In the early years, when my husband and I were first married, it seemed we enjoyed being together 24/7. Even mundane chores, like doing the dishes or making a trip to the laundromat, weren’t so bad if we were together. We commonly hear this period of time referred to as the “honeymoon phase,” that stage of wedded bliss when the other can seemingly do no wrong. However, at some point, the stars fall off our eyes and we see the other as they truly are, with all their strengths and weaknesses. And when this happens, we may feel somewhat disillusioned and begin to think, “Now what have I gotten myself into?”
The problem is, emotions are fleeting and unreliable indicators of the depth of our love. In every healthy marriage, there are different layers within the relationship. Even when we are not caught up in the throes of passionate love, there must be a strong underlying love based upon friendship, mutual interests, and common goals. Such important components are found in all good marriages, but the strongest of marriages go even deeper than this – to the foundation of faith. Building our lives on anything other than God is a risky proposition. For if He is at the heart, He will also give us the grace to live out this commitment to which we are called.
Grace plays out so differently in individual situations, but one of the ways we can see it working in marriage is in the ability to forgive wrongs and overcome differences. We undoubtedly receive this grace through the Sacrament of Marriage but are strengthened by the other sacraments as well. Reconciliation, with its power to heal, and the Eucharist, as food for our souls, can help us to reorient our lives on God. With His grace, we continually renew our commitment to one another and come to see our vocation to marriage as a way to encounter and serve God and each other. Our attitudes also play an important part. If we want to build a marriage that will last, we must approach it with this mindset. Like the man who builds his house on rock (Lk 6: 48-49), we will then be able to withstand the storms that come our way.
Treat with Care
Though faith is of utmost importance, this alone won’t sustain our marriages if we lack compassion or are unwilling to forgive. No matter how good our intentions may be, it is inevitable that we will hurt one another at some point, especially living in such close contact, as marriage calls us to do. Many marriages fall apart because of hardness of heart, when we no longer feel compassion or tenderness toward the other, focusing instead on faults, hurts, and unfulfilled needs. We must never allow this to happen in our marriages because, unlike our relationship with God, we can reach a point where the damage is irreparable.
Each of us has probably witnessed the destruction that occurs when a person’s heart becomes hardened to another. This idea was brought home to me recently when I took in a pair of leather boots to be repaired that hadn’t been worn in many years. They’d been in the back of the closet, untouched and forgotten. From the outside they still looked okay, but unbeknownst to me, tiny, almost imperceptible cracks had formed and the leather had become dry and brittle. The repairman told me that if I had continued to wear them or had treated them with oils or creams, the boots would have remained soft and supple. In fact, they would have continued to loosen and soften until they were completely molded into the shape of my foot. Our hearts work much the same way. We must keep them soft and supple, allowing them to be shaped into God’s own heart. This requires putting others before ourselves, wanting the good of the other, admitting our faults, and forgiving without measure; in other words, not keeping score. The example of compassion that Christ gives us is not easy, but He desires it and will place it in our hearts if we allow Him.
The Anchor of Hope
Every structure needs stability to stand up to the pressure placed upon it, and the framework of marriage is no different. As people living in the world, we cannot completely remove ourselves from its influence. Paradoxically, what gives our marriages stability is change! Rigid structures crumble under pressure, so we must build in room for movement and flexibility. While never abandoning our principles or our commitment to one another, we must allow each other the freedom to grow and change. Even in the most unified of marriages, the relationship is made up of two very unique and distinct persons. By respecting and supporting each other’s interests, the possibilities for growth are endless. That’s a very exciting prospect in view of spending our whole lives with one person! We see that God’s plan for marriage is indeed attainable. To keep us from becoming discouraged, God places His hope in our hearts as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19).
Undoubtedly, the man I’m married to today is very different from the one I said “I do” to all those years ago. And I’m sure that’s true for me, as well. But the mystery of discovering the many aspects of our everchanging relationship is part of what keeps it new and fresh. When we enter into this holy covenant of marriage, God infuses our lives with all of the theological virtues – faith, hope, and love – as each are necessary to live out our vocation.
Till Death Do Us Part…
Life-long love isn’t an unattainable, unrealistic, or outdated romantic notion; it’s God’s plan for each and every one of us. For those called to married life (as with all vocations), it will take hard work and a reliance on His grace. But it’s totally possible, though our secular world will try to convince you otherwise.
There is such a thing as “happily ever after,” but not in a way that most people know or understand. Joy comes from being in the centre of God’s will and, with it, a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7). God’s plan for marriage is rooted in sacrificial, unconditional love – having someone to grow old with, who will love you in good times and bad…till death do us part. Imitating Christ’s love by giving ourselves away each day, we will see that we actually lose nothing. Rather, He will fill that space and we will be transformed.
– Kelley Holy