In the year 2011 I watched another Royal (British) wedding, saw photos of many Hollywood and Bollywood weddings, attended weddings of several young friends and relatives get married. The same year I spent many hours listening to single women discuss the problem of not being married. This weekend I celebrate my 35th wedding anniversary and so feel free to reflect on what it takes to make it this far (sadly, many friends have not), and to still be on friendly terms with your spouse (many more are not on friendly terms). So, what does it take? My husband’s quote last year was “Just keep stickin’ around.” That might not be the most precise guidance. Of course I exaggerate when I say anyone can have a fairy-tale wedding because all it takes is money. Not everyone can have a fairy-tale marriage, which underscores the life truth number 1: life feels better with wealth, but wealth doesn’t give you a life.
So what about marriage? Marriage is much like joining a church in that you join it voluntarily and willingly but you may be surprised at what you find beneath the lovely exterior of those people in the pew/chair/bench next to you. A friend likes to say that a church is simply a bunch of sinners in the same building (hypocrites, if you don’t know what a sinner is). Likewise a marriage: two selfish scoundrels claiming undying love to each other. Each one thinks his/her way is the best way (marriage is a battle to death someone said). Indeed, the picture that has been painted of two becoming one is often quite misleading. I sense it more a caricature or an ideal than a probable possible. I have witnessed marriages wherein one person seems devoid of his (or her) personality, tastes, preferences, and strengths. They have seemingly vanished, being swallowed up in the other’s. This is not two becoming one–it’s a cruel joke when one in the couple evaporates while the other becomes a monstrous sort of thing as his or her will dominates.
How do two become one? I don’t know, I do believe there is a mystery involved that requires Divine help. And I don’t think I will ever know fully. I do know that it is neither completely abandoning yourself nor is it reigning supreme. In this case, it really is more like being a Christian: Jesus Christ is completely available to His own, and His own are completely available to Him. (Read the Gospel of John).
It takes everything from each person in the marriage: 150% (or 100 % if you’re literally minded). A 50-50 marriage cannot work out.
What else helps a marriage last and last well? Extending grace, a willing submission of my own desires (even to the remote), and strength, and perservance, wisdom.
You need to be a listening friend with an open heart, setting your own notions aside for at least time, and by doing so you try to get inside the mind of the person you married. And hopefully, you will gain hints on who she (or he) is and what gets his (or her) attention.
Yes, you need to be you, but you also need to realize you can be wrong: so you need a daily willingness to be wrong, as well as willingness to be humble. And what is the point of knowing you’re wrong and being humble if you refuse to actually changing habits or attitudes you need to change? Change will be necessary–and probably won’t be comfortable.
So, far so good right? Some people will say, “Hey, I married my best friend, when I am down, they lift me up.” so you’re cool. But what happens when you’re both stuck? When you’re both depressed, or off the wall? What happens when you’re both sick and sick of being sick? What happens when you’re both so strained that neither of you have the end of the proverbial rope to hang on to? What help is there? Sometimes, often, people do fall apart when the going gets rough–they are broken, and they do not become stronger. Yes, this is scary, but it is reality. The happiest married couples haven’t been the richest, healthiest, most well-adjusted, successful people. Couples who can stay together in the roughest times–and often rough times continue for decades–are couples whose source of help, real help and comfort does not come from the spouse, in fact, that help transcends this small planet. Couples, together and separately draaw strength directly from its source: from God. And, God is the supplier of all the mercy and compassion you will need for 1000 lifetimes.
How do you do this? Pray. I pray, and in prayer, the very act, requires that I submit to God’s thoughts, His mind, His ways. A surprising result of prayer is that doing such we find that we are strengthened, not weakened, in our own characters. Why? Possibly because prayer, which is just a little act of the mind/heart, is also where we find our strongest defense against God.
In His paradoxical way, prayer is the means by which we are brought to Him.
In receiving His answers, we are imbued with some of His character–a character of understanding, compassion and fortitude.
If couples pray, they tend to stay together, and their marriages improve. If they do not pray, they tend to play the Game of Marriage…if they stay together.