I’ll never forget visiting with my first married friend a few months after her wedding. We expected her to walk in starry-eyed and head-over-heels (isn’t that what Hollywood dictates?) Instead, she was wide-eyed and serious as she said, “Girls, marriage is really tough.” Wow.
Twelve years into my own marriage, I think back on those words and posture what she was getting at. I think to achieve happiness and oneness in marriage, you really have to work at it. Life pulls us in every direction. Kids distract us from one another. Conflicts and struggles challenge us to be selfless and support the other person above our own needs. My husband has seen me at my best and worst; he’s watched me triumph and struggle; he knows my strengths and weaknesses. He knows every part of me and still chooses to love me. Because love is not an emotion, but a decision.
We use that line a lot in our work guiding engaged couples through marital preparation. We primarily work for an organization called Catholic Engaged Encounter. If you haven’t heard of it and know of a couple looking for a good marriage prep program, please direct them there. CEE is everywhere–across the country and in 30 different countries internationally. My hub and I present at weekend retreats and even as speakers, walk away feeling renewed in our marriage.
By no means do we boast a perfect union, far from it. But we feel impassioned to strengthen marriages from the very beginning of their inception; to reach couples at the start to save them strife down the road. If we can help one couple avoid divorce in the future, it’s all worth it. Because it’s not easy, folks, and in our culture, it’s too simple to just quit when life becomes challenging. Can you imagine a world with stronger Christian marriages? We need to reverse the breakdown of the family through the husband and wife, the central family unit. We need to save our marriages.Instead of “I quit”, we need to change the phrase to “I commit”. We make that commitment every day to our spouse. We renew our Sacrament through the little but heroic acts of kindness toward one another. When we choose to love, we trump the world and everything it throws at us. We say “I will” over and over again.
What a privilege it is to choose to love and to have another person, our teammate, walk alongside us on this journey of life. Marriage is a gift, but definitely one that needs safe-keeping. If your marriage is in need of a boost, I encourage you to contact your local diocese to find the nearest Marriage Encounter retreat or for couples having particular struggles, Retrouvaille is an amazing option to find the support you need.
God bless you and your marriages!! We can do this!