I’m really sad to say that this is the first post by SMM that I actually dislike. Maybe I’m reading into it too much? I’m sensing skepticism and almost sarcasm. Not that either are untypical of SMM, but this is one time where it didn’t make me laugh. I read this 15-yo’s question as full of confidence, and I want so badly to encourage her! Her story is so terribly familiar to me…
I was at Ate Grace’s site a couple days ago reading her post entitled “God’s timing is perfect,” and this, coupled with the above-mentioned post and recent experiences had me forming an analogy in my mind… husband::wife as brother::sister.
When I was reading about St. Therese’s parents sometime in junior high/high school, the one piece of information that stuck was St. Therese’s father asking her mother shortly after they were married that they live together as brother and sister. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it at the time. And I certainly didn’t get around to it at any time due high school or during my year off before college.
~ 219 days later ~
What credit is it to a friendship if conversations are all of unicorns and bunnies and sunshine and rainbows? There is a line to be crossed for a friendship to become ‘real’… and whether it takes ten days or ten years to reach that point, one can never tell.
There are many things I could have said, and no doubt much they could have retorted, but I held my tongue, and I believe they held theirs, and here I am some days later with a clearer mind but also a firmer stance.
~ 14 days later ~
233 days later, I have re-read and re-read and re-read both SMM’s and Ate Grace’s posts linked to earlier in this post which I now intend to complete. I have exactly one hour and forty-six minutes to do this before my next class. Well. An hour and thirty-six if you factor in the ten minutes it will take me to walk to class. All homework due tomorrow and the following day is complete, I’ve got Relient K on, and an empty Honors Lounge and the focus it affords all to myself. What could possibly go wrong, eh?
My reaction to SMM’s post now is a little different from my reaction and subsequent point of view from which I began this post upon having read said post almost a year ago. I believe that if I am to be entirely honest with myself, I was defensive at the time. When I spoke of skepticism, it was in reference to part which reads,
“Three years is a long time to not date a fellow to whom you are attracted. My best guess is that the people around you are worried about how much will power the two of you have between you, especially if you are really not just friends, but waiting to be 18 to begin officially dating.”
I am still disappointed by that skepticism, but I no longer find it slightly offensive, or believe it to be untirely unreasonable. I, like this fifteen-year-old girl, believed it possible to be ‘just friends’ with someone to whom I was attracted. I know now that this is not actually possible. But what I believe SMM does not understand – for several reasons which I will attempt to outline shortly – is that there is another option that is entirely possible, perhaps even preferable, that does not – I repeat, does not – include unethical, irresponsible, potentially immoral behavior, which brings us to the post I began two weeks ago and which I chose to consolidate with this one. The question is this: Is it possible for guys and girls between whom there is either a one-sided or mutual attraction to be ‘just friends’, and if the answer is ‘no’, can they be – can they truly and honestly be – something that is more than friends, but not dating, not be in a committed relationship (of that sort, you understand; couldn’t one say that a true friendship, whether between members of opposite sexes or the same, requires some level of commitment?); can guys and girls be, instead… sisters and brothers?
My friend expressed an interesting combination of skepticism, cynicism, incredulity, and perhaps a shade of bewilderment at my belief that this is perfectly possible. I confess that I was hurt, offended, angered at my friend’s response. But upon further reflection and good conversation with my mom, I have moved past these into, quite simply, a deep sadness.
I have been blessed to have been raised in a culture that is very family-oriented, and specifically, very extended-family oriented [as opposed to ‘American’ culture from which my friend’s point of view, as well as SMM’s, probably stem]. The simplest way to illustrate my point is this (and I use this point all the time in face-to-face conversations with friends) – in our culture, the culture of the Philippines, our neighbors are not introduced to us as Mr. and Mrs., but Aunt and Uncle. If one stops to consider this, the possible implications are huge. I am to consider, then, the children of these people as family, as cousins, as connected to me by blood. Furthermore, I will address these pseudo-cousins by the titles of Ate and Kuya, which are terms of respect given to older females or males respectively that are within the same generation as myself. This is what I have grown up with, and especially with having moved here to Cincinnati, having gotten involved with Couples for Christ, and having welcomed and been welcomed by literally instant family that CFC has brought me, whether from Chicago or Louisville or New Jersey or what, it has never occurred to me for a split second that anyone would consider my practice of having ‘brothers’ as ridiculous and impossible. John Mayer’s Friends, Lovers, or Nothing seems to outline what I consider a very limited and limiting perspective. I agree with a few lines, and dismiss the rest. But that a friend should share that view and dismiss me was unanticipated.
Am I being naive? I don’t think so, and here are a few reasons why –
It was possible for people such as St. Therese’s parents.
It is expected by the Church that Deacons, upon entering the diaconate, live with their wives as sisters from that point on, to put it simply.
The Church declares the Sacrament of Matrimony valid between a man at least sixteen years of age and a woman at least fourteen years of age. Does this not speak for the Church’s belief in Her young people, that they, at the respective ages of sixteen and fourteen, should be mature enough to make such a commitment? And does it not then speak also for their [supposed] ability to discern their vocation and their spouse and to enter into all the stages of a relationship leading to marriage chastely? And let no one misunderstand my use of the words should be, and supposed; by which I do not express skepticism, but rather my understanding of the fact that this may not always be so due to the environment in which an individual is raised.
Are we not all expected to see each other and to treat each other as Brothers and Sisters in the Lord? With all of our normal, natural responses to members of the opposite sex, including attraction, is that not what is expected of us?
I have proof. In my many healthy brother-sister relationships for which I am thankful to God every day, do not know what I would do without, and have been able to form and maintain for years.
To fully ensure that we are all on the same page, let us take the time to define my analogy, husband::wife as brother::sister. What are the dynamics in a healthy brother-sister relationship?
For the men, it means being pastors, providers, and protectors. Brothers, regardless of whether you are older brothers or younger brothers, would you lead your sister astray? Would you let her starve? Would you put her in harm’s way? No, you would protect her, advise her, respect her, never speak behind her back, take her needs into consideration, lead her, help her grow yet continue to love her in spite of her shortcomings, support her strengths and be there for her in her weakness, and ultimately, no matter how you feel, she is still your sister, and you love her.
For the women, it means submission. No, not blind. Rather, trusting that he loves you enough to put you first and would not lead you astray. Come on, younger sisters! Don’t you love it when your big brother takes care of you like that? Let them lead, expect respect always but respect them back and know when to give, never backstab, be sensitive of his manliness =), support his strengths and be there in his weakness, and no matter how you feel, he’s still your brother and you love him.
All this being said, are these not the good qualities needed for a healthy relationship between a man and a wife? There are differences, yes, but are not the basic, fundamental dynamics outlined above the same? Is it not said that the way a man treats his mother and sisters the way he will treat his wife and vice versa?
Ate Grace and Kuya Ray were healthy brother and sister before they became husband and wife. Our culture, and specifically our community’s training of men and women to love and respect each other and to refer to each other regularly as ‘Brother’ and ‘Sister’ from cradle to grave is training men and women to be good spouses, whether to each other, or to the Lord and Mother Church.
It is possible to be brothers and sisters. And boy am I thankful for it!
*hugz* and love to all my Sisters, and to all my Brothers, you guys are awesome! mGpb ~