Friday, August 1, 2008

Work I Never Expected

I can remember the day I sat down with a friend to hear how the first months of her marriage had gone. She was one of the first of "my girls" to get married--the rest of us looking to her to report back on her marital findings before the we "took the plunge"! We were meeting up at a coffee shop and I couldn't wait to hear about how "over the moon" she was now being married to her beloved husband; how they were madly in love; how their intimacy was like no other; how life was like clockwork and she and her hubby like peas and carrots.

We sat down and began to chat...
"B, marriage is great, but its hard," she began, "It really takes work."
"What? No way!" I responded. Her thoughts were a shocker to my romanticized notions.

I laugh now when I think back to my innocent response. Wasn't marriage supposed to be a trip to the end of the rainbow, a frolic through a happy field on the journey of life? Wasn't marriage supposed to be natural and easy and God-blessed at every moment?

I have come a far cry from such thoughts now six years into matrimony. Mine is a neophyte marriage compared to so many others, like my grandparents' marriage of 63 years plus. I can only hope that I'll someday gain the wisdom such veterans command, but I would like to think that the past six years have taught GG and I a bit as we've traveled this journey together. Along the way there are frequent highs, and the occasional low; level paths, and plenty of bumps. But throughout the journey, on the whole, we've tried to continually build one another up in our sacramental union, offering prayer and forgiveness along the way. And we haven't done too poorly at it, thanks be to God.

Inspired by Mary Alice's posting, I thought I'd pass along some of GG and my marital nuggets of wisdom to encourage all of our married readers out there:

1) If you're not working on your marriage, something else is at that moment working against it.
(Shared as a comment in MA's post) There are too many distractions in this world to think that marriage can be a free ride without effort. It's like oral hygiene: we must brush and floss everyday to maintain our tooth enamel and work against the forces of plaque. Even flipping on the TV at night can potentially be working against our marital union. Work schedules, worldly busyness, family obligations, etc.--all of these can take away from our personal investment in our marriages! We need to be constantly working at communicating, communing, loving, expressing, encouraging, etc. There is ALWAYS work to be done. We can never be idle in our commitment of love to one another.

2) No marriage is immune from sin.
GG and I talk often of how we need to be on guard against Satan and his attacks on our marriage. Humans are sinful creatures, called to be redeemed by Christ and to strive to live each day according to His Holy way. This is tough stuff, and no one is perfect at it! I am reminded of the verse discussing the Devil as a prowling cat:

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Resist him and stand firm in
the faith..." I Peter 5:8-9

I cannot begin to express the sadness we've felt watching GOOD marriages fall victim to the woes of sin. People to whom GG and I have looked up have sadly fallen prey--wonderful Christian marriages and families... and the aftermath is not pretty. We want to desperately avoid such outcomes at all costs. Recognizing our own propensity toward sin and how it affects our marriage is a great way to start.

3) Our marriage relationship takes precedence above all other earthly relationships.
Children are blessed by having happy parents who are happily married. Investment in that husband-wife relationship should always take precedence. That investment can be made in many ways. For example, the occasional weekend away from the children might be just the ticket to encouraging a good marriage, even if the kids miss us so! On the work front, GG and I have committed to having mutual friends across all venues. Never will either of us foster relationships (particularly with the opposite gender) that don't involve knowledge and involvement by our spouse. I can remember having great working relationships with males in my department (back when I was teaching), but insisting that GG come into school and meet everybody and attend picnics in order to make friends with these male buddies of mine. Referring back to #2, GG and I recognize that no one, not even happily married Christians, can ever be too aware of the temptations that lurk within personal relationships.

4) It is never good to assume in a marriage. Our spouses aren't mind-readers.
GG and I get into big trouble when we begin to assume things about one another (and let's be honest, it's usually me assuming things about him!) Essentially, this point involves the need for GOOD communication always in a marriage. Here's a hypothetical example:

I am making dinner and the kids are a wreck, needing distraction. GG is busy tackling work in his study. Meanwhile, I become more and more exasperated that he is hearing the calamity and not coming to my aid. And there I am trying to make dinner to serve my family... I become the victim and GG the perpetrator. By the time dinner is ready, I am angry and ready to leave the dinner table upset and emotional.

In such a scenario, where have I gone wrong? I've made woeful assumptions in a variety of ways--I've assumed GG hears what's happening (though how do I really know?) I've assumed he knows I am trying to get things done and that the kids are driving me crazy (though how can he really know?). I assume that he's taking the easy way out and avoiding us altogether (though how is that fair to presume the worst in a spouse's intentions?). I assume that he is unwilling to help. ENOUGH!!!

All I have to do is ASK. GG is not a mind-reader and won't know my needs until I express them. Communication goes a long way to correcting such a situation! If I just humble myself enough to request his help (in a loving, non-accusatory, non-victimized way), GG is my knight-in-shining-armor and comes to the rescue----most of the time ;). There. Evening saved. :) We are definitely better off asking than assuming.

5) Marriage is more about the GIVE than the take.
As Catholics, GG and I are called to administer the Sacrament of Matrimony every day in our marriage. Administering means we are called to lay down our lives and humbly offer ourselves to one another always. Though we are not perfect at it, by focusing our relationship on service to one another, we are most often able to avoid the pitfalls of selfishness that can come and steal our day-to-day happiness. And an added benefit is that we feel most satisfied with each other when we are serving him/her.

Back to #1, though, it all still takes WORK. And work we will!
God bless you today in your marriages!!


Bethany said...


I love this post. I long for my husband and I to become Marriage sponsors in our parish specifically for the purpose of enlightening engaged couples to the "hard work" that marriage will ask of them.

I am particularly fond of your #4, because it is the one I struggle with the most. That scenario plays out many times in our household. I often wrongly assume my husband's intentions and get angry with conversations I'm having with him in my head. By the time he knows what's going on, I'm threatening to make him sleep on the couch; in reality the issue is that I simply did not talk out the issue with him.

Thank you for reminding us that marriage is not easy, but its well worth the work.

Kat said...

Awesome awesome awesome, B-Mama, THANK YOU!! I'm getting ready to spend 10 days apart from ET while I take the kids to a family celebration and the poor guy has to stay and work...But now I'm wishing that I was going to be here so that we could practice some of the points that you made in your post! Thanks for the encouragement!

Kerry said...

wonderful points in this post- thanks so much!

kathy said...

Thank you so much for this post.

Actually, I want to thank all of you lovely ladies for sharing your thoughts and opinions with the rest of us, though I think the site would be *so much prettier* if you changed it from orange to crimson ;-).

Carolina Girl said...

Great post B-mama! Every word resonates in our marriage. I can see that my focus has entirely been our Lil Boo for the last 5 months and I know it should be our marriage. We said that before he was born, but somehow that notion slipped away as quiet moments from G became treasured sleeping moments for this tired mama! Thanks for renewing my spirit on this front! Just in time! :)

Right Said Red said...

This was a GREAT post, with really great advice for ALL couples. Thanks B-Mama