetic and little wordy pat-pats on the shoulder.
Here, kids learn this roughly on their third minute of life: we will always embrace them, and so the overflowing diaper, the not-given candy or the homework that’s too hard – according their age- invariably translate into a reprisal to us, under the disguise of whims, long faces, cries, various insults (my latest is “fascist colonel,” I just got it a short while ago). Sometimes I try and say, “Kids, I’m going out to get some cigarettes”, but nobody believes me, probably because I don’t smoke. If I may risk forseeing the future, even Luigi will take advantage of your soft structure – even if you weigh 110 pounds, you’re soft inside – to utter his opposition to all the annoying sides of human existance, which, in some mysterious way for you but all-evident to him, will all be traced back to you. Don’t worry. It’s nothing, it will pass in the end. Try to embrace him even in those moments. He doesn’t want a solution, either; he wants you to encourage him, to tell him you appreciate what he does, and, if I may say so, for how I know your husband and a decent set of samples of the same species, to allow him to withdraw like a prehistoric man into his cave, which often takes the more technological form of a computer screen, but in substance it doesn’t change: the hunter’s rest. And don’t complain with him. Call me or some other friend, a female one, warn us in advance not to care too much about what you’ll say, and start groaning a bit. Never do it with him, because if you complain, a man (I don’t know why, whether he’s a psychiatrist, a philosopher, or a manologist of any sort) will try and find a practical solution. He’ll offer to prolong the nanny’s working hours or to take longer breaks, when you just wanted him to say it’s all working just fine as it is, that you are an admirable, unbeatable heroine. And don’t begin, I know you, to ask yourself if you were wrong, if he was really the right one for you…this is the devil’s doing – whose meaning comes from dia ballein, to divide. He wants to divide: us from ourselves, ourselves from God, and us from the person we swore loyalty to. It’s not you who went wrong, nor him. It is just that embracing is our charism, guiding and supporting is theirs. And I don’t even think there are cultural differences, I don’t know, see the manologist above. But I have a super dear friend of mine who lives in Germany, a genius, a superlative head. I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and every now and then I happened to imagine her life, completely different from ours, a couple with interchangeable roles, he pushing his stroller and she going to a meeting or planning the week. I called her on her birthday, and I found out she had decided to stay at home and be a mom, archiving her degree in electronic engineering. Moreover, we ended up sharing every single word on family dynamics, hers and those of a Bulgarian percentage of her Teutonic friends with whom she confronts, in greatly envied (by me) mornings drinking tea or in afternoons set in parks that I imagine to be tidier than my living room. And apart from the fact that where she is the streets are clean and the pink car parking spots (for moms) are respected, we didn’t notice any other noteworthy difference between us. Dear Margherita, what else can I say? I promise I will watch over you, over your happiness which you will have to start building now, even if I invite you to find more powerful guardian angels than I am. Unfortunately, I’m just a couple years ahead of you in life, and I keep getting the same things wrong, with the junk trade of someone in her twenties, constantly looming over me. In exchange then, you may also help me explain to my girls that the story of the prince arriving and saving you needs a bit of reworking…
Never in my life would I have imagined reconsidering the highly boring sermons released, completely free of charge, by the greengrocer of the holiday village, Mrs. Pots (her real name, not a nickname due to her cylindrical physical conformation). Not even the pearls of wisdom strung one after the other by the little women taking fresh air along the street with my grandmother, in the evening. To us little chicks, dealing with wearing make-up for the first time and purposefully slipping shoulder straps – you only need a little jerk with your shoulder – they launched disapproving looks, and sighs foreseeing the worst possible future for us. The image of the woman they evoked in their speeches, strong and silent, capable of holding up the whole family like a wheel hub does with its spokes seemed less plausible to me than Sigourney Weaver playing the role of Ripley in the 80’s movie Alien. I wasn’t capable of supporting myself, let alone supporting someone else.
