There was the spat I look back and laugh on; the one in Bed, Bath, & Beyond over whether me and my husband-to-be should register for champagne flutes as a wedding gift. “Our grandchildren will use them at our holiday parties!” I insisted. “We don’t have grandchildren,” he replied.
Later, there were the more serious discussions about preferences for our future children’s education, where we would live after my husband completed his graduate degrees, how we’d care for our parents as they aged over the decades. I felt anxious, trapped by indecision and nervous when our opinions differed--which they did, often.
Have you experienced anything similar? Uncertainty, that is, about the details of your future as a married couple?
When I think back on my teenage years and early 20s, they are marked by a consistent desire for when: when I’d figure out my vocation, when I’d meet my future spouse, when I’d determine what career path I was drawn to. And later, during engagement and early marriage, the real adult whens set in: when we would--God willing--become parents, when we’d have a long-term city and state in which to settle, when we might become homeowners. My mind continually casts around for what’s next, somehow lulled into the belief that knowledge will bring peace.
And yet, I find myself needing the frequent reminder that self-determination and a need to always know are habits that pull my gaze inward, rather than heavenward. That true peace resides not in my own decisions, but in discernment and trust.
The Sisters of Life have a beautiful prayer called the Litany of Trust, a cry to Jesus’s mercy and total care for his beloved children. One line that frequently stands out to me is, “From the fear that trusting you will leave me destitute, deliver me, Jesus.” Deliver me.
His mercy is endless; an outpouring of love that never leaves us wanting--in whatever form that looks like. An answer to uncertainty and to my poverty of fear.
If, during engagement and your newlywed months, you and your beloved find yourselves similarly indecisive or fearful about decisions and life events yet to come, I offer you several practices that have brought peace to my own married life.
First, take the plunge into the root of your worries. With your beloved, discuss any fears of the future you’re wrestling with. Consider their causes: is it a matter of shifting your spiritual paradigms (I recommend Dr. Gregory Bottaro’s book The Mindful Catholic for tips on drawing your attention to the Lord’s hand in your life at the present moment)? Are there past family or relationship wounds that have led to anxiety over particular matters?
If counseling or therapy--either individually or as a couple--feels necessary, rest in knowing there is no shame, but strength, in seeking professional assistance.
Second, consider concrete ways to respond to any fears. Talk together about habits you might develop to contend with major decisions or the unexpected in a healthy way, such as infertility, family conflict, or serious illness. While we can trust completely in the Lord’s care, we can also cultivate that trust, and a sense of peace, by taking advantage of our God-given reason and of tools and resources created to assist.
Lastly, I encourage you to pursue a sense of surrender to the unknown.
Practical preparation for and discussion of the future is both necessary and reassuring, yet at a certain point, we are still called to make a leap and live.
In the years since my husband and I swung wildly between dreamily imagining our life together and arguing in fear over what that life might actually look like, I’ve realized it’s alright not to determine everything about your future right away; alright to take a rest from chasing the when.
It’s alright, too, to change your minds--while expecting our first child, for example, I initially planned on returning to work. Yet the whirlwind of recovery from giving birth and our bumpy entry into parenthood led to a reevaluation of that decision, leading to my current work-from-home setup. Giving yourselves permission to follow the Lord’s call--even when it leads you somewhere you never expected to be--is a gift that eases the weight of expectations and self-focus.
So long as you and your beloved share the same fundamental values--the Catholic faith, in particular--and persist in respect, openness, and good will, then decision-making and looking ahead can become a source of discovery and peace, rather than contention and unrest.
I know now that just because my husband and I didn’t begin our relationship in agreement over every single issue doesn’t mean we’re incompatible. It means we’re human--two individuals who have chosen each other, made a vow to each other, and become one.
I respect his ideas and worries and trust in his respect for mine, to the point that now when we don’t see eye to eye on certain questions, I find it exciting to see where he’s coming from, to join him in discernment and to reach a common ground.
Together, we’re able to look to the future largely with joy--though I suspect there will always be more questions, more uncertainties--and call each other to focus on our priorities in the present. I wish you the same, and I wish you true peace.