I think that I have gotten more comments on Marriage Woes than on any other entry I have made. Obviously, it has touched sore spots in all our hearts. Over at Sleepy Mommies, several good comments were left. Go on over and read them.
Any one who has been married for a while knows that there are bumps in the road. Up here in New Hampshire I have been introduced to a road hazard that I had never before encountered - the frost heave. Apparently, the vegetation and so on that is under the roads absorbs moisture during the wet seasons, and then when it freezes it causes the roadway to rise up in unpredictable ways, creating a hazard to navigation. It gave me a great analogy to what can happen in a marriage, especially in a hostile climate.
Frost heaves are not something I encountered in Southern California - the meteorlogical climate there is too temperate. But in New Hampshire, with the deep freeze winters, the unpredictable and too short springs, the muggy summer, and the only truly beautiful season, the fall - frost heaves are a fact of life on the road.
Marriage has its seasons as well. When we were involved in presenting Marriage Encounter weekends, we talked a lot about the cycle of romance, disillusionment, joy. In the early days, we put each other on pedestals, and were willing to forgive almost everything. Romance. Then reality snuck in, and the period of disillusionment - where we are unwilling to forgive almost anything. Many marriages founder on the shoals of disillusionment. It is hard work to live with another person. Those who grew up in small families or as only children have an even harder time. If your life has always been tidy, and you end up married to a pack rat (or vice versa) - if your family always went barefoot in the house and your spouse never took shoes off except to bathe or sleep - even little things like how often one changes the bedsheets or washes the towels. These seemingly minor differences can blow up into marriage busters, especially without the graces of the Sacraments. If I let my angers and disappointments freeze in my heart, they can become frost heaves on my path and can trip up my marriage.
Staying married has been a hard thing for me, because there are more broken first marriages than intact ones in my family of origin. Shortly after my parents divorced I started to have troubles in my own marriage. I didn't immediately make the connection - I tried to blame things on my husband (at that time we had been married 4 years and had 2 children and also had suffered 2 miscarriages) who was simply trying his best to be a good husband and father. We survived that crisis with prayer, and have survived several more over the last 30 years. What I have learned is that to stay married you can't just try to be 50-50 - it has to be as close to 100-100 as humanly possible. Each spouse must try to be giving 100%.
I also learned that the farther we strayed from God and Church, the farther apart our marriage became. At the times when we were the least Catholic, we were also the least loving and giving to each other.
There are no magic answers to the many marriages in crisis today. It is frightening to think "if this could happen to THEM - what about me?". I think that I was going through some of that after my parents divorce. But the reality is that we are each individually and as couples responsible to God for maintaining marriage.
Let me close with the words of Ephesians 5:21 ff
21: Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22: Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
23: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
24: As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
25: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26: that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27: that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28: Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29: For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,
30: because we are members of his body.
31: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
32: This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;
33: however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
and Ephesians 6: 10-17
10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12: For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13: Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14: Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15: and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;
16: besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.