Then, luckily, you grow up, or at least you try, and I’m sorry neither of my grandmothers had the chance to meet my four kids, all of them now grown up, very dirty but safe, and without too many stitches. Grandma Gina would have found something to say nevertheless, since I forgot how to crochet and I could improve my domestic economy skills: “My mom is very good at warming up frozen food”, Bernardo told a friend once, to convince him to stay over for dinner. But they would have appreciated their report cards, especially the French professor, and their pietas: “I’m going to be a saint when I grow up – Lidia told me once – maybe saint Therese Delilah.”
I often think of them, to the women of other generations, when I see women in search of identity and are therefore suffering because of it. They didn’t have to try too hard, they already had a role, they had already been given one. Something that may have protected them, made their personal research less difficult. They didn’t look unhappy to me, and if they were they kept it for themselves. If I had spoken to them about obedience, they would have understood me.
Now, instead, I have a few Christian friends with whom we can discuss our ideas on marriage. Because if we share these reflections with our “worldly” friends, either they insult us or they pity us, or they invite us to ask for a quick psychiatric consult. You can expect this. The strange thing is that even between the Christians, if you start talking about submission they think you are joking. “No. Sorry. What do you mean? You are being ironic, aren’t you?”
There were already few of us Christians – not that they didn’t warn us, with the story of the salt and the yeast – and what more, sometimes we don’t even make a great effort to get far from the Vulgata, not meaning saint Jerome’s, in this case, but the common mentality that emphasizes freedom, self-determination, one’s own will as the highest and only untouchable values. Talking about submission raises disapproval, disconcert, rebellion, irritation, even disgust. And not only for the original sin that has us hate the idea of obeying someone apart from ourselves, but even for this autarchic culture in which we are all immersed, even as Christians. And we would be those who had been told to serve others, to put ourselves in the last place. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, explains how we serve one another in the couple: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” Not even the priests dare say this anymore, afraid of being lapidated by us females. But I’ve personally seen in the life of those who wanted to try it, that this is the way to salvation. Not the heaven that hopefully awaits us, but salvation even in this life, that is peace, a matrimonial life full and fulfilling. A life that also non-believers should perhaps try and experience. Because, as Paul explains a few lines later, what happens next is this: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.
It may also be true that all happy families look similar – who could ever contradict Tolstoj – but even among those unhappy I cannot see a huge degree of fantasy: betrayals, arm wrestling, subtle proofs of strength, measurement of the forces on the field, “I did more,” “no, I did,” “let’s call a judge.” As usual, the only really new word on the subject comes from God. When we talk – in a low voice, to avoid lynching – about submission we must exit the language of the world, which reads everything in the perspective of dominion, of power. Our king is on a cross, but so he won against the only unbeatable enemy, i.e. death. Therefore we must also exit the logic of power, turning it totally upside down. First of all, because submission is not out of depreciation, you don’t choose it because you think you’re not worth it. Moreover, the fruit of the woman’s choice is the fact that the man will be ready to die for it. When St. Paul tells women to accept this submission, he doesn’t think they are inferior at all. Actually, we owe it to Christianity for the only real great re-evaluation of women. The greatest of all creatures is a woman, to begin with. And Jesus honored women so much that he also scandalized people. He first revealed Himself after the Resurrection to them; who knows, maybe the males were all gone to the stadium, since it was Sunday. “Basically, St. Peter was a sucker before the Holy Spirit”, my son summarized once, with a slightly colored vision, yet theologically sound.
The submission that Paul is talking about is a gift, and a free one as any other; it would be a duty, otherwise. It is a spontaneous gift of oneself, out of love. I renounce my selfishness for you. And if we really want to speak in terms of greatness or smallness, of strength or weakness, of power, it is better to remember that “he that is greatest among you, as he that doth serve”. This measures the greatness of a person.
