The Married Man & His Wife
How Exodus 90 Affects a Man's Marriage
Those men who undertake the disciplines of Exodus 90 and are also married have an additional component to consider, namely their wife (and possibly children). While the man will go through this journey with his fraternity of men, it is inevitable that his wife will also be a part of the journey. For each man, but especially husbands, his new habits will have an impact not just on him but on those who rely on him. If he had been in the habit of watching TV with his wife and kids in the evening, what will the next 90 days be like? When will he make time to meet with his Exodus 90 fraternity and how will this impact the family? Will his fasting and abstaining impact how the family takes its meals together? These and other things are likely to come up in the course of the 90 days.
It is important, then, to make sure that the purpose and expectations for the program are understood by all. A priest providing spiritual direction to one group of men reminded them to not set their own expectations. God will decide not only what fruits will come to each man, but also the timing. The man should not define what the results of the program should be for him, and just as importantly neither should his wife. Further, the role of the Exodus 90 fraternity is to give the man an opportunity to discuss trustfully and with complete honesty the challenges and temptations and successes he is experiencing on his journey. He should as well strive to share his journey with his wife as much as he is comfortable, perhaps even to the point of discomfort, but it is his fraternity who should hold him accountable to his disciplines.
One wife commented that she came to realize it was not the wife’s job to judge how well her husband adhered to the disciplines, to define what the results of the disciplines should be, to look at the disciplines with resentment or as a burden on her, nor to push her husband to share every detail or struggle of his journey. In prayer she was led to the idea that her role was to provide support and comfort, to listen when called upon, and to prayerfully offer to the Lord on behalf of her husband any challenges the program brought her way. The program, she realized, would put enough pressure on her husband and it was not necessary for her to add more. She wrote, “We [wives] should be encouraging their dedication to becoming more virtuous men. We should be praising their successes. We should be consoling them in their struggles. We should be praying for God’s work to be done on them through this program.”
This may well mean that a wife and family may encounter their own sacrifices during the 90 days, such as having meatless meals or not watching a sporting event together on TV. These are wonderful opportunities for the family to prayerfully enter into the journey with the man as a way of encouragement.
At the same time, a husband should seek to minimize the impact of his disciplines on his family. If he is one to become cranky when fasting, he will be challenged to not take this out on his family. Just because he is not drinking alcohol does not mean he cannot go to a social engagement with his wife and simply accept the challenge of not drinking. A significant reason a married man would engage in Exodus 90 is his effort to be a more virtuous husband and father. Causing strife within the family by being too focused on the difficulty of his challenges at the expense of the family is an impediment to fully realizing the grace the program can bring.
In the end, Exodus 90 provides the married couple a fantastic opportunity to more concretely respond to St. Paul’s exhortations in the book of Ephesians. For wives he writes, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22) But even more importantly for husbands, especially within the context of Exodus 90, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) For the man each one of the disciplines, each moment of sacrifice, each uncomfortable moment or bit of suffering, can be used to unite himself to the suffering of Christ’s Passion, and also with the aim of not just his own sanctification but also the sanctification of his wife. If both the husband and wife can enter into Exodus 90 with a truly sacrificial mindset the graces it will bring to the marriage are many!