Servant of God Henry Caffarel encouraged the “duty to sit down” together, or the art of loving each other better as a couple.
DSD is a regular one-on-one chat “to breathe, to sit down, to look at each other, and to listen to each other.” It’s an exercise which, according to its creator, is as important as praying together as a couple. It’s the vital minimum needed for staying on the same wavelength when our life circumstances as a couple change, and challenges can leave their mark.
Of course, life as a couple and as a family does not flow along like a slow, peaceful river. Setting aside a regular time (at least once a month) to talk to each other can be a real challenge. We often have to arm ourselves with a daily planner or calendar app to set the date amidst all the other activities we have to manage.
Whether it’s going for a walk together, drinking a cup of coffee together before work, having dinner at a restaurant, or sitting down for a quiet chat once the kids are in bed, this DSD time should last about an hour. The important thing is to do nothing else: no phone, no computer, no organizing of papers, no quick dish-washing or any other activity. This time must be entirely devoted to our spouse.
It’s an appointment that takes the same effort as any other, more formal, duty. But keep in mind that the “duty to sit down” is not a casual conversation in which we exchange ideas, but a special moment when we listen to each other, totally, without interrupting each other.
Before beginning to listen to each other, both spouses must place themselves in the presence of God. This joint prayer changes everything. Putting ourselves under God’s gaze is perhaps the only guarantee of accepting the other’s word to the very end, of opening our heart to the other and reconnecting to our love for our spouse.
This makes it easier to tackle the topics that might make us angry. Instead of hurting each other with our words, DSD is a chance to ask our spouse why he or she is so hurt by a certain remark or criticism, and really listening to the answer. Regularly listening to each other talk about any small hurts or miscommunications helps us understand how our partner functions, and how he or she reacts (or perhaps overreacts) to certain words, which have emotionally charged meanings that are bound to be different for each person.
Thanks to this deep mutual understanding under God’s gaze, we can rediscover dialogue and trust. This is the starting point for tackling more concrete topics of daily life, such as parenting techniques, professional choices, and our relationships with family and friends. Under God’s gaze, this spousal conversation can create a real space for us to breathe freely and ask ourselves the essential questions: What’s the vocation of each spouse in the marriage, and what’s the vocation of the couple as a whole?
For Fr. Henri Caffarel, the practice of the “duty to sit down” not only helps us to love each other better, but helps us to focus on the fundamental vocation of each married couple, which is “the masterpiece of creation.” This regular meeting of the couple to talk to each other in God’s presence has only one aim: to sanctify them in marriage. “To live only for God and sustained by God—no more, no less.” For without his help, “men and women cannot be faithful to love, which is why God invented the sacrament of marriage,” he said.
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