Dan Shea - EGL 2
Good marriages are the product of genuine love for each other and the Creator. The true joy of marriage is sharing one's life. When two people agree to share their entire lives together, they expect better not worse, richer not poorer, and good health not sickness. Yet all marriages experience a variety of these contrasts. As problems overtake them, couples need to share their fears, frustrations and failures to establish the honesty that marriage requires. As real identities emerge, they prepare the ground for building a successful union.
Marriage requires the best possible beginning. Those built on solid principles will survive. Shared values, personal integrity, mutual respect, and complete trust in God are the foundation. The performance of His will is the cornerstone. The framework of success goes up with each act of cooperation and sacrifice. The windows of this estate are clear with honesty and bright with humility, but it is love that makes a house a home. Its occupants practice the old adage of "praying together to stay together," which provides home insurance.
Most failed marriages are a result of a lack of moral integrity and spiritual neglect. Couples must communicate with their Maker if they are to communicate and remain with each other. Good communication affords both husbands and wives a joint understanding of their individual and shared roles. Individual roles are best defined by mutual agreement rather than by convention, and must be redefined over time. Shared roles of parenting, providing, and perpetuating the tranquility of the marriage require constant attention. Helping hands and muted tongues are two of the tools of an enduring marriage.
Partners working together decide what is important in terms of family, professional, social, and spiritual goals. Both must understand what price each is willing to pay to attain these goals be it relocation, long hours, and/or separation. An honest discussion of their individual moral boundaries will determine the extent of each partner's willingness to proceed in pursuing these goals. Marriage should be the centerpiece of couples lives, and its nourishment and preservation their foremost priority recognizing being of “one flesh” is an indelible state.
A good marriage includes respect, trust, loyalty, sacrifice and commitment. A couple's commitments define that which they respect and honor. The sacrifices of marriage will affect one's pride, options, possessions, time, and spiritual advancement. Lovers are united through various trials and mutual sacrifice. Most sacrifice is an exchange of immediate gratification for a higher good to be enjoyed later.
Matrimonial oneness requires a mingling of body, mind, and soul. Even couples that are complete opposites have the potential for oneness as unified spirits. Distinct from the power of love and intimacy, the realization that God's will is working within them draws couples together while allowing them to remain individuals in a triangle of love.
Marriage should be the centerpiece of couples lives, and its nourishment and preservation their foremost priority. This most precious endeavor should be afforded one's best efforts, motives, and skills. The fruits of a couple's entire life should be visible to the world through their marriage and their offspring.
Still, honest commitments frequently fall prey to temptation, and marriage partners are often seduced by the power of lust or the lust for power. Both are equally destructive. Today, careers may take precedence over the primacy of marriage. Some men lust for power and position, and become inaccessible to their families. Others seek power in the home, and become demanding and abusive. Some women succumb to the power of the paycheck or societal pressures, and neglect family responsibilities. Similarly, both men and women are corrupted by the power of lust as an escape from stress and responsibility.
Not all couples recognize the power of submission, be it to their conscience, their partner, or the will of God. Submission is a simple voluntary yielding done out of love. Generally, people think of submission as it relates to intimate relations but it extends further, to one's respect for the other's dignity, sensitivity, and experience. When one submits to their partner and the will of God, they build lasting relationships on a foundation of love. True love grows in direct proportion to the death of (ego) self. Defeat of self provides victory in married life.
Just as the long distance runner voluntarily submits to the agony of competition, it is in his pain that he is united in fellowship with his competitors. Lovers are united through mutual sacrifice. Most sacrifice is an exchange of immediate gratification for a higher good to be enjoyed later. Husbands and wives conquer the world and its temptations by sacrificing for each other and their families. Self-sacrifice seeks no reward; it is the essence of love. It is unrealistic to think love will not be tested by crisis. True love is proven in crisis. Sacramental marriage with its vows and promises is the Super Glue that holds couples together in times of stress.
A couple’s ability and the desire for each individual to grow in marriage is of utmost importance. Mature couples practice patterns of behavior that sustain partnership and avoid those that pander to selfish desires. Yet, to provide balance, each partner must be independent to pursue personal interests within limits that do not impair the sacredness of the alliance. Episcopal priest, Robert Farrar Capon in Bed and Board wrote, “The Bible does not say that men and women are unequal...it is husbands and wives that are unequal...and the difference there is not one of worth, ability or intelligence but of role.”
Moreover, author, Kahlil Gibran, counseled when speaking on marriage, “Stand together yet not too near together: for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.” Couples who understand that their relationship not only asks for mutual candor but also for mutual respect of each other's uniqueness grow as individuals and bring a fresh competence to their marriage that deepens its stability.
Yet the stability of marriage frequently rests on the decisions made in regard to having children; many couples place their marriage at risk when they unquestionably embrace the prevailing contraceptive mentality. Since the Pill, birth control as a sin has been erased from the public conscience. Its acceptance is complete and irrefutable. It is seen simply as a privacy issue, and consciences are relieved by the perceived lack of consequences. Yet, few understand what Fulton Sheen said, “The root principle of birth control is unsound. It is a glorification of the means and a contempt of the end; it says that pleasure which is a means to procreation of children is good, but the children themselves are no good.”
Society has experienced some very real consequences produced by the private acts of those who embrace the contraceptive ideology. Among them are widespread promiscuity, a divorce rate of half of all marriages, illegitimacy five times greater than that of thirty years ago, and millions of abortions. The social and moral fabric in America has been torn apart by the contraceptive agenda. Now men and women often treat each other as objects of pleasure and children as objects of disdain. Regrettably, many Americans have placed concupiscence above reason.
Contrary to contemporary belief, not every act of intercourse results in new life. The biological outcome is determined by a power greater than ourselves. All new life begins with the infusion of a soul. Yet, a decision to practice contraception decrees that each act of lovemaking will not be open to procreation or Divine wisdom. When sex and marriage are not intrinsically related to new life, the union loses a major reason for permanence. “Why get married?” Many feel it is only a piece of paper, a legal formality. When a marriage commitment is seen only as a legality, it misses the sacredness of the institution. When God is excluded, marital bliss is elusive and a successful union unlikely.
The convenience and practice of birth control contributes to the devaluation of children. Author and theologian, Germain Grisez, sees many modern couples as “Those whose sole difficulty in moral development seems to be the inability to live a happy married life without contraception.” He also strongly states, “Contraceptive practice is only one step short of abortion and two steps short of infanticide.” Today when the contraceptive ideology proclaims, no one can tell people to have children. How long will it be before they start telling people they cannot have children? Reasonable people know any anti-child mentality is wrong. Based on this conclusion, many couples come to reexamine their commitment to contraception, especially, as the tick of the biological clock gets louder.
Children are an important part of His plan; through love, He gives them to the world. Some of these children will bring solutions to world problems, many will provide great happiness to their parents, and all have a purpose, which is known only to Him. When enlightened adult couples make the transition from selfishness to selflessness, they come to understand that children may be the triumph of their unions. After all, a marriage commitment to one’s partner and God is also a commitment to bring children into the world. Raising a family is not an optional appurtenance to the marriage contract but a condition of its fulfillment.
Loving partners form good habits, share experiences, establish interdependencies, bond loyalties, accept each other’s likes and dislikes and expect certain reactions to their emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Living together harmoniously is an exceptional feat, working together in unity of heart and mind is an extraordinary joy.
In the natural course of events, couples marry, raise a family and are often become grandparents. If married couples believe God has a plan for their lives, do they dare alter it to accommodate their desires or do they humbly submit to His will? Submission does not mean defeat. Most times, submission is the ultimate act of love.