Your Marriage Isn't Just for You and Your Beloved

MARIAH MAZA

 

Beautiful bride, remember that your marriage is not just for you and your beloved. 

I don’t remember who said it, or whether it was before or after I got engaged, but it is a piece of wisdom that, once I heard it, I began to ponder curiously in my heart.

It stuck with me because it ran so boldly against the grain of the secular “wedding culture” I grew up seeing in movies, on magazine covers, and in the pages of books. These were stories that followed the romantic journey of a couple falling in love, planning a meticulously beautiful wedding to reflect their unique love, and the two of them driving off into the sunset to live “happily ever after”--whatever that meant. In my mind, I imagined the bride and groom living the remainder of their days in their little cottage, deliriously in love, breathing in the happiness of their marriage “ever after.” 

Without realizing it, I cultivated a very “inward-facing” idea of marriage. 

First, let’s clarify two things.

It is a beautiful and exciting thing to celebrate a couple’s unique love story and all the twists, turns, trials, and victories they walked through to make it to the altar on their wedding day. That’s why there’s a part of our hearts that cherishes a good love story on screen and in real life--for the hope and happiness it brings.

And planning a wedding that reflects that story’s beauty, from the colors, to the centerpieces filled with the bride’s favorite flower, to the specific readings chosen for the nuptial Mass, is also a wonderful thing. It is festivity and creativity at its greatest when we gather together to celebrate two people becoming one flesh in the nuptial Mass.

So what am I saying? Those movies and magazines and books only showed half the equation

Or rather, the beginning of the equation. Those stories dazzled me with how boy fell in love with girl, but they usually didn’t explain, after the bride and groom drove off into the sunset, what the lifelong mission of that married love was supposed to be.

The Church teaches us that your marriage is for you and your beloved and for the edification and sanctification of the world--but if that sounds a little ambitious, try starting with those in your community! Sacramental marriage is like the ever fruitful, ever generous love of the Trinity. Although the perfect love shared between the Father and Son is incredibly beautiful and special, their divine love does not stop there. It is so profound, so life-giving, that it begets a third divine Person: the Holy Spirit. 

The love of Father and Son is so profound, so life-giving that God simply delighted in creating an entire unnecessary universe to share in his Life, with unnecessary animals, trees, mountains, oceans, and human beings. 

God had no need of any part of this earth. He enjoys perfect, eternal Trinitarian community. And yet, in his infinite love and joy, he created us anyway. All out of love. A love that is not caught between him and Christ, but overflows into every last atom of creation. 

"The world was made for the glory of God"...”not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,” for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand” (CCC 293). 

Like a small child who sits down to draw the colorful, fantastical creations of his imagination, not because he has to, but because he delights to.

This is what your marriage is meant to become.

The Catechism tells us that matrimony is actually one of two sacraments of service: “two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God” (CCC 1534).

Your marriage is for you and your beloved. To share in the joys, crosses, and daily tasks of life together. To sanctify each other as you walk hand-in-hand to Heaven, sometimes in perfect step and sometimes with one leading the other.

Your marriage is also meant to be “outward-facing” towards the community around you. True love, by its very nature, calls a person out of himself in service. Therefore true married love, by its very nature, must call both spouses out of themselves. Not just to serve each other, but to make their very marriage a gift to those around them. To “confer a particular mission in the Church and to serve to build up the People of God.” 

St. John Paul II wrote in his papal encyclical Gaudium et spes, “the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church...will manifest to all men Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church.” (Gaudium et spes, 48). 

It is a high calling, to strive to imitate the infinitely divine, fruitful love of the Trinity in your own marriage. To live your vows in such a way that your marriage “will manifest to all men Christ’s living presence in the world.” But it is a saintly calling, and it sanctifies the daily struggles and joys of marriage with an eternal mission.

Cardinal Raymond Burke said in an interview in 2015, "There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage. After the Holy Eucharist, it has a power beyond anything that we can imagine." 

Beautiful bride, as you prepare to walk down the aisle, or if you are walking through the transition of newlywed life, remember the twofold mission of your vocation. Remember that your cherished love story and the beauty of your wedding day are only the beginning of God’s plan for you and your beloved. Allow your marriage, the joys and the crosses, to become an outward testament to the goodness of God’s love and mercy for those around you.

Our world doesn’t need perfect marriages. Our world desperately needs holy marriages. How can your marriage become a fruitful gift to the world? 

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives...This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5: 25-27, 32).


