When Georgette and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, we received a card from one of my younger sisters. On the front of the card it said: “Congratulations, You Did It The Old Fashioned Way!” On the inside of the card it said: “You Stayed Marrried! Happy Anniversary!”
I guess in some respects, in today’s day and age it does seem a little old fashioned to “stick it out” and stay married to your first spouse until “death do you part.”
If you’re over the age of 40, you may remember the Ann Landers daily advice column that appeared in newspapers all across the country. I remember one of her columns that appeared while I was in high school (early 1970’s) where she quoted a study that stated that only 25% of all married couples were happy in their marriages.
Although Ann Landers was the woman that Americans looked to for advice on marriage and relationships, in 1975 she shocked her readers by running a column where she announced that she was going through a divorce with her husband. In that column she admitted, “The lady with all the answers does not know the answer to this one.” I remember the impact the column had on me when I read it. In fact, I think it had a significant impact on all of her readers including my dad who brought it up for discussion at the supper table. I think most of her readers genuinely felt sorry for her.
Each new generation seems to want to know the answer to the age-old question: “What does it take to have a happy long-lasting marriage?”
At the end my article last week on Broken Catholic Marriages, I asked for ideas and suggestions on what it takes to have a happy and long-lasting marriage. I heard from one person, Grace Schneider, who is one of our “marathon adorers.” (A “marathon adorer” is a person who has commited to covering three or more holy hours per week in the adoration chapel.)
Here’s what Grace had to say:
In the first 21 years* of our marriage, I find these 12 principles are most important to honoring our relationship:
1. My spouse is not responsible for “making” me happy. Personal happiness is found by using our God-given talents to benefit others, including family. Find the road to personal happiness and share the fruits with all those you love.
2. I am not responsible for my spouse’s happiness; but I am responsible for being supportive and positive so as to not take his happiness away.
3. Forgive one more time than asked; seek forgiveness one more time than I think I need to.
4. It is “my fault” too, we are in this together.
5. Don’t focus on what I perceive my husband fails to do/be/give ….. instead, I’m grateful for all he does and who he is, this is what I choose to tell him about. When deciding whether to discuss a problem in our relationship, pray first, mention my faults not his and never start the conversation with “you…..”
6. Honeydew is a great melon, not a list.
7. Recognize Christ in my spouse and treat him accordingly. Say I love you often; seek resolutions not blame; be thankful for his gift of self to me. Be respectful not resentful.
8. Practice mercy–which is all that love desires to give–before admonishment.
9. Remember Christ’s commandment of loving God above all else and my husband as he wants to be loved–slightly paraphrased.
10. Most importantly – LOVE. Not as the world loves but as God loves–unconditionally–your spouse should never feel they need to earn your love or they could lose your love–after all, since the two become one flesh–to not love, honor and respect your spouse is only hurting yourself.
11. Say Hello, Good morning, welcome home like it is the very first time; say good-bye, good-night like it might be your last. This way you never part with anger or resentment in your heart, not even for the night.
12. Better yet, never allow anger into your heart in the first place, especially when it comes to your spouse–Ask God to bless you with a forgiving heart and a short memory span. Life is too short to hold a grudge.
By taking the time to go through the process of writing out the “principles” that govern her attitude and behavior toward her spouse, Grace accomplished three things: (1) she forced herself to think through and clarify her beliefs about what is necessary for a happy and long-lasting marriage; (2) she made a renewed commitment to practice those principles; and (3) she performed a spiritual work of mercy by sharing her insights and wisdom with her fellow Catholics.
Most people have never taken the time to sit down and write out what they believe is required for a happy and long-lasting marriage. If you are married and are serious about strengthening your marriage, you really should take the time to write out the values, qualities and traits you think are necessary for a happy and successful marriage; then ask your spouse out for that weekly date we talked about last week and share with him (or her) what you came up with.
It can be springtime again in your marriage, but you’re going to have to be the one who takes the initiative to make the first move. Begin now by asking for help from the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and then grab a pen and paper and get started. You are being called by God to be a perfect spouse. You wouldn’t want to let Him down now would you?
* Congratulations Grace, You Did It The Old Fashioned Way… You Stayed Marrried!