As a newlywed, I had this perfect image of married spirituality. I felt I had a spiritual life that had already known suffering, and that a golden triangle between my me, my new husband, and God seemed like a new beginning. A chance for deep, holy camaraderie.
I was a bit surprised during marriage prep to find my husband and I unequally yoked in our understandings of our souls. I remember the day I asked him if we could try to pray the rosary a few times a week together. Even though he knew praying the rosary is good, he didn’t see the necessity of saying the Hail Mary over and over. And even though I tried to explain the mediation aspect, his mind was still stuck on the practicality of it: “Doesn’t Our Lady know we love her if we just say it once?” he asked. From there, I didn’t know how to change his mind, and I felt powerless. Yet he graciously complied, knowing it was what I wanted.
In my mind, it was now my duty to help him grow closer to God and I was already a failure.
As our married days turned into months, I became puzzled and frustrated as to how to handle these differences in our spiritual lives. When we conceived our first baby, the gravity of our duty as spiritual guides to our children suddenly leaped before me. I panicked, knowing the family unit is the top institution Satan aims to destroy. I wanted to enforce a prayer regimen for my husband and I, thinking this would draw us closer to seeing eye to eye in devotion and fortitude.
But this is not how marriage works. Matthew’s Gospel demonstrates that each of us arrives at the vineyards at different times, just as God intended. That is the true beauty of it: God has placed this man into your life so that he can have a companion with whom to experience divine love. Your job as a spouse is to care for him now, in body and soul. More often than not, that requires prayer to be done in silence, all while being unseen.
Don’t let this fool you into thinking you are less. Christ knows your every fiber and virtue. Your gifts hold every tool needed to help--or in some cases, drag--your spouse to heaven. I had to learn that the only responsibility we have is to draw our own eyes towards God, and to abandon our husbands to the will of the Father.
I’ve realized your marriage will fall short in more ways than you can imagine. You are, after all, married to a human being. He may not be able to understand your struggles or have the right words to say when you experience the “bad times” recognized in your vows. When it comes to sickness and health, it’s not just the body, but also the soul that can be afflicted. One or both of you may have vices that seem insurmountable. Even external complications might present themselves, only to be wrestled with for some time.
As your lives progress, so many things will cause both of you to fail in providing for each other’s needs. I’ve found it helpful to always speak up gently and ask your spouse about his or her needs, but you can’t expect anything to be perfect. We are always called to carry the crosses of our spouse, in a life that can sometimes seem like Calvary.
That is why Christ will always be your first love. Where else would he fit into your marriage but in the gaping holes and cracks neither of you can fill alone?
Why would there ever be any reason to run after him faster if everything was solved? What a blessing to experience the empty losses and hollow recesses our souls, screaming with the desire to have Christ fill each one…and then overflow.
God will also see to it that as you draw closer to him, your husband will encounter him through your love. Nothing needs to be said; only done. Your prayers are heard through acts of service, sacrifices of your time and your body, and especially through your intimacy, when you both are the closest you can be.
Be aware that you will have to fight. In my experience, being under attack is real. Don’t let anything stop you from praying for your husband, in whatever way you choose. If you are feeling weak, pray for his fortitude.
Do not underestimate the graces set aside for you and your spouse. They were given on your wedding day and will never run out.
God did not intend for you to despair. Ask for these graces any chance you get. They are your weapon, your fortress.
This sounds counterintuitive, but consider that we seek Christ as our first love: Detach from your spouse. Father Jacques Philippe says,
“We must put everything, without exception, into the hands of God, not by seeking any longer to manage or ‘to save’ ourselves by our own means: not in the material domain, nor the emotional, nor the spiritual… The measure of our interior peace will be that of our abandonment, consequently of our detachment.”
There is no situation where you can control all of your surroundings, your spouse’s actions, or the events at hand all while maintaining perfect, holy peace. In order to have and keep this peace, every segment of our lives must be abandoned to the will of God. Even our spouse.
Father Philippe goes into more detail on this is his book Searching for and Maintaining Peace, which would benefit every human being alive.
It takes time to realize the true meaning of marriage is a million times more than anything novels or movies show. The endless graces Christ gives in order to uphold our vows results in an immeasurable joy that’s hard to comprehend. This golden triangle, this bond, this promise, transcends every circumstance or battle imaginable. God’s covenant and love are meant to be there for the long haul...and so should we.