Some Relationship Advice From Pope Francis
On Friday, Pope Francis released a 256-page document called "Amoris Laetitia," or "The Joy of Love." In it, he calls for the Catholic Church to approach issues of sex, marriage, family planning and divorce with less emphasis on dogmatic law and more emphasis on individual conscience.
While the post-synodal apostolic exhortation doesn't directly alter any church doctrine, its shift in tone is significant for Catholic families around the world.
But even if you're not Catholic, you might find some inspiration in the document. Because in addition to addressing questions of pastoral care, Francis muses on sex, communication, commitment and love in general — and for a 79-year-old man who has taken a lifelong vow of celibacy, the pontiff has some pretty solid relationship tips:
Make Time For One Another, Even If You're Busy
"Love needs time and space; everything else is secondary. Time is needed to talk things over, to embrace leisurely, to share plans, to listen to one other and gaze in each other's eyes, to appreciate one another and to build a stronger relationship. Sometimes the frenetic pace of our society and the pressures of the workplace create problems. At other times, the problem is the lack of quality time together, sharing the same room without one even noticing the other."
Sometimes, Just Listen
"Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say. ... Often the other spouse does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledged their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes and their dreams."
Accept Your Partner's Shortcomings
"It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like."
... And Be Generous With Their Imperfections
"We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows. The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me. Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal."
Never Go To Bed Angry: Hugs Can Help
"My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family," Francis writes, then quotes himself from 2015: "And how am I going to make peace? By getting down on my knees? No! Just by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored. Just a little caress, no words are necessary."
Try To Find Your Partner Beautiful And Lovable ... Even When They Make It Hard
"Loving another person involves the joy of contemplating and appreciating their innate beauty and sacredness, which is greater than my needs. This enables me to seek their good even when they cannot belong to me, or when they are no longer physically appealing but intrusive and annoying."