I consider myself very lucky to be counted among the minority of happily married women in this country. I try to consider why our 16 year marriage is strong and successful. Honestly, it’s hard to take much credit or fall into pride on this. I really married a great guy. I love him. He loves me. It doesn’t feel like a lot of work to keep our marriage solid. Even so, I think a little reflection is important, so others, especially those planning to marry, can find the common threads and habits for happily married couples. So here is my short list, specific to us:
- I was taught to choose a spouse. My mother would discuss the importance of common values and goals, being sure that the match worked well on paper and in the heart, and most importantly, praying for discernment. I am one of three girls. Two of us are happily married to really good men. The other hasn’t been married as of yet and reminds my children that it is better to be single than married to the wrong person. Being taught to turn to God when making this decision was probably most important. Both John and I entered marriage convicted that it was God’s will. Who can be against you when He is for you?
- I chose a man who had already proved to me that he put God first, me second, and himself last and I’ve tried to do the same. One indicator was that he was not just good to me, but treated all others with respect and dignity. When God is first in our life, we are open to receiving an abundance of love and grace from Him, which helps us to be more giving and less selfish in our other relationships. I need love and affection from my husband, but I know the only One who can truly fill my need to be loved is God, so my expectations for my husband are realistic and human. By allowing God to fulfill this need that only He can, I have a source from which to give love. When both partners are givers in a marriage, things just work. Both put the other first. Both try to grow to be better people. Both pray for their partner and care about his or her salvation. Yes, even after having kids, we put each other second only to God.
- We never included an escape clause. Both of us made it clear to ourselves, one another, and our children that divorce is not an option. With the exception of a legal divorce to protect myself or my children from danger or violence, I have never considered this an option. When something becomes so “normal” in our society, it becomes a dangerous temptation when conflicts arise. If you don’t consider divorce an option, you are more careful about choosing a spouse, preparing for marriage, and working out problems before they get too big. When problems arise, feelings get hurt, and the stresses of life overwhelm, everything isn’t going to be perfect. People and relationships change and we have to adapt and deal with it. When you know that you will have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life, because leaving is not an option, you tend to address these issues sooner rather than later. You swallow your pride and turn to God, the saints, and angels for help and guidance. Things get back on track much more quickly.
- We know that love is not about feelings or romance, but we like those things too. This goes back to #2. We both know that true Love is bigger than our feelings, bigger than sex, bigger than us. So when feelings, romance, or sex get out of whack from growing pains or life circumstances, the true love kicks in. We make an effort with the other stuff, with friendship, partnership, romance, but when these fail, love is deeper. Marriage is making someone your family. Your children can’t behave themselves out of your love. Accidents, disease, or mental illness can’t take away this kind of unconditional love. The love for your spouse needs to be the same. In high school, Sr. Doris told us that to get married, you have to love a man in a way that if he fell into a vegetative state the day after the wedding, you’d still choose to spend your life caring for him. It really is a good litmus test. This is family. This is love.
Again, this is just my short list. Let’s hear from others and get more habits for happily married couples.
Copyright 2014 Kate Daneluk