“Let the most intelligent use his intelligence”, said my mom when we were little, hoping by this noble call to raise good sentiments in the three of us siblings, when we would beat each other up for very valid reasons such as the choice of a TV channel or the conquest of a bicycle. Just for the record, her call never worked. A woman doesn’t need to feel diminished by this invitation of St. Paul; on the contrary. The problem is that, during many centuries and along with many cultures, we have been “held down,” not in this perspective of a free and spontaneous gift, but under the logic of power and strength. So talking about obedience still touches somebody’s nerves. Feminism, in this sense, had the credit to bring forward instances of justice, when there was very little justice (and in many non-Christian cultures there’s still very little of it). The only thing is that it gave the wrong answers, and it produced a lot of unhappiness. There is a new slavery in women who believe to be liberated while they probably are aiming at the wrong target. But I also know many women – like those of the generation before us – who naturally obey to their husband, because that’s in the order of things, the woman is for the man. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you,” Genesis says. There’s a hidden spark here, a way to happiness. Already here, on this earth. So the woman obeys because she can listen, not because she undervalues herself. The humble is someone who knows who he is, which are his riches and his weaknesses. Even if one thing is to know it, another is somebody who tells you, so guys, I’m taking this opportunity to invite you not to speak about the distressing repetitiveness of my menus too much, nor do I find strictly necessary to call me doctor flatbelly in a high tune in front of everybody. Anyway, when a woman subdues herself not to be crushed but to embrace, she also points the way to the man, and the whole family. The woman precedes the man, who needs to be embraced. With such a woman, who is loyal, who doesn’t play the rival, who doesn’t want to take control of everything, to dominate, who doesn’t even behave like a sissy, a man can be fertile.
Loving in the first place, but also in the last place. We also perform the duty to keep loving, to maintain the fire lit in the house. A faithfulness which can also become essential when love – which is not only a feeling but a commandment in the first place, demands a strong, steady decision. It takes a strong decision, for instance, not to leave the marriage when you are betrayed. Warning: the reading of what follows is strictly forbidden to my husband, and the noble words that follow apply to any wedding but mine.
But even a woman who is betrayed has a possibility to defend her love, which is in a serious life-endangering condition: she can remain faithful and keep on loving. It is a terrible storm, but not a shipwreck. It is a vase that breaks, and that will not be new anymore, but even if the signs of where it’s been glued are visible, it will hold until the end. We as women also defend life this way, bringing its flag high even when everything seems lost. To forgive doesn’t mean to forget what happened. It is not refusing to look at the face of grief. It is not refusing to give it its importance because in the end the good and the bad are undistinguished. It is not indifference. It is deciding to stem disorder, and to let the good win. The women who manage it are the stronger, the most capable of love, their shoulders are wider, they are able to perform the miracle you need to overcome a betrayal. The same cannot be said for men, because a man and a woman love in a different way: the woman with a specific love, capable of understanding originality. Man is fragile, and not always capable of understanding the differences between women. Only these, in the most painful, entangled and despaired situations can proclaim hope and stay up on their feet to give courage again to everybody. But even without getting to the real, consumed, enacted, betrayal, to a menace of death to the relationship, there are many possible small betrayals. There is by necessity a stage when habit takes off a little shine.
Even Robert Redford’s – non the wrinkly director of Sundance, but the legendary man who made himself in the Great Gatsby – wife, probably, seeing him wandering about the house in underpants and unmatched socks, clinging to the remote control in front of a Lakers match, would be tempted to start exchanging messages with the young and good-looking greengrocer from West Hollywood.
Even in these cases love works if you make a decision, and you don’t follow your emotions, your needs, your instinctual part. How sad is the most, the very most of contemporary films and books: a lamentation on nothingness, a boring tautology, a demonstration that obeying your own selfishness you are unwell, you are disquiet and never satisfied. All grains of wheat refusing to fall in the soil. Celebrations of “I’m not like that,” or “I don’t feel that way.” Wojtyla told the couples he went camping with during summer: don’t say “I love you,” but, “I participate with you in the love of God.” A very different kind of music.
“Sposati e sii sottomessa” (Vallecchi 2011 – Sonzogno 2013)
***For the english version Zelinda Davolio. THANKS! **************************************************************************************************