May 12 – Marriages take work

“Marriages may be made in heaven but a lot of the details have to be worked out here on Earth.” (Gloria Pitzer)

…and those details take a lot of work.

I have an amazing wife, and together we have a great marriage. Hanging on the wall in the hallway between the bedrooms is a certificate of blessing. The blessing was conferred by Pope Saint John Paul II on our marriage, way back in 1983. The papal seal, like our certificate of marriage, is an outward sign of the inner grace bestowed on us by God when we were married. Growing up Catholic, I was taught that a marriage is a joining of 3 – man, woman and God. And I have no doubt that divine providence brought the two of us together at the start of this amazing journey. But, just because God helped bring us together does not mean that things would automatically work out well forever.

I am here to tell you that marriage takes work. For a marriage to become and remain successful, both parties have to work hard on a daily basis. Communication lines must be maintained, acts of love toward one another must be undertaken, and compromise & cooperation have to be a part of the daily routine. Without all that, and so much more, a marriage will be doomed.

Over the past 30 plus years, my wife and I have attended many weddings. On a wedding day everything is set up to be perfect. The bride is adorned in the perfect gown, and her attendants look stunning. The groom and his groomsmen look polished and handsome. The church and reception hall are decorated to coordinate with everything that the young couple desires. All of the details are worked out right down to which guests will dine at which table. Weddings take months, even years to plan. Time and money are invested to bring the couple to that magical day. Friends and family gather to witness and celebrate. Thousands of hours of work go into that day and event, and when the day is done the couple and their families breathe a collective sigh of relief that it is finally over. The truth is, the hard work is only just beginning. Planning a wedding is easy compared to being married.

If my wife and I loved each other only at the level we had on our wedding day, our marriage would have been doomed a couple of decades ago. People grow and change on a daily basis. Sometimes, like two vines on a grape trellis, the couple will be so tightly bound together that they appear to be inseparable. At other times they will grow apart, each developing their own, unique identity. If there isn’t constant communication and attention to one another, these can be times when the marriage can suffer. But, that growth apart is essential to the health of each individual, and to the marriage in general. To truly grow together, they must sometimes grow separately, only to be rejoined in their common bond.

Over the last 31 years we have had our share of times when the vine was tightly wound together, and when we have grown individually. If we had not constantly been working on our relationship, those times of separate growth could have been a problem. Instead, with some work, they have served to ultimately bring us closer together. And, each of us has been richer for the growth and experiences.

Young couples will talk about how much they agree on things. They complete each other’s sentences, like the same TV shows, get excited over the same events, sing the same songs in the car, and so on. That is cute, and wonderful, and speaks to the attraction that brought them together. After three decades, my wife and I still agree on many things in our lives, but not all things. Part of the fun of our relationship involves the things we do as individuals that makes the other person roll their eyes or shake their head. There are things I do that baffle her and drive her crazy, and likewise for me. Most of these are common annoyances, like differences in sense of humor, or in how we approach getting ready to go out. Others are larger. But to survive any of them takes patience, communication and compromise. If I tried to impose my will about getting ready to go out on her, or if she tried to impose her will of what is funny on me, we would be at an impasse. Instead we choose to communicate and compromise. It doesn’t mean that we completely accept the behaviors of the other, but it DOES mean that we lovingly accept the person.

Yesterday was mothers day. In wishing my wife a happy mothers day on Facebook, I thanked her for being such a great leader of our family. She replied by saying that having a great co-leader has made all the difference. The truth is, like always, that she is right. No one person can make a marriage or a family work. It takes the dedicated effort of both parties to bring and keep together a family.

I don’t want to give the impression that it is drudgery to be married. The work of marriage is the best work I have ever undertaken. I may not always like the particular chores of the day associated with it, but it is far and away the best thing I have ever done. The work we have done together has helped to raise four amazing adults. It has helped us grow an enormous network of real, true friends. It has made us better members of our wider families. And I could not ask for a better co-leader in life!

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