Many of us have heard this charge leveled by one spouse toward another, whether in a movie, on TV, or perhaps in our own homes. It reflects one of John Gottman’s Four Horsemen–contempt. By being predictable, it is implied that we are also dull, boring, uninteresting and non-spontaneous. It is generally not a compliment. Scripture and The Catechism touch this issue over and over again.
Cat. 214. God, “He who is,” revealed himself to Israel as the one “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These two terms express summarily the riches of the divine name. In all his works God displays not only his kindness, goodness, grace, and steadfast love, but also his trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness, and truth.
My sense is that this particular flavor of contempt emanates from one of two likely sources. The first is what I think of as “children of chaos.” Kids raised in an unstable family situation, where there is drama, abuse, violence or other negative environmental factors, often grow up to be adults who crave chaos. If there is not drama in their family, they will seek opportunities to create it. If things are peaceful and calm, they will find a reason to cause disruption. If everything is running smoothly, they will throw a wrench into the works. We all seek that to which we became accustomed as kids, and this is no exception. Woe be to the woman married to one of these men.
Micah 7:18. Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
Another source of such disdain, as I see it, is the ennui of the young and privileged. Kids who grew up with money, who spent winter breaks skiing in Vail, or went on European cruises in the summer, often grow up to be adults with what I think of as a low “coefficient of boredom.” They often find themselves at loose ends, put off by routine, and constantly in search of something fun or expensive or unexpected to get their engines revving. Predictability probably ranks just below “cheap” on their list of cardinal sins. Woe be to the man married to one of these women.
Romans 2:4. Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Having grown up in neither of these environments, and having sought and found a woman from a family similar to mine, I feel blessed to be exempt from this particular criticism. Not that I’m immune from criticism, most of it richly deserved. As mature adults, I think we have grown to equate predictable with dependable. Just the other night Nancy and I were sitting together when, unprompted by anything, she said, “I love coming home to you in the evening.” My work schedule allows me to get home in mid-afternoon, and she knows that by the time she rolls in at 6:30 or so I’ll have the kitchen squared away, dinner on the stove, and a cold glass of chardonnay awaiting her. We generally sit together for half an hour and share what our days were like. Having thus disposed of any negative residue from our workdays, we can sit down to dinner together, and then do whatever wants or needs doing in the evening.
Cat 1804. Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
It strikes me as logical that boredom with one’s spouse can easily lead one to look for greener pastures, for the excitement and newness that can accompany marital infidelity. Though such adventures are generally short-lived, they may afford the stimulation the pulse-pounding taste of forbidden fruit, what Eric Clapton once referred to as the “dull surprise” missing in some people’s lives. Regrettably, this newness probably wears off rather quickly, leading either to a series of such affairs or resignation to a life of perceived drudgery.
Cat 2365. Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one’s given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ’s fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.
Once again, we are reminded that our efforts in this regard should not be to FIND the right person, but to BE the right person. To be grateful for the truth in Nancy’s observation that “for every Jack there is a Jill.” To count among our blessings the stability of our relationships, and the firm platform it provides our children as they are formed into adults. In sales, one of the most powerful statements we can make to a customer is, “You can depend on me to do what I say I’m going to do.” In marriage, God’s grace is found in the spouse who is dependable, faithful, and happy to serve our needs For those of us who ended up with that person, we should thank God every day. For those of us who have not yet become that person, we should pray for the grace and fortitude to persist, to reach the point in our relationships where “You’re so predictable” is praise of the highest order.
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.