Marrying “The One”

Q: “How did you know that he/she was The One?”

A: “You just know.”

A common answer to a common question. But is it that simple?

Honestly, it wasn’t for me. My mom always told me that marriage was a calculated risk. I spent a lot of time calculating, and it took me a while to allow myself to take the risk.

When I met Gary, I asked mutual friends – GUY friends – about his character. They all were thrilled with him. No one made funny faces when I mentioned his name or hesitated when they told me I should give him a chance. I also sent him to talk to my spiritual director so he could get approval to begin the courtship. Why in the world would I do that? Because Fr. Ed is an excellent judge of character, specializes in Ignatian discernment, and is one of the strictest priests I know. If anyone was going to catch inconsistencies in this new boyfriend of mine, it would be him.

In every conversation, email, and letter (yes, he wrote me letters!), Gary did make sure to give me as much information as he could about how he grew up, successes and failures he had experienced, and life lessons that changed who he was from the inside out. He was very open with his dreams, his faith, his struggles, and his faults. Gary wasn’t trying to paint a picture for me of a false reality. I could clearly see that he was constantly working to give me the best version of himself.

Did he tell me EVERYTHING? No.

After we got married, I was surprised by the fact that he liked to watch a lot of TV. Would that have been a game-changer during our engagement? Of course not. Within the last six years of marriage, I found out that he also liked boy bands more than I did, he has a fetish for hats, and will randomly burst into song in the middle of a conversation.

By July 8, 2006, I at least knew what kind of a man I was going to marry, and I wanted the whole package. Forever.

It helped that I got input from the people who were important to me. Not just from my friends, but from my mom, my siblings, and my priest (since my dad passed away when I was 18). If I had doubts, I would always bring them to Fr. Ed, and until this day, he will only have good things to say about my husband. This means a lot to me because as our confessor, he has always been well aware of the challenges we have faced individually and as a couple.

Do we have our conflicts? Sure, we do. They’re not frequent, but it definitely still takes work to keep our relationship strong, as it would for anything you want to be good at. Have I ever regretted marrying him? Not for a second. There are too many signs that confirm how perfect he is for me. I’m a better person because of him. My trust in God has grown with him. I’m even healthier now than I was without him. And we have become a team in more ways than one – as parents, as mentors to other young couples, in ministry and in service to God’s people.

All that being said, I cannot stress enough how important it is to allow God to work in your life as a single person first because it prepares you to not only receive the gift of your future spouse someday, but also to give the gift of yourself to him or her. I remember making a list of all the qualities I wanted in a husband. Then I wrote a note to myself in my journal, saying that I needed to be all those things first. So many people are rushing into relationships for all the wrong reasons. They haven’t yet healed from the brokenness suffered from previous breakups and tend to bring their open wounds into their new relationship hoping for that person to just make the pain disappear. They are looking for someone to complete them, often not paying attention to the red flags that signal future heartache and frustration.

It’s a journey that we can only take with Jesus by our side, for the simple reason that He is the one who heals us. He transforms. He encourages. He empowers. He teaches us to love with a selfless, sacrificial heart.

So if you ever ask that question, “How do you know when you’ve found The One?”, you need to pose yet two other questions.

“Does he or she love you the way Jesus loves His Church?”

and

“Can you love him or her with the same self-giving love of Christ?”

+AMDG+

The Promise

I had the most profound conversation with my 4-year-old daughter just a few minutes ago. This is how it went:

Meleana: Mommy, why do you and Daddy have rings on your fingers?

Me: Because we’re married to each other. It means we’re going to be together forever and ever.

Meleana: Why?

Me. Because we love each other.

Meleana: Why?

Me: Because God gave us to each other. God gave your Daddy to me to take care of me.

Meleana: Why?

Me: Because sometimes I can’t take care of myself.

Meleana: When me and Therese are big like you, we’re gonna get married too…just like you and Daddy.

Me: You want to get married?

Meleana: Yeah.

Me: Do you want to have babies after you get married, like I had babies?

Meleana: Yeah. But me and Therese don’t have babies because our tummies are small!

Me: If you and Therese get married, we have to pray that you’ll have good husbands, just like Daddy. Does Daddy help take good care of me?

Meleana (nodding her head): Mmm hmm.

Me: Do you want a good husband to help take care of you, just like Daddy takes care of me?

Meleana (nodding her head): Mmm hmm. But me and Therese don’t want to be alone here all by ourself.

Me: You won’t be alone. That’s why Daddy is here to take care of you when I go to work.

Meleana: But when you and Daddy go away and me and Therese get married in the Church, we don’t want to be alone by ourself.

Me (tearing up): Lea, when Mommy and Daddy go to Heaven, we’ll always pray for you. It’s okay, you won’t be alone.

********************

This isn’t the first time Lea has asked about our wedding rings. Our little girl understands more than we realize. She knows the rings Gary and I wear are important…that they mean something to both of us. She knows we have a special relationship with each other…that being married is good…and that we get married in the Church because that’s just what we do.

One day the world will show her that not all marriages last forever…that people rush into a lifetime commitment way too quickly…and that not all men are good husbands. I just pray that she will always appreciate what marriage is supposed to be from the example that Gary and I leave her and her siblings.

Sometimes I get scared when I think about our children growing up. I don’t want them to lose their innocence and I would love to be able to save them from getting hurt. But reality proves that we can’t shelter them from everything and make every decision for them regarding their futures. My husband and I are trying our best to provide a good faith foundation for them so they will learn how to discern what the best choices are for their lives. We talk to them about their feelings and listen to what they have to say. They know we love them even though we don’t let them have or do whatever they want.

