One of the most important points made during the marriage seminar is that conflict is an absolutely critical aspect of community life, whether that be within the monastic community or the family life. Because community is so important to our salvation, Orthodox young people are encouraged to discern whether they are called to marriage or monasticism (with the help of their spiritual father, family and friends). Traditionally, every Orthodox person is living one of these two lifestyles. Voluntary singleness outside of a monastic community has always been seen by the Church to be a dangerous way of life and is discouraged.
In today's politically correct, "tolerant," and relativist society, conflict is seen to be at best an inconvenience, and at worst a dangerous and destructive reality. Most people either tend to gloss over differences, or pretend they don't exist. But in the crucible of community, conflict always comes up. What was great about the retreat was how Fr. Theodore outlined how useful and necessary conflict is for the Christian life! In the struggle for holiness, conflict is seen almost as a friend! ("Let the righteous strike me, it shall be a kindness; let him reprove me, it shall be as excellent oil, let my head not refuse it." (From the Psalms at Great Vespers)
We also talked about St. John of Damascus and his treatise on the 8 cardinal passions:
anger, dejection, vainglory, gluttony, unchastely, avarice, sloth, and pride.
In community we have the opportunity to practice the "antidote" to each of these (listed in the same order as the passions):
goodwill and forgiveness, spiritual joy and thanksgiving, hiding good deeds from the sight of men, fasting, turning desire towards the Kingdom, almsgiving, patient perseverance, and humility.
We spent the rest of the retreat with each couple talking a little bit about some practical ways they could practice these "antidotes" in their conflicts and in their life. Fr. Theodore would chime in every once and while and talk about practical ways to actually do these things (setting up rules of prayer, family fasting according to the liturgical calendar, dressing simpler, turning off the TV, etc). The most important bit of advice he gave was to remain watchfull. Forgetfullness of God and of one's neighbor is one of the chief problems in community.
One of the great things about Orthodoxy is that it provides tangible and practical ways of actually practicing the Christian life, and doesn't give a lot of platitudes and empty suggestions. The community we have within the family works in harmony and interconnects with the community of the parish.