The Mystery of Marriage
One person is only a puzzle; two together are a mystery.
C.S. Lewis wrote, in his book entitled The Four Loves, that friends are side-by-side, facing a common interest. But lovers are face-to-face. Their common interest is each other. Lovers will sacrifice everything: wealth, friends, their principles, even their own happiness, whatever it takes to gain the other. Understanding this is the key to being happy in marriage.
Sometimes friends marry, though they’re really not in love. They are side-by-side, but not face-to-face. Sometimes lovers marry, though they’re not really friends. They are face-to-face, but not side-by-side. A man and a woman make a real go of their marriage when they are friends side-by-side and lovers face-to-face. They are friends in love and lovers who are friends.
Husbands and wives can move in two directions at once. They move toward each other, face-to-face, forming a world between them. They move forward side-by-side, into the world, together.
And then God, who loves us because we are everything to Him, conceives a brand new, deeper love for a brand new pair of friends-in-love.
Christian marriage adds a third person — God — and a third element: His love.
God’s gift of love overflows into the created universe, surrounding this pair of friends-in-love, overflowing into their neighbors and friends. And so these two friends-in-love grow toward each other and toward every neighbor on the face of the earth, in simple ways, in splendid ways, in insignificant ways and in magnificent ways.
Marriage is to break out of, move out of together, into a larger world, into a richer life. This new partnership of friends-in-love grows deeper in discovery, grows deeper in its search for meaning. Invisible antennae receive unspoken words, and silent signals are gently caught. They are in tune, beginning to dance to the same music, beginning to tap out the same beat, falling in love again and again. Each is committed to the other’s future, to the other’s mystery, never to comprehend each other through and through.
Marriage is to create a life together where it’s a safe risk to relax and be yourself, where it’s a safe risk to be absolutely truthful and frank, carelessly tender and kind. Marriage can transform life so that total disarmament becomes double strength, and giving means forgiving.
Marriage is brim full of secrets shared, discoveries shared, joys and surprises and sorrows shared. Marriage endures suffering, sometimes even much suffering, making mistakes and breaking promises, the heated word, the cold silence, forgetting kindness while remembering hurt. And suddenly, for a while, the brightness and wonder of it all disappears.
But suffering, too, is to create with, so we can run even faster, jump even farther, and dance much longer than before. So the mistakes are forgiven, promises are renewed, and sullen silence is laughed away.
The suffering is surrendered for healing. The pain is forsaken for the choice to move forward in love. Because the lovers are friends, side-by-side, they’re caught up in mutual interests and in separate interests, woven into one tapestry through God’s loom of love.
The mystery of marriage is this: the love shared by friends-in-love is a powerful gift uniting forever two individuals. Their love transforms the world, their love transforms each other, their love transforms the soul within, where God dwells, transforming the marriage into a flame that no flood can quench, no torrents can drown.
Keys to a Successful Marriage
Every marriage faces trials and hardships, at times overwhelming. Some of these are impossible to resolve if we rely only on our human abilities. We need God as the Third Partner in the marriage. His help is supernatural. He wants your marriage to be successful and joy-filled even more than you do.
To bring His infinitely powerful help into your marriage, rely on the Sacrament you received when you wedded. If you got married outside the Church, do whatever is necessary to get it convalidated (i.e., blessed) as soon as possible, renewing your wedding vows in front of a priest.
Make sure you spend some time praying together every day. My husband Ralph (whom I married in 1975) and I have a morning prayer hug: We hug while praying for each other’s needs of the day and for our children.
Below is a prayer you can use.
If your spouse isn’t interested in praying, you may be surprised to find out that he/she is willing to consider this a love poem that can be read together. You might want to use it on your yearly (or even monthly) anniversaries to make the occasion more significant. Add to the prayer, or share memories and special comments as you go along, to make it more meaningful.
Take turns saying each verse, and pray the response together.
May our marriage be enriched by God’s blessings. (Response:) Lord, help us to love.
May our hands and hearts be joined as one…. (R)
May each day make us surer of the choice we have made…. (R)
May we be joyful in our lives together…. (R)
May we share our joys with our families and friends…. (R)
May we have true friends to stand by us in joy and in sorrow…. (R)
May we be blessed by children who reflect the love we share…. (R)
May we each develop as persons…. (R)
May we cherish the uniqueness of each other…. (R)
May we help each other through the difficult times…. (R)
May we grow closer in love and unity…. (R)
May we help each other grow closer to God…. (R)
May we be willing to listen, to change, to grow…. (R)
May we grow old together and enjoy our children’s children…. (R)
May our love deepen with time…. (R)
May we be faithful to each other for all of our days…. (R)
May the peace of Christ dwell in our hearts and in our home…. (R)
(Together say:) Amen!
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