No one ever told me this would be easy, but I never knew that it could be this hard” – “Brave” Moriah Peters .
Truer words were never spoken of marriage.
First, let me give a tiny disclaimer: I am married and I would do it all over again an infinite number of times. This reflection is not meant to be negative in any way, but it is meant to be a reality check for anyone who has fairy tale visions of what marriage will look like, or who thinks somehow that marital “problems” are reserved for other people.
I write this only because back in the day someone told us and it was one of the most valuable gifts we received for our wedding.
The society has decided that marriage is to make us happy…
They’ve turned it into the antidote to loneliness, which is why it they also conclude that you should be able to “marry anyone you want”. At it’s most profound, society also recognizes that marriage has the potential to “fulfill the natural human desire to preserve the progeny”. Christians, especially Catholic Christians, often approach marriage as an alternative to the terrifying and “impossible” alternative of celibacy. They also fall into the trap of believing that just because they marry within their Faith that they will be somehow magically spared from the problems that only affect “all those other people” who didn’t “do everything right” (unlike themselves, of course). However, once real life sets in and people realize that their marriage isn’t meeting these expectations they start to believe that somehow it hasn’t “worked out”.
I’d like to argue that maybe its our expectations that are off.
It is helpful to be mentally and emotionally prepared for how bad the “worse” (as in, “for better or for worse”) can be.
Even the best marriages are ridiculously and even unimaginably hard and it doesn’t do anybody any favors to romanticize it. It’s like running your own business vs being an employee. Most people fail, some more publicly than others, some people regret but stick it out anyway, and some people would do it over again despite the difficulty… but nobody escapes the hard, heart-wrenching, lonely, excruciatingly painful journey.
Basically every successful marriage is a miracle.
Marriages don’t “work out” and they aren’t even exactly something you can make “work out” by putting enough effort into them either. You will NEED prayer. You will also need a mutual purpose, a goal/ideal that you are striving towards together. It is this purpose that will get you through the hard days (and also why it is essentially critical to marry someone who shares your faith/priorities).
We live in a time where marriage is being attacked.
It is not a time where we can take this calling lightly… because it is a calling. And every calling is a calling to intimacy with God. That’s what calling means, a beckoning to approach. He is calling us to Himself. It’s a strange psychological phenomenon how human beings shrink from being idolized/pursued as ends in themselves. It might feel good at first but eventually it feels like a lie, like the expectations are suffocating, and you are trapped. (either that or you grow resentful because your spouse will never pursue you well enough to meet your expectations). Marriage will not teach you about growing closer to your spouse, rather your spouse will drive you closer to God. Many marriages miss this massive key and let their spouse drive them to every number of other possible comforts, which inevitably snowballs into all kinds of other issues. Save yourself the grief and do not pursue each other so hard, instead, pursue God together. This is the real secret to closeness.
The ability to forgive is more important than the love you share.
You are both broken, human, and imperfect. Everybody gets married with rose colored glasses that their spouse is the diamond in the rough, the anomaly, the perfect one in the sea of all the other lesser options. But this perception only lasts as long as the honeymoon phase does.
True love is a rare trait possessed only by those willing to remain vulnerable, even after being hurt a thousand times over.
Do not get lost in the romance and the dreams. Enjoy them, of course, but don’t rely on them to signal “how your marriage is doing”. Marriage will be beautiful and blessed but also unbearably painful and there will be days where death would be preferable to continuing on… and yet we do, we must, for this is who we are and, yes, this IS what we signed up for.
Greater love hath no man than this… – John 15:13
The current standard “marriage prep” classes will NOT prepare you for marriage.
The biggest complaint of Christian marriages is, “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, I was too young, I didn’t sign up for this, I wasn’t ready to get married”.
Don’t kid yourselves that you are ready.
No one is ever ready. The classes are basically a placebo to make you think you have done sufficient preparation, but you can never know what you’re really up against until you are in it… that’s why we sign up for the “worst”… just in case.
You will have to be prepared to defend your marriage with your life,
even when you are hurt. You can never tear each other down. It needs to be a safe space for mistakes and growth, and unfortunately, also bad days and bad seasons. When you can’t say or even think, “I love you” remind yourself to say “I choose you” instead (but maybe keep those words to yourself). Make a habit of it… you will need it often.
In order to be “successful”,
Be prepared to become essentially impervious to pain and emotion, to act intentionally and rationally without reacting, to forget about what you want and what you like for the sake of someone else. Your lasting joy will only be found in the perfection of sacrifice.
Sacrifice = Suffering transformed by love into offering
Even your children, who might be cute for a moment, will try every fiber of your being for the rest of your life and try to pry you apart like ivy on a brick wall. Be closer even than brick. Become one: impenetrable, constant, and impervious to their innocent, but nevertheless, relentless and exhausting onslaught.
Pray together, make decisions together based on the mutual goal of all your choices. This will inform and direct all your decisions even when you are apart and be the glue that unites you stronger than any fluctuating affections you feel for each other depending on the moment.
Do not let each other shirk the duties of their calling as spouse and parent.
The natural human tendency is to succumb to the hard and try to pawn off our responsibilities (or blame) on anyone else. Make a pact not to let that happen. And when it does, YOU have to be the strong one. You have to move first even when it isn’t fair. YOU have to hold your other half accountable even if they hate you for it in the moment. Believe in each other. Work together. Be nice. Treat each other like they are doing their best. Do YOUR best always. It’s painful not just to bend to what is convenient, easier, or more comfortable, but having a spouse that challenges you, believes in you, and helps you grow does eventually make you proud to be married to them.
And finally, if you are called to this, you WILL be given the grace to accomplish it.
That’s what makes it such a beautiful calling. Yes, you are human, you are weak and you will fail. Your spouse will fail you and you will hurt. But wounds heal. It WILL be ok. Your scars and wounds will make you stronger and the light will shine through them if you let it…
It is necessary that the heroic becomes daily and that the daily becomes heroic. – Zelie Martin
Ask, seek, knock, pound, beg, fly, refuse to move from the feet of the One who has called you to Himself in this incredible vocation. THIS is how we do it!
Your marriage can be a miracle too!
Love and prayers always!