How to Stay Married
Yesterday my wife and I went for a romantic boat ride out on the bay here in Clearwater Beach. She’s joined me for a conference and we spent a nice few days before visiting her friend Dawn and her new husband, Matt. I mention this because as we departed the boat one of the crew said to us, “Here come the honeymooners.”
Well, Marion and I have been married for nearly 9 years! You can only imagine the shock on that guy’s face when we told him that.
At our parish’s 160th anniversary party my wife and I took to the dance floor. We usually just do swing dancing and some slower dances. I’m OK at those dances but am clearly a stiff white guy at anything more. My colleague, Dr. Bill Barba said to me the next night how much he and his tablemates enjoyed watching us dance together. It clearly wasn’t a dancing with the stars moment but in Dr. Barba’s words, “There was a couple that had some real intimacy between them.”
Now I say this not as a braggart or even because I love my wife. I say this because our marriage has not always been a walk in the park. We’ve had family disasters to deal with, financial and employment struggles, the loss of not being able to have children, medical issues to face (our own and our parents), a rascally dog and the usual knock-em-down-drag-em-out-fights that anyone who lives in close proximity to another inevitably has. In fact, one of the reasons I married Marion was because when we had an argument she wouldn’t simply turn away and end our relationship, she’d be committed to stay and work things out.
So here are five simple tips that I’ve found as a husband that have helped me stay married to my darling wife. These have helped me grow in intimacy and love for her.
1) Value Commitment, Not Happiness: One of the most valuable things I learned in marriage prep sounds counter-intuitive: “Marriage is not about happiness. Marriage is about commitment. Happiness may be a result of being committed to love one another.” It’s not about being a friend it’s about being a partner. I wake up each day knowing that this day could frankly, be challenging. I could get bad news, or get fired, or injured. I could just be in a bad mood or depressed over some sadness. Something tragic may indeed befall us. I can rest easy in knowing that I have a wife who is going to be there unquestionably. There are no games, no deals. We are in this for the long haul no matter what comes. That doesn’t mean that things are easy, or that we won’t disagree from time to time, but it does mean that despite things being uneasy we have committed to work things through and not run away from the relationship because things get hard.
2) Pray Together: Admittedly, we don’t do this every day with great formality. Sometimes it’s a simple grace together at dinner. But even then we try to listen to each other’s needs that we present to God confident that God gives us what we need. When we do this more formally we hear the words of scripture (we often use the liturgy of the hours in Magnificat or more often the daily readings from mass in the same publication) and let them touch our lives with their meaning. We present those pressing needs to God and realize that we need to hear each other’s worries. Sometimes we have one that surprises the other and allows us to give concern and comfort for that to each other.
3) Reconnect During the Day: Honestly, this one grated at me the first year. It’s important to check-in at least once throughout the workday. Who knows what happens during the day? It allows me the opportunity to listen to what kind of day we both are having and prepare myself for what comfort Marion or I might need once day is done. “The dog’s been acting out?” OK, I know I need to take him out for a run when I get home. I’ve had a stressful day at work? Marion knows it might be a good idea to make a favorite meal or let me watch the hockey game instead of something she’d rather watch. And honestly, when I’m grumpy, I’d rather us do something we’d both like to do, so it gets me out of the dumps–or better we invite some friends over and change the climate entirely.
4) Have Friends Who Value Marriage: We’re part of a new marriage ministry at St. Joe’s and I think we’ve already seen our number of friends who value that commitment grown in Buffalo. Forty couples stepped up to be part of this ministry and I was flabbergasted and happy to see that we have lots of people here who have been married for some time and even some who have just married who indeed value the commitment that marriage brings with it. Even longtime friends like Jeff and Beth who have been married just a smidge longer than us are always good to see together, to understand that there are others our own age who are valuing their married lives together.
5) Forgive and Recommit: There is something about being Catholic that calls us into forgiveness. Married people would do well to take the sacrament of reconciliation seriously enough that they not only humble themselves in the confessional but also are brave enough to forgive each other, even when the other has hurt them badly. I know I’ve hurt my wife on many occasions. I’ve been angry and said mean things. I’ve walked away in a huff. I’ve taken things out on her. And she’s somehow forgiven me. Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet about says it all and is a good model for us married folk. Jesus understands that these disciples are weak and broken and will not always pass the test of being committed to Him. And yet he washes their feet anyway. He is comfortable with the dirtiest parts of themselves and touches them and washes away all the grime anyway. We all have parts of ourselves that get pretty dirty. Can we not only forgive one another for our faults but also wash away the pain that the other has caused us? Sometimes that takes time, but committing to it is the key and well worth the reminder. Jesus always serves us as a reminder of that kind of self-giving love and forgiveness.
These are just starters. I’m sure we all could come up with a bunch more. I’ll roll out 5 more each week as time goes on and maybe even have some guest posters come up with a few more. So subscribe to the rss feed and some back soon.