Today Daniel and I celebrate six years of marriage. SIX YEARS. I know it’s not a shocking length of time, but I think it’s starting to sound downright respectable. Can anything prepare you for what marriage will be like? No. It is infinitely more difficult and infinitely more splendid than I could have ever imagined. Something like having children, I suppose. We’ve learned a few lessons over the past six years, many of them the hard way. I am thankful daily for the joy that our marriage brings to my life. It is better than I could have ever dreamed and far better than I will ever deserve.
- Your Spouse Isn’t Enough. Really. As wonderful and perfect as he might be, his love is not enough to fulfill you. One day you will look at him and think, “He isn’t enough. Something is missing.” And one day you will realize that you are not enough for him. This may be an incredibly painful epiphany (it was for me.) I thought our marriage might be a failure and I hated the idea that the love I believed to be so epic just wasn’t enough. What I didn’t understand for a couple of years is that no human love is enough to satisfy us. Your spouse simply cannot do it and it isn’t humanly possible for you to love him “enough” either. But don’t despair, that’s not the end. We weren’t made to be fulfilled by human love, no matter how beautiful. We were created to be satisfied only by the divine love of God. Just as St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” Christ must be first in all things. Your identity, your joy, and your self-worth must rest in Our Lord. If you expect your spouse to be able to satisfy all these needs, you are setting him up for failure and your disappointment will be bitter. When you learn, as I did (the hard way), that Christ must be first in your heart, your marriage will be filled with the grace of Our Lord’s divine love. And there will be enough love. More than enough love.
- Marriage is a kind of death. Marriage isn’t a power struggle between two entities attempting to protect their own rights. Marriage is a reflection of Our Lord’s sacrifice for his Holy Church. It is a journey of daily self-sacrificial death. (Boy, I’m making it sound really great, aren’t I?!) But, like baptism, marriage is a kind of death that leads to life—real and truly amazing life. When I was pregnant with our firstborn I was so ill. I had unbearable 24/7 morning sickness for 6 months. And Daniel waited on me hand and foot. As soon as I woke in the morning he would have snacks prepared for me to eat before my head left the pillow. When I inevitably threw them up, he would be ready with a glass of cold water to soothe my burning throat. He encouraged me, helped me, and loved me with every act as he cared for me (a whining, aching, grumpy, difficult pregnant wife) during those months. He modeled for me what marriage was: giving up everything for me when I had nothing to give back. We were no longer two individuals engaged in constant compromises to protect our own rights and satisfy our own needs, we were learning to be one flesh dying daily for our beloved. We were (and still are) learning to be like Christ and love like Christ. If your focus is yourself and the pursuit of your own happiness, you will be miserable. If you learn to die for your beloved and they learn to die for you, you will be filled with joy.
- Don’t be afraid to forgive. You will say and do things that deeply hurt your spouse. He will say and do things that deeply hurt you. Forgive. Completely. Never bring it up again. It sounds easy enough, but when the day comes that you find yourself truly hurt, you will want your spouse to suffer for what they did. Forgiveness will be hard in coming. But, if you cannot forgive and forget you will poison your marriage. This lesson was especially hard for me to learn. Still trying to protect my personal rights and be sure that my feelings and needs were never belittled or trampled upon, I made sure that I never forgot the slightest wrong, not to mention the times when I was truly wounded. Our culture is so individualistic and constantly urges us: Stand up for Yourself! Put Yourself First! You Deserve Perfection! True forgiveness is a revolutionary idea for us. I had a hard time breaking the thought pattern that by forgiving and moving on I was in some way compromising my own self-respect. What a lie. When I finally wanted to forgive I discovered I didn’t have much practice and it was hard. I also struggled with the humiliating realization that our marriage wasn’t perfect, that our love had fallen short. But, the devastation of that knowledge was followed by a new understanding of what kind of God we serve and what kind of Grace flows from his love for us. Our Lord redeems what is broken. He heals the wounded. As we watched God fill our marriage with grace, remaking it into something better than we could have ever imagined, we were stunned by our inadequacy and the unfathomable ocean of God’s grace.
Happy Sixth Anniversary to us! I can’t imagine living life without Daniel’s love and friendship. I am still stunned that this amazing guy picked me. I love him so and each year together is more wonderful than the last.