I read this piece by Simcha Fisher that was a response to this piece by Emma Smith on Catholic Exchange. I thought I would add my piece. I feel like I have a different point of view than both Simcha Fisher and Emma Smith, but I agree with Simcha when she says that marriage is “a tangled ball of good intentions and bad habits, unhealed wounds and unfounded desires.” These words should be written on the top of every single sheet of paper handed to a couple preparing for marriage, in or out of the Catholic Church.
My life experience includes having a child out of wedlock at seventeen, being in an invalid marriage with a drug addict and being married in the Church to the love of my life, thinking that God would protect me from ever being hurt by my husband simply because we were in a valid Catholic marriage. Having been where I\’ve been, I think that the root problem is that many people think that marriage is an escape from the hurts of the world. I don’t really know if it comes from the fairy tales or romantic movies, but I do know that in a society like ours that is creating wounded human beings because of divorce and broken homes, and people just want relief. Relief from pain, being unloved, the heartache that comes with living in a broken home and a loss of sense of self.
We are generations deep in the broken home norm, and these generations are also the furthest away from any kind of faith. They are the “nones” as people like to say. They don’t believe in God and they have no religious affiliation. Yet they are the ones in the most pain. They are left looking for love. Their parents didn\’t do it and they have no clue who God is so they can’t have faith in Him to do it. They are left wandering the world looking for that one person who will love them, validate them, and keep them safe. And that is a huge mistake.
The common thing that I see among believers and unbelievers is the need to avoid pain. It’s what motivates people. “Happiness” is the carrot that is hung in front of us and the way to get “happiness” is to avoid pain. That is the trick of the devil. The only way to happiness is through pain, it is through resurrection, after the worst pain that life really begins. That belief is the center of our faith. That includes our life, our conversions, our marriages, our bodies, our relationship with Jesus, our friendships and everything else. Nothing can become holy without pain, death and resurrection. The more we avoid that fact the more we reject a Christ who was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the dead. That is our Christian faith.
It goes for marriage too. Catholics cannot go into a marriage thinking that there will be no pain. We are human, we sin, it’s how we roll. Then we have to reconcile ourselves to God through confession and mercy, and in marriage there has to be those same elements.
I am thirty-seven years old. I was thirty-four years old, divorced, been around the block and had four children on my wedding day and I thought that God would protect me from being hurt by my husband because of the grace of the Sacrament. I was wrong. I have hurt my husband deeply and he has hurt me. In fact, this marriage has caused me (and my husband) more pain that any other relationship ever has.
However, there is a grace in the Sacrament of Marriage that you can do nothing to earn. Sometimes that grace is the only thing you have when you are sitting in front of the tabernacle telling Jesus how much you wish you had never heard of Him because this whole Christian thing sucks and marriage is the worst part of it all.
It is grace that helps you get past the pain and get to marriage counseling. It is grace that helps you see the human being in your spouse and realize that his wounds are why he has let you down and not because you are not worthy of love. It is grace that helps you realize that God is faithful and His Love is where you go for the safety, security and the promise of not being let down. Your spouse isn\’t God. Your spouse can not carry the weight that is intended to be carried by God. It’s that simple. Anytime you put that kind of expectation on a finite human being, you will be disappointed.
Sometimes in marriage, the forgiveness has to come without a confession. The priest who prepared my husband and me for marriage told us all of this when we were engaged and we weren\’t prepared to listen. It all came back to me the day that I cried myself to sleep thinking that marriage was the worst mistake I had ever made. Somehow, a miracle I am sure, God heard my cries and my husband and I sat down and talked things out without anger, threats or insults. We began going to marriage counseling and for the first time in about a year we discussed what was really going on with us both. It is by the grace of God that I can sit here and not feel like my heart has been torn apart because of things that my husband has said to me in anger and vice versa. I have hurt him and he has hurt me. And it will happen again, because we are sinners tied to each other by a bond that means I can’t kill him or walk away in the middle of the night. It is not a fairy tale, it is reality.
St. Joseph pray for us.