A good friend recently shared with me a phrase that her husband, Joe, who is a marriage counselor, regularly says to his clients, “there is nothing more powerful than a good marriage, and there is nothing more damaging than a bad one.”
Typically, most marriages start out good, but somewhere along the journey, frequently when the struggle of blending two very distinct lives into one meaningful life becomes a reality, spouses realize that they need to up their game to stay at the level of a good marriage, because a good marriage requires consistent effort.
Whether a marriage is good, bad or mediocre, it has a huge ripple effect on the foundation of the family and on the fabric of society. A good marriage is invigorating and breathes life into the hearts of each spouse. It provides stability for family life and ultimately builds up society. It has the power to transform hearts and to be a great witness to the world in desperate need of living examples of Christ’s love in vivid action. On the other hand, a bad marriage shakes the foundation of the family to the core, poisons society, and often deeply wounds the hearts of the couple’s children, leaving them insecure about who they are. Spouses in a bad marriage often feel unloved, unaccepted and seriously question the commitment they made. Exposure to a bad marriage can sadly confuse and discourage young and old hearts alike; all searching for meaning, purpose, truth and real love.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your marriage? All couples will fluctuate up and down the scale, but the key to finding balance at the higher end is knowing what the purpose of your marriage is and making a daily commitment to fulfill it.
What IS the purpose of your marriage?
Ultimately, the purpose of your marriage is to get to Heaven, but here on earth, it is to seek God’s will together, be open to life, and to be a witness of God’s love for mankind by the love you have for your spouse. Make a commitment to choose to love your spouse, even (or especially!) when they are not so lovable. When you do this, you experience the love of God in a profound and intimate way and the bond of your marriage is reinforced.
There will be things that will continuously annoy you about your spouse, but before you engage in conflict, ask yourself, “Is this battle worth fighting?” Choose your battles wisely. Let the little things go and fight for that which is foundational to the purpose of your marriage.
Despite all the rough edges that can never be smoothed and all the faults that can never be eradicated, determine to accept reality as it is and develop the greatest possible vision for your marriage. With the raw material that you and your spouse initially brought to the marriage as two imperfect human beings with two distinct personalities, create the most dynamic marriage possible with God’s grace!
The different seasons of life bring various joys and various challenges for marriage. In general, couples flow through the joyful seasons rather smoothly, but the trying seasons test the resilience of a couple’s love. A few possible examples of seasonal changes that classically present challenge are a job loss, a death of a loved one, a child with a disability, an accident, a serious illness or a move. These trials have the potential to build your marriage stronger or shake it to the very core and do significant damage. Know that difficult seasons WILL present themselves and it is wise to invest in your marriage daily and in doing so, build a strong foundation. This way, when the storms of life inevitably roll in, you are as prepared as possible.
I think it is safe to say that most couples desire to be at a 10 as much of the time as possible. Think about where your marriage is today, where it has been in the past and come up with a plan together as a couple for where you would like it to be a year from now. How can you improve your rating and what sacrifices are necessary to help you stay there?
*(Originally published on the For Your Marriage section of the USCCB Website)