Reflection: We Need Not Fear Hardship in Our Marriage, It is Part of the Plan
We can see hardship as a sign of hope.
In the normal course of a good marriage, our weaknesses, strengths, failures, and successes are borne by our spouse. It is not possible for the one to suffer or feel joy without the other suffering or feeling joy also. For instance, one day you notice that your spouse is burdened by your cross. They are carrying it with you. You are not alone. Then you learn what it really means to be loved by another. Therefore, we need not fear hardship in our marriage. Instead, we can see hardship as a sign of hope.
Nothing worthwhile is easily gained. There is a reason that Marriage is a sacrament. Maybe the reason, in part, is because marriage offers us so much.
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - One of the most wonderful experiences for a woman is to hear a man ask her to marry him; and for a man, it is to hear a woman say "yes." But then we get married, and after the honeymoon, life goes on and reality sets in. We might wonder if we will ever experience that wonderful feeling again. Not only can we expect to experience it again, I believe that it will help facilitate deeper union through the hardship we encounter in our marriage. Therefore, we need not fear hardship in our marriage. Instead, we can see hardship as a sign of hope. Perhaps we can see this for ourselves if we put it in perspective.
"The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: 'This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken.' That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body" (Gn. 2:22-24).
What does it mean to say that the two become one body? In one sense it refers to the offspring between a man and a woman. In another sense, it refers to the union between a couple. Over time, a couple can become so united to each other that they become one. The wonderful feeling mentioned above plays a role in the formation of this unity. One way this happens seems to be as follows.
Most of us carry around a little bundle of sensitivities and insecurities. So when another person expresses their desire to marry us, this experience can be quite wonderful. I believe the reason is because this experience has the power to make us feel accepted and affirmed in a wholly unique way.
But after we get married, the many little stresses of married life begin to encroach upon our blissful union. And before we know it, we find ourselves faced with the responsibility of raising children. There are far more good times than bad in marriage, but marriage is hard work. In fact, it is sacramental. Yet, in a way, hard work can be a good thing. I say good because when a couple passes through fire together, something special can happen.
In the normal course of a good marriage, our weaknesses, strengths, failures, and successes are borne by our spouse. It is not possible for the one to suffer or feel joy without the other suffering or feeling joy also. For instance, one day you notice that your spouse is burdened by your cross. They are carrying it with you. You are not alone. Then you learn what it really means to be loved by another. And you experience that feeling of acceptance and affirmation again, but this time it is on a deeper level and more radical.
This time you receive the gift of yourself. I am referring to a psychological process where we come to accept ourselves for who we are and become a whole person. To a certain extent, this process occurs throughout our life. Though it is most critical in the parent-child relationship and the marriage relationship. We cannot make ourselves whole. Wholeness is a gift. In this sense, we can say that we receive the gift of ourselves from another, especially our parents and, most especially, our spouse.
We can receive the gift of ourselves when we see our goodness reflected in the eyes, face, voice, and touch of another. We can also receive the gift of ourselves when we experience our worth through the gift of another to us, that is, when another makes themselves present to us and sacrifices for us. Although we cannot make ourselves whole, we can reciprocate. Thus, it seems that after a couple's love has been tried in hardship, each receives the gift of themselves from the other in a wholly unique and radical way such that they are able to truly become one. Now, let's take these thoughts a step further, to the spiritual level.
Paragraph 823 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, ". . . Christ, the Son of God . . . loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body. . . ." Is it possible that God uses the gift of marriage and the hardships of this life as a way to prepare us for a relationship in which we will experience the absolute fullness of acceptance, affirmation and union with Him for eternity? Yes, that is part of the Plan.
Consequently, we do not need to be so fearful of hardships. Too many marriages end in divorce. According to various sources, the rate of divorce for couples in their first marriage is between 40% and 50%, and the rate shoots way up for couples in their second and third marriages. There are many reasons why couples divorce. I believe one of the most prevalent reasons is that married couples often seem to think that they should not have hardship in their marriage, and if they do, then something must be wrong with their marriage. But this is not true for most of us. In the normal course of marriage, when most of us experience hardship, we can be hopeful that it will lead us to greater unity in our marriage and perfect unity in eternity.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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