A friend in Kampala was writing a book on marriage, sex and relationships from an African and Christian point of view. He told me he had come to a halt on the issue of 'complementarity' or mutual help ...

"... that husband and wives were meant to complement or help each other (Genesis 2:18). One text-book I have here says:
'Help should not be limited in any way. It is neither help at work nor help in begetting posterity. It is help in the broadest sense of the word, mutual help in every sphere of life.'
Most Africans understand marriage from the point of view of help at work and begetting posterity. So the expression 'help in every sphere of life' is vague. It needs explanation, and I need a text-book that explains it practically."

It occurred to me that Dooyeweerd's aspects, which are also called spheres of life, might help here. I carried out a very brief analysis of this kind, and it proved so rich and stimulating that I thought I would place it on the internet. The section below is, almost word for word, the text of part of a letter I sent my friend. I trust that it might be useful. If you have any comments or questions or even experiences to relate, please email me.

Andrew Basden.

An Aspectual Analysis Mutual Help in Marriage

Below are the spheres of human life and experience postulated by the Christian Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. He tried to understand the diversity in God's creation, and thought that there are fifteen spheres (or aspects or modalities, as he sometimes called them) in which we human beings function. Over the last few years I have found them very useful in helping me to think about things: I would consider each sphere in turn. In what I have written below I have taken each sphere, and asked myself: "How can a husband and wife help each other to function well in this sphere?" So that their marriage relationship might be enriched. These are only examples; please think of others, and do not be ashamed to discard some that I have mentioned. I realise I myself fall very far short of many of them.

The first three spheres are non-physical and I cannot think there would be much mutual help in them, so I do not bother with them, but merely name them for completeness. The next sphere, physical, is fairly simple in terms of help, but I include it for completeness. The others are richer. In each I say what the help is and then give a few examples. What I give are merely examples, and other ideas should be worked out. Note that in each there is both the giving and receiving of help, and so I have added this at the end of each list.


To do with amount. [But see below.]


To do with continuous extension in space. [But see below.]


To do with flowing movement. [But see below.]


To do with energy. Help in this sphere would be physical.


To do with organic life functions, and health. Help in this sphere would be directed at helping each other to function well in all the life functions.


To do with feeling, emotion, psychology. Help in this sphere would be aimed at helping each other to function well emotionally and psychologically.


To do with making distinctions. Help in this sphere would be aimed at helping each other make good distinctions.


To do with human construction, creativity, achivement; includes history, technology and culture. Construction not just of physical things but also of thoughts, plans, songs, etc.


To do with symbolic communication, by speech, writing, signs, song, and anything else. Help here would be of two types: attending to communication between each other, and helping the other to communicate with third parties.


Social interaction; forming relationships and social institutions. Help would involve helping each other in these things. For example:


To do with frugality and skilful, careful use of resources; to do with the household (Greek 'eco' = household). (Note: this sphere is NOT to be seen only in financial terms, as is the common mistake in the West; Africans probably have a truer view of this sphere than do Westerners.) Response to limits in resources can call forth true creativity and beauty.


To do with harmony and surprise, also with play, also with the arts. Help in this sphere is to work to live in joyous harmony, and help each other in play, and join together in artistic things.


To do with what is due; with 'justice' and recompense / retribution. Law is part of this. Help in this area is around both giving what is due to the other and in helping each other give what is due outside.


(In the philosophy, this is called 'Ethical', but that is too weak a term.) To do with self-giving love; agape. Help here involves first self-giving to each other, and second helping each other to self-give to others. Also involves things like generosity.


To do with faith, faithfulness, ultimate vision of who we are, and with true religion, with spirituality. Help in this sphere involves helping each other maintain good faith, deeply.

Balancing all the Spheres:

It is important that none of these spheres are worked at in isolation of the others, to the detriment of the others. It is not right if, for instance, we try to correct the beliefs of each other and ignore the Sacrificial self-giving, and do not try to communicate properly about it (Lingual). Nor is it any good just helping each other in economic work and forgetting giving each other what is due (juridical), and working so hard that there is no time for the aesthetic side. And so on. Nobody can say "Well, I'm good at this sphere" and leave it at that; God designed us to function in all spheres equally. Especially it is NOT true that the pistic sphere is 'more important' than the others (many marriages of Christians are sour because husband, wife or both are too tied up with God's work).

The order of the spheres:

The spheres are in the order above because functioning in each one involves functioning in the ones earlier than it. So helping each other in the social sphere involves helping each other in the lingual, formative, analytical, etc. You might notice that from about the lingual onwards, the mutual help is of two forms: one directed at helping each other function well in the sphere towards each other, and the other at working together so that both partners function well towards other people.


Comments by Arie Dirkzwager

"Marvellous piece on that web page! It is very well geared towards husband-wife relations but also applicable to other inter-human relations: a manual for loving thy neighbour as thyself. May be an addition: Kind regards, Arie."

Comments by Michelle Botting

"I have given a quick glance over your 'marriage page' as I call it. I find it insightful. I thought I would share with you what immediately came to mind with regards to the first three modalities:

[I like them, especially the first. From a 'help' point of view. From an aspects point of view, the spatial and kinematic are probably analogical - but none the worse for that. A.B.]

This page is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Copyright (c) 2002 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Number of visitors to these pages: Counter. Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: Last updated: 29 June 1999 Arie D. 7 February 2001 copyright, email. 28 January 2003 corrected links to aspects and a list-end, new ending. 28 June 2011 corrected link aspects, contact; rid unet.