The Virtuous Marriage: Temperance

The virtuous marriage

We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them. ~ G. K. Chesterton

Benjamin Franklin chose to work on the virtue of Temperance first as he begin his journey towards moral perfection. Why? Temperance is the practice of moderation. Ben believed that

…it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations.

In other words, when you can attain self-discipline in the areas of food and drink, the other virtues will be easier. After all, hunger and thirst are two of the most basic primal urges. Learning to be disciplined with the most basic inner urges will make tackling the external urges all the better.
A clear mind and a healthy body are prerequisites to the pursuit of the virtuous life. And a more healthy and virtuous life will create a more virtuous marriage.


Have you noticed that when you’re hungry and you sit down to eat, the first few bites taste the best? Have you thought to wonder why this is? It’s likely because the first few bites are the only ones really tasted and savored.
Today in our fast paced society, food is more often shoveled in rather than slowly eaten and savored. With the preponderance of fast food drive thrus this only increases the speed. The problem with gobbling your food quickly is the food is not really enjoyed and the feeling of being full is often overlooked.
There are countless diet and healthy eating books and programs on the market today. The key thing you really need to know in order to maintain a healthy waistline – eat when hungry, stop when full.
Don’t eat in front of the TV. Avoid eating in the car. Sit down for a proper meal. Slowing down to enjoy your food is also a great way to improve your relationships.
Eat with those you love. Have regular meals with your spouse. With friends. With your kids. Talk and tell stories between bites. Put your fork down between each bite. Slowly chew your food.
Make meal times an experience together rather than something to be rushed through on the way to something else.


Many people have had the experience of enjoying one too many when it comes to “the distilled spirits.” Yet somewhere along the way, drinking has become a past-time in our society, a marker of manliness or a good time. Yet there are truly few things less virtuous than getting tanked and passing out.
The problem with using alcohol in the pursuit of a good time is you wind up numbing yourself through the experience. There is something to be said about being fully present in every moment.
While a good drink can add to an experience with friends, too many can just as easily ruin it. Learning how to enjoy yourself responsibly, avoiding becoming intoxicated, will improve your life and relationships. It’s very unlikely that in marriage both spouses will have a problem with drinking. Often there is one spouse that desires the other to drink less than they do. Is this an attempt to control the other, or is this concern out of genuine love and care? It’s usually the later.
Liquor isn’t necessary for confidence or for fun. It doesn’t improve your sex life in the long run. In fact, drinking can become a crutch. Learning how to create a good time through your personality and playfulness will produce deeper and more lasting results in your life and marriage.
Now I’m not saying alcohol has no place in life. I often have a glass of beer or wine with dinner. But I’ve never understood the allure of the drunken stupor. If there’s something you’re wanting to escape from in a bottle of alcohol, the problem is your escape is temporary. Face the difficulty. Lean into the conflict.
The confidence you’ll gain by addressing life and relationship problems will spill over into all areas of your life. Man up. Woman up. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

Photo courtesy jenny downing (r&r)