A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Marriage Five Years On

Letter to a married couple on the 5th anniversary of their wedding

Fr Carl Telford sm

Fr Carl Telford sm

Dear John and Mary, congratulations on 5 years of married life. It seems only yesterday that we gathered so joyfully for your wedding and now, 2 children later, Thomas and Rebecca, a few grey hairs and you are still smiling and talking to each other! We take nothing for granted today. As we all know today, sometimes the hype of a wedding means a divorce a year later. It is a crazy wonderful world.

Just to begin,  I would like to share with you both something that I came across from a holy man, Bishop Hugh Gilbert osb the Catholic bishop of Aberdeen: “There’s an idea very dear to Tolkien: we can’t choose the time and place in which we live, nor the historical circumstances that shape our lives. These are allotted to us. We should not murmur at them. Our task, in our allotted span, is to refuse the evil and choose the good; to make that basic choice and give our lives that direction. ‘If we would escape the pains of hell and reach eternal life, says St Benedict, then we must – while there is still time, while we are in this body and can fulfill all these things by the light of this life – hasten to do now what may profit us for eternity.” To survive and thrive you need a long term goal and big hearts and minds and the wisdom  of our Catholic spiritual tradition that has lead ordinary couples to holiness over 2000 years.”

Those words struck me because you as a sacred married sacramental couple are building for eternity. Your marriage, your living the sacrament of marriage matters for eternity, for your descendants. Choosing the good of life- long marriage is so precious and resisting the evil of self-centered living which is the air we breathe, is your work. So as you change another nappy or mow the lawns, you are God’s co-workers. These are not idle patronizing words but the truth that sets us free. Your marriage matters for all time. As I often shared with you “ the greatest thing you can do for your children is love their mother/father.”

So again I would like to share with you some thoughts about maturing and growing more intimate in your marriage.

1]  The honeymoon is over! The novelty of each other and of marriage has worn off. We say familiarity can breed contempt! so this is to encourage you both. First, seek spiritual strength from God to love each other more deeply each day and forgive each other. Ask God for the grace today that He promised you.  “God make our marriage holy and blessed.”

I know you pray together, even before sleep after a busy day, just holding hands and praying together the Our Father and Hail Mary. How heaven rejoices to see you do that. God is close to you. You may not feel it is much but your request of divine help is never in vain. So I often spoke to you about praying the Rosary together. It is a truism today that people are worried about security, burglar alarms, driving the children to school to keep them safe. But what about putting a spiritual security system in your home; keeping your home spiritually safe. Pray the Rosary. That is not easy with our frantic stressful lives and jobs. One suggestion to inspire you is to so go to Google and write in Fr Hugh Thwaites sj, rosary. This English Jesuit has very wise things to say about the power of the Rosary in a home. He speaks wisdom and supernatural reality. In the spiritual warfare every marriage is enduring today he speaks sense.

2]  To cut to the chase and go for the basics of a good marriage. Remember that in marriage or even priesthood or general life our negative behaviours matter far more than our positive behaviours! A bit depressing. No, obvious.  There  are certain behaviours that we should not inflict on our spouse. Think about it. What I mean is this: an unkind, harsh or hostile word, a cutting remark hurts and leaves lasting imprints in the heart of our spouse.  We are touchy creatures and to love another is to also be able to hurt them!  We must never forget that. In our sinful world we hurt each other as well as build each other up.

So there are 4 key negative behaviours in marriage I suggest that you avoid like the plague. They chill the atmosphere and without being dramatic have the capacity to kill our marriage or make it frosty.

STOP is a summary of them.  Don’t score points or think the worst or opt out or put down.rosary

i] Scoring points. This is arguing, being disagreeable, and always having a negative response to our spouse’s comment or remarks. “But you did that… you are wrong..  you also..”  It is pride. Always being right or never being wrong. That negative behaviour excludes our spouse from being heard. It cuts down communication. End of story.

ii] Thinking the worst. We are our own worst enemies. Our negative and self-pitying  personal feelings are a trap to give us spiritual glaucoma. We look at our spouse and see  their mistakes, oversights, slip-ups, their defects. We are on their case always. We see their defects only.

iii] Opting out. This is the most dangerous behaviour. E.g. “Well have it your own way….. That is fine with me!! No, I am not angry said with annoyed look!” … Going silent and refusing to talk.  Adult marriage means a lifetime of commitment to resolve our difficulties not run away or avoid them. As a teenager we could  slam the door and put on the headphones  but such actions are not part of the marriage covenant.  I once met a couple and one spouse would not talk for 2 weeks!! Yes we may have to wait until we calm down but the issue must be resolved, not opted out of. Of course this is much easier when we have built up an atmosphere of compliments, when we are frequently praising our spouse and thanking them. That beautiful question which should be asked weekly/daily “What do we/I need to do for the sake of our relationship/sacrament?” Be reconciled is always part of the answer. strife+in+marriage

iv] Putting down your spouse e.g. in front of the children, or relations or an in-law  “he/she is always lazy.. untidy.” Gossip about our spouse behind their back is a betrayal and disloyalty. Any negative comments are best confined to a time and a place with our life- long spouse.  In front of others is not that time or place.

This is a brief letter written with great affection for you both, and deep admiration for your shining love. I will continue in another letter next time with the positive behaviours that enrich a marriage. Until then, with loving prayer and deep admiration for your living your special sacrament. I  invite you to pray to the  soon to be  canonized parents of St Therese of the Child Jesus, her parents St Louis and Zelie Martin pray for all married couples.   

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