My husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage this month. To many I shared this with, they were impressed. Twenty years can seem like alot, unless you are well beyond that yourselves. To us, it seems in many ways like a blink of the eye, until we look around our over- populated kitchen table and realize it definitely took time to fill this many seats. Like all other couples who've actively and sincerely made the commitment to stay together, we've had our ups & downs, trials & triumphs, stresses & successes.
I can look back at my own idea of marriage and see how unrealistic my ideals were. I was a Brady Bunch junkie my whole childhood and (I admit) into my teenage years. I loved the large, happy family picture and bought into it totally. Imagine my disappointment upon returning home from our honeymoon to find Mike and I were not spending our evenings quietly & calmly reading the newspaper and needlepointing in the living room while Alice cleaned up the kitchen after the scrumptious meal she had just cooked for us. As kids were quickly added to our family, any homeostasis in our lives faded and chaos has become our lifestyle. It took me awhile to give up on the Brady Bunch fantasy and now I can't even watch the show without screaming "liars!!!" at the TV.
So what is twenty years of marriage? To me it is a growing respect and understanding of your spouse. A putting him/her before the kids, as without each other first--there is no "family". I think many couples have bought into their own fantasy of the perfect partner, their "soul-mate", and once the faults of the other person appear, it is not fun to hang around anymore. Why people think the grass will be greener with someone else is beyond my understanding. I once heard that you marry someone with 80% of the qualities you like. Then there is the other 20% you must accept and live with. People who flee their marriage will look for someone who has the 20% their spouse was missing forgetting that there is 80% that your spouse has and the new person lacks!!!
As the years have gone by and my understanding of my faith has grown, I am ever thankful for the Blessing of a Sacramental marriage. The Grace a couple receives by being married in the Catholic church is what can carry you through a rough patch and floods your marriage with the joys that can only come by living as you promised on the altar: To love Freely & Totally (without reservation), Faithfully (until death), & Fruitfully (receiving children lovingly thru God). Those are the promises a couple makes during every Catholic Nuptial Mass
How many couples make these promises without full understanding? I know that when we married in 1988, marriage prep was minimal at best. However, we received the Graces blindly and are now so thankful to be able to call on the Third Person in our marriage often. I was also never taught that one of the purposes of a sacramental marriage is to get your spouse to Heaven. No easy task under most circumstances, but enough of a reason to accept the challenge and complete the mission. The fruit of a committed marriage will be realized when we all see the Beautific Vision!
And so, to those of you who are living your marital vows, working your way toward the twenty year mark, I say never give up, there is always a rainbow after the storm. Pray that the Graces you've already received will flow through you and your spouse and build a stronger marriage year after year. And to those of you who have been through the storms and know the Truth, may you be an ever shining light to your children and to society. Society now more than ever, needs to see witness of Sacramental Marriage being lived the way God intended.
Saint John Francis Regis, patron saint of marriage and Blessed Luigi and Maria Quattrochi, patron saints of married couples, Pray for Us!!