For Better Or Worse

My wife Pattie often reminds me that we married for better or worse. She says I couldn’t do any better and she couldn’t do any worse!

Pope Francis recently said, “This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. Here we see the reciprocity of differences.”

Hmm! The reciprocity of differences – I’m not sure whether the pope subscribes to the theory that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but he’s certainly onto something here.

Too often I hear about marriage and relationship breakdowns, divorces and extensive haggling for division of property or custody of children. Maintaining a relationship isn’t easy. It requires ongoing effort. You get back what you put in.

The early times of a relationship are generally exciting. You do wonderful things together, creative ways to charm one another and become closer. While it is normal for a relationship to change and evolve, there’s no reason for the spark to go out.

Yet, even Pope Francis conceded married life can be tiring, “burdensome, and often, even nauseating” – not that he’s talking from first hand experience! Yes, there will always be challenges and problems in any relationship. You must be willing to invest time and effort to make it work. Permit your spouse to be who they are, not what you wish them to be. Accept your spouse’s imperfections (as they accept yours) and celebrate each other’s individuality. Do some of the things you did for each other when you first met. Speak of love. Enjoy the reciprocity of differences.

Significantly, the importance of marriage is substantiated by the presence of Christ at the wedding in Cana, where he began his public ministry by performing his first miracle [John 2]. Jesus stressed too the significance of the marriage bond, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” [Matthew 19:4-6(NABRE)]

My relationship with Jesus has direct correlation to the relationship I have with my wife. If I find one relationship is waning it’s generally a sign that the other also requires attention. Just as I start my spiritual day in the presence of God, so too I start my physical day having breakfast with my wife, enjoying a loving, caring, sharing relationship, spending quality time with her. We laugh a lot together. There is never a dull moment.

It’s been said that happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry. Our marriage is a gift from God – everything that goes with it and comes from it. This includes growth in love – unconditional and selfless, true friendship, investment of each other, value of sacrifice, service, value of life, respect, value human dignity, appreciation and active listening.

Pope Francis offered practical advice for dealing with marital discord. “… never let the day end without having first made peace. Never. A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue.” Good advice that!

It’s only right that having given my wife the first word, she should have the last: In a marriage she says, there are three rings – the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the suffering! A bit of a character is Pattie!


Previously published in The Catholic Leader (05/10/2014)