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish and creative Catholic women. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST

Marriage Holds Us Together When We Fall Apart

MARIAH MAZA

 

Marriage is demanding. It is not just a label for a relationship, but a lifelong vocation. It is the cultivation of a family and the establishment of an intimate domestic church, filled with the souls of your closest loved ones. And when you factor in everyday life, human imperfection, and human wounds, marriage can be more than demanding. Marriage can be hard.

PHOTOGRAPHY:    AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

PHOTOGRAPHY: AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

There have been times in my married life when relations between my husband and I didn’t reflect the beaming joy of our wedding photos. When for days, we got increasingly on each other’s nerves, spoke out of anger, and I watched the mutual hurt and misery pile on top of each other.

In those times, I often thought to myself, “Marriage is making me miserable.” And the age-old question would bounce around in my mind, taunting me: “How is it possible to have a happy marriage, anyway?”

The more I prayed desperately to the Lord, giving him my marriage and all its imperfections, he helped me to realize two things. Growing a happy marriage had everything to do with that recurring thought I had in times of distress: marriage is making me miserable. And the second revelation? My way of thinking was totally backwards.

Beautiful, newlywed wife, marriage isn’t making you miserable. Human selfishness is.

The Catechism tells us in paragraph 1601 that marriage is “by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses." This means that by its very nature, marriage is designed by God to form you into a saint and lead you, hand-in-hand with your spouse, on a path to Heaven.

The sacrament of marriage is always good, always beautiful, always full of grace, and always sacred. What is good, beautiful, graceful, and sacred does not breed misery. And one night in our tiny one bedroom, one bathroom apartment, after another tiring day of not getting along, this truth came to rest on my weary, wounded heart. It didn’t make the problems disappear, but a profound, relieving sense of peace took over.

I realized that marriage was not the thing tearing us apart. In fact, it was the only sacred, indissoluble bond still holding my husband and I together when we fell apart. Our “one flesh” union is not just poetic Scripture, it is a sacramental reality that persists even when emotions and human imperfections make us feel distant and broken.

The Church already knows this. Marriage “has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation“ (CCC 1606). But this “discord,” as I had to learn, does not come from marriage itself. “The disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin” (CCC 1607). But how is it healed? “Man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them "in the beginning." (CCC 1608).

And so, instead of continuing to look at marriage and all its demands as the enemy, I began to see it and its divine Designer as my source of hope. There is an ocean of grace in this sacrament. Graces specially reserved by God for you and your beloved on the day you enter into the married state. I reflected on how often I had neglected these graces, when I could have begged God in his mercy to rain them down upon us in times of crisis. 

I also reflected on my own sin and selfishness that had helped sow the seeds of discord between my husband and I. It turns out a “happy” marriage can begin to grow when spouses stop counting the cost of loving each other. When instead of brooding in the disappointment of failed expectations, you let go of your own desires. When instead of waiting to be shown love by your beloved, you die to yourself and do something considerate for them, and delight in the act.

If all that seems too difficult to achieve; if daily death to self seems too high a calling, remember again the grace and the purpose of the sacrament: “Marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving” (CCC 1609). 

I am far from reaching these ideals, from total freedom from my self-absorption, and there are still many times when I cling to my own expectations of what my marriage “should be.” In short, I will spend my lifetime learning to grow in marital virtue. But I also remember God’s mercy. And I praise him for a husband who shows me more often than not what it means to forgive all hurt and choose joy for the good of his wife. He is like Christ, who is the source of all marital grace.

“Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb” (CCC 1642).

Here at Spoken Bride, we desire to make it clear: marriages that suffer addictions, abuse, or other grave forms of brokenness need prayer and the intervention of counseling, community support, and other resources. Affected spouses in these situations do not suffer because of selfishness, but from profound emotional and mental distress. They deserve our aid, compassion, and understanding.


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish and creative Catholic women. Read more

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST

Editors Share | First Dance Songs

The first dance as husband and wife is often the most awaited part of a wedding reception. It is a special and romantic moment between the newlyweds and it highlights the unique personality of the couple.

In this month’s Editors Share, our team remembers their first dance and explains why they chose their song.

PHOTOGRAPHY :  MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY
 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

My husband and I danced to the song “You are the One” by Matt Hires, which had come on my iPod as we drove to a holy hour one night during our engagement. It’s a sweet, simple song that still brings back precious memories, but the truth is, we were too shy to set our first dance to the one we truly felt defined us! The ideal selection, for us, was “In My Arms” by Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot. Despite our love for it we ultimately felt too shy to use such a quiet song, with such intimate lyrics, in front of all our guests. For any couples like us hesitating to choose particular reception music because of self-consciousness, I’d encourage you to communicate and discern what you’re comfortable with and to pray for a sense of freedom with the necessary attention your wedding day brings!