So when the day comes that they come to us to let us know there is a “special someone” in their lives, we can only hope and pray that they have also listened to everything we had to teach them about what real love is…what the promise in marriage is really all about…and how we have loved each other through the good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death and into forever and ever.

I didn’t marry you because you were perfect.
I didn’t even marry you because I loved you.
I married you because you gave me a promise.
That promise made up for your faults.
And the promise I gave you made up for mine.
Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.
And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that promise.
– Thornton Wilder

+AMDG+

Common Ground

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around talking with my sisters and our husbands, asking each other what we had in common as married couples.  What started as a pretty funny, light-hearted discussion brought us to the realization that our shared Catholic faith had a lot to do with why we married each other and stay committed – through good times and bad.  The girls’ interests are different from the guys’ interests…they love sports, we don’t…they have their own music interests, we have ours…etc. etc. etc.  So at first we were laughing because we’d ask each other, “So what do you guys have in common?” and the wife would answer, “Uhhh…we’re Catholic?”  because she couldn’t think of anything else on the spot.  And the one question that was running through my mind was: How is it that we got married with only one thing in common?

It’s not that we really don’t have other things in common and don’t appreciate the fact that we have our faith as the center of our relationships.  After thinking about it, Gary and I both like a lot of the same things…and I know it’s true for my sisters and their husbands.  Robby brought up the fact that he and my sister Emeline both love their son  Jacob.  Shared love for our children is a wonderful plus to add to the relationship because as a couple, it takes definite teamwork to raise a child in this world.  Our personalities also go really well together, so we see each other as a great complement to who we are as individuals, as opposed to being exactly the same.  Mike made a really good point: “If you have everything in common, then it can get kinda boring.”  I personally love the fact that my own husband loves to cook (so I can learn how) and sprinkles my day with fun factoids (or new dance moves!).

But what I’m trying to say is that I think it was really awesome that we could all say that being able to live out our Catholic faith in our marriages is No.1 for us.  We all go to Mass with our spouses, pray with them, talk about Scripture with them, serve the Church alongside them, and ground our values in the teachings of Jesus Christ.  What we teach our children and how we discipline them are also guided by our beliefs, and we try our best to be good witnesses to our families, friends, and other people we meet.  It’s HUGE. 

So praise God for that conversation because I know that none of us would choose anything else to rank above.  Every once in awhile, I’ll feel bad that I’m so NOT a sports freakazoid like Gary is because he’s all about any and every sport out there.  He listens to sports, watches sports, plays sports, talks about sports, works sports, and he LOVES his Frisco teams.  Me?  I tolerate it. =)  But what good would it do if we both loved sports that much but didn’t have a common faith?  

I don’t mean to downplay the commitment other couples may have who don’t happen to associate themselves with a particular religion or spirituality.  There are people out there as such who have no problem staying married to someone for the rest of their lives.  I just can’t imagine (for ourselves) how things would have turned out if we couldn’t fall back on the Word of God and the moral compass given to us by Mother Church.  As my mom always says, even being married to a wonderful husband or wife can get difficult.  Life is full of joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments.  The graces given to us through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the oneness of faith we have in our marriages have sustained us through miscarriages, major financial decisions, illnesses, and other unexpected stressors.

Besides all this, it’s nice to know that on very ordinary days when we are tempted to take our spouses for granted, we can think back and remember…”This is the gift God wanted to give me to show how much He loves me.”

+AMDG+

True fidelity

In the recent weeks, I have had more than a few conversations about relationships and marriage…a couple of them light-hearted and amusing…some very hopeful and others very sobering.

My family and friends have been reflecting on their own situations and realizing that they’re all being called to a higher “state of being”, I guess you could say.  The young married couples are growing more grateful for the spouses God gave them.  The single folks are finding ways to prepare themselves for “The One” He will send them someday.  Those who have ended dating relationships are learning to live their lives apart from a love they once hoped would last forever.

I’ve been on my own path of enlightenment, too – especially after rereading the story I wrote of the developing friendship I had with Gary before our courtship.  In the spurts of free time I have during the day, I also read snippets of books I’ve had for a few years…trying to see how I can be a better wife and best friend to the man I pledged the rest of my life to.

In Romancing Your Husband, the author talks about communication infidelity.  Even if a wife is not outrightly cheating on her husband, there are verbal and nonverbal ways that she can be unfaithful to him.  Debra White Smith says, “If you live a life of verbal fidelity with your mate, your words praise him, encourage him, and generally build him up.  If you live a life of verbal infidelity with your mate, then your words will criticize, bite, or discourage him.”  If a wife is also belittling her husband in front of others or behind his back, she is not supporting him or trying to help him be a better person.

The funny thing is that the whole Jon & Kate plus 8 crisis/divorce has forced me to ask a lot of questions about relationships I may not have otherwise thought of if we weren’t following the show so closely (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just pick up a tabloid at the grocery store…it’s quite a sad story).  Whenever I’d notice Kate being mean to Jon, it would force me to think about the tone of voice I use or comments I make…wondering if there’s a little but of Kate in me, too.

St. Peter in his first letter tells married couples to be “of one mind: share each other’s troubles with mutual affection, be compassionate and humble (1Pt 3:8).”  So I personally am trying harder to be the help-mate God made me to be for Gary.  It’s not that I’ve been horrible to him or verbally abusive, but if I tell myself I”m not that bad and excuse away little things that I know I shouldn’t be doing or saying, then I might be chipping away slowly at his self-esteem.  After a while, he won’t feel respected and loved or even valued as a man and the head of our family.

This is my lesson for the day, and I welcome it with all of my heart.  We all have things to work on within ourselves and this is a good step in the right direction.  Amen!

+AMDG+