In this month of June which is traditionally the month when many choose to marry we began to think about who teaches or taught us to be married.
In the Catholic tradition couples who wish to be married in the church must go through some kind of marriage prep with a priest, a deacon or someone designated to walk with them through the month before their wedding ceremony. I’m not familiar with other Christian faith expressions but we suspect that many Evangelical or mainline Protestant churches have some kind of marriage preparation programs. Much is said in the Scriptures about marriage as a “mystery” and marriage is frequently used in Scripture to show God ‘s love for His people. The Buddha spoke about marriage and many psychologists, with or without a faith dimension, and ministers, especially of Evangelical Christians, have written numerous books on the subject of marriage. Catholic theologians have tried to take the “mystery” and make it understandable for all.
In today’s world, we are bombarded with advice on how to have a successful marriage, how to be happy, and how to face every imaginable issue that might arise once a couple is married, We have access to statistics about every aspect of marriage which,when we think about them often have little meaning. Nearly every day the media tells us about the latest Hollywood items who are planning to get married or end the relationship that they vowed to the public would last forever. Lately we have been bombarded with Kimye and George Clooney and, lest we forget, Bradgelina. They are supposed to somehow “teach” us how to be in a relationship. Much is in the news about the defense of marriage act, which implies that only male-female relationships have the answer to life-long happiness and success.
We both, while attending Catholic colleges/universities took marriage courses, and we spent one evening with the priest in Rita’s parish before we were married. Three of our children participated in The Catholic Engaged Encounter before marriage as well as time with a priest. Our youngest participated in a day experience as well as time with the priest who officiated at their wedding. Did any of this prepare prepare us for marriage? This has been running about in our heads lately. Can we really prepare for marriage. Couples we’ve known who did a lot of preparation for marriage ended in divorce. Couples who did no preparation lived 60+ years happily together.
We have posted before of the value of being surrounded by couples that love each other. We are blessed to have had parents who loved each other and were committed to a life time together but not all in our families who experienced their relationships remained happily married. We have been surrounded by couples who we thought were as committed to a life together as are, only to have them announce that they had decided to go their separate ways. Couples we know who lived marriage as we thought it was supposed to be lived had children whose marriages quickly ended and couples who didn’t make it had children who are determined to stay together and appear to be doing so. Some would say that they are happily married because they are lucky, it was fate or Kismet, they had the right Karma or they were graced by God.
Couples getting married are frequently asked why they want to get married and their answers are somewhat similar including: he or she completes me, he or she is my soul-mate, I can’t imagine my life without the other, etc. Couples married a long time are asked the secret to their success and they have similar responses also. We learned to communicate, forgive, support each other and be best friends.
Back to the original question–who or what teaches us how to be married? We are not sure there is an answer. Is there a one size fits all method, program, lifestyle, faith dimension that will ensure success. Probably not. Sometimes we think we are lucky. We don’t speak about Kismet or Karma but do believe we have been graced by God. We also think that others had luck, good Karma and God’s grace and yet their marriage was not happy or successful.
As we approach the end of this post we have some ideas about why we have managed to stay together happily, successfully and grace-filled for forty seven years. Both of us know we are better persons because the other has been in our lives. We don’t take commitments lightly. We have worked at being together with some fits and starts through the years. We have learned the value of being together, of putting the other first and yet maintaining some personal time and space. We have figured out that mercy, kindness and forgiveness have been vital to our relationship as well as fun and laughter. We have learned from the past and yet are determined to always have a future.
Have we been lucky? Perhaps. Have we experienced God’s grace? We think so. We have written often and spoken to thousands about our experience of marriage. Many tell us that we have inspired, challenged, supported and helped them to be happy and see God’s presence in their lives.
In summary, who teaches us? Probably every person who touches our lives. But in the end we are happy because we choose to be. We are successful by worldly terms. We hope that one day we will come before God and He/She will say “Well done good and faithful servants.”
Who or what has taught you how to be married?
Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.