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

We chose Matt Maher’s version of “Set Me As A Seal” because we simply liked the song. I wish I had a deeper explanation, but we both just felt like it was the right song. We ended up having a dance choreographed. If you know my husband, you know that we’re complete opposites. I love to dance, he likes to not dance. But for me he was willing to take ballroom dancing lessons and perform in front of our families..

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

My husband and I chose “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. Mark and I had a stressful engagement since he was serving overseas with his military command, all up until a few days before the wedding, so we wanted something fun and upbeat. Mark was also an avid swing dancer during his college years at the United States Naval Academy, which we got to enjoy together a few times during our courtship, so we wanted to share that part of our relationship with our friends and family on our wedding day as well.

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

For our first dance, we moved in sync with Michale Buble’s “Hold On.” My husband suggested many ideas for our first dance song, but many focused on the beauty of the bride or the groom’s love for his bride; I was uncomfortable choosing a wedding song about the bride. This song was a great fit because it captures the essence of the mutual and reciprocal love of a married couple. The lyrics also serve as a reminder to grow in affirming physical touch in the midst of stress, frustration, sadness, and joy. Although physical touch is not my number one love language, a good hug often breaks through heavy emotional tension. As this song builds up to its finale, it reinforces the power of holding onto love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, ‘till death do us part.

Though we both enjoy jumping around during spontaneous dance parties, neither of us are organized dancers. With that in mind, we invested in dance classes at a local studio—and loved every second. Beyond the benefits of feeling confident in our plan for our first dance, lessons were also a special opportunity to learn something new, be challenged, move our bodies and laugh together in preparation for our wedding day.

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

Our first dance song was “God Gave Me You,” the version performed by Blake Shelton. My husband and I first met when we were 14 and high school sweethearts, and we were a country couple. On our first date he drove me to dinner in his white Chevy pickup truck in blue jeans, boots, and all. Many, many years and a wedding later, we still own that truck!

When we decided to pick “our song” for our relationship (which was definitely inspired by Taylor Swift’s 2009 single by the same name — released only the year before!), we decided on two requirements: the melody needed to mention God and needed to be a country song. I suggested “God Gave Me You,” and it became the song we grew up with together, from the age of 14 to (now) 23.

A couple years before we got married, I taught my husband how to country dance, and it is now one of our favorite things to do together. So when our wedding day finally arrived, seven years after we met, we country danced to the song we fell in love to as high school freshmen.

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

My husband and I chose the song “God Moves Through You” by Jason Mraz for our first dance. My husband has been a Mraz fan for a long time, which is how he first heard this song; Jason Mraz actually wrote it for his sister’s wedding so it’s not on any of his albums. It’s a really beautiful song, and was adapted from a collection of poems by Kahlil Gibran.

One of my favorite lines from the song is: “Let the wind of heaven dance between you too/Allow the space and time to bring you closer to everlasting love.” The song speaks of the love between a husband and a wife being a movement of God, a grace working in your life. We also loved that it also speaks of children as a gift.

Since it isn’t on an album, our friend Steve the Missionary offered to play it on his ukulele and sing it live during our reception. It was such a memorable moment from that day.

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

In the last couple weeks before our wedding, Patrick and I decided we really needed to sit down and make a decision on our first dance song. We never really had a song in the five years of our friendship/dating relationship, so we didn’t have too many ideas. One afternoon, while hanging out in my parents’ kitchen, we ended up Googling “First Dance Song Ideas” and decided to just go through the list until something resonated with us. We stumbled across “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding and both really liked it.

I love that it’s soulful and with a beat, but still a slow song that makes it easy to dance and sing along to. We actually ended up taking a couple of dance classes at Fred Astaire with a Groupon I had purchased. In the end, I think we just decided to sway to the music, not worrying about counting steps, but it was still fun!

I have no regrets about our choice, but funnily enough, we were just talking a couple weeks ago about our first dance. We said we probably would have picked the 1998 classic “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo if we had thought of it at the time!

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

Our first dance was inspired by the waltz in Disney’s live-action Cinderella, where Ella greets the Prince on the dance floor in her beautiful blue ballgown for the first time. Since we wanted to dance a traditional waltz we looked through a variety of instrumental songs that had the right ¾ time signature we needed for the dance. As I was searching for songs I came across, "The Princess Diaries Waltz," by John Debney from the score of The Princess Diaries. After listening to it I knew, in my heart, it was the right song for us.

The Princess Diaries is a favorite childhood movie I watched growing up with my maternal grandmother, who passed away in 2012. One of her biggest dreams was to see me get married. While I wish she had lived longer to see me take my marriage vows, this song made me feel close to her on our special day.

Dancing a waltz at our wedding was an incredible experience and it was everything I had hoped for. Jeff and I had practiced dancing for many hours during our engagement and it certainly paid off! During the dance, I felt like I was flying and it was truly magical.

Now that we are married, I am still practicing the art of dance through life as a married couple. It may not always be as graceful as it was on our wedding day. Occasionally we may stumble. But it’s good to know that as long as we have each other we can make it through anything together.

 

Tasha Johnson, Administrative Assistant

A couple of years ago, I got to fly across the country to attend the wedding of two former missionary teammates of mine. I served with the husband my first year and the wife my second, so I had really gotten to know them separately, and it was such a joy to finally see them together.

Their choice of Matt Maher’s “Hold Us Together” was a perfect fit for their small, intimate wedding, because it was so evident that their love for each other was already something fruitful; it really spoke to the care they had taken to welcome all of us to share life with them throughout their courtship, and even especially in the days leading up to the wedding! It was definitely a fun song to watch them twirl and dip to, but it was even more so a reminder of the ways their relationship had already served as a shelter, both for them and for those of us who had the honor of walking through life’s storms with them. It was an absolutely beautiful theme for the first day of the rest of their lives!

Editors Share | When Expectations Meet Reality

The beauty of a wedding and joy of fulfilling a call to vocation is daydream worthy. From a young age, girls and women can often identify their ideals for the kind of man they imagine marrying, visions of their wedding day, or expectations of day-to-day married and family life.

In this month’s Editors Share, our team reflects on the dreams we had about marriage as single women, and how those expectations either changed or came to fruition after saying I do.

 

Stephanie Calis, Co-founder & Editor in Chief

During our engagement, I frequently prayed in thanksgiving that no one knew, saw, or understood me in the way my husband-to-be did, and I felt the same about him. At the time, I think we did know each other more fully than anyone else.

After our wedding, however, I started to realize how little a fullness of him I had actually known: I’d never known, for instance, how he liked to load a dishwasher, how he preferred to unwind after a stressful day, what grocery staples he liked to keep on hand. Normal adjustments to married life and significant time spent together--particularly after a long-distance engagement--sometimes made me question how well we knew one another at all.

In hindsight, I see the Holy Spirit drawing us out of self-focused habits and toward a shared life. I now consider it a great gift that even with all the trust, confidence, and admiration I had for my husband (and how well I knew him at the time) on our wedding day, the years have continually revealed new parts of him to me and we are constantly presented with opportunities to know and love each other more deeply through various quirks and discoveries.

 

Andi Compton, Business Director

I really thought that my future husband would do large showy displays affection (think Toby on This is Us. The guy gets me). I REALLY wanted to be proposed to in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland, but the man I married is a very private person. He and I were the only ones present when he proposed and we had no engagement party. We didn’t even get a photo until a couple of hours after! A part of me was definitely crushed, but the longer I’ve known my husband, I’ve learned how hard it was for him to be vulnerable and propose at all (even when he knew it was a sure thing!) and I’ve learned to embrace the private way he chose.

 

Jiza Zito, Co-Founder and Creative Director

I am a recovering perfectionist and overachiever, and I too married a perfectionist and overachiever. I was (and still am at times) the sort that if you said “Jump!”, I would ask “How high?”. I always wanted things done efficiently and with the least amount of mistakes as possible on the first try. Because perfectionists and overachievers can often set the bar too high, it can take a great deal to break them out of their unforgiving and sometimes unrealistic expectations.

As an engaged couple, we lived long-distance while being fully immersed in our careers and education at the time; therefore, I did not yet fully realize my expectation for perfection from others. Like many, you sometimes enter into marriage thinking you’re invincible. It was not until my husband and I were expecting our first born immediately after our wedding that my pride got “a swift kick to the pants” and I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance during pregnancy. In addition, we were also experiencing our first deployment and his numerous underways out to sea. When you pair separation and illness on top of the “typical” learning to grow and live together as a newlywed couple and later as parents to a colic-y, difficult newborn, it is severely humbling.

Over 10 years of marriage, there has been many good times. However, it is through the times of great suffering that has strengthen us in our vocation — 8 moves around the country, multiple deployments, the loss of two babies, the special needs of our earthly children, and the continued battle with gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarum with each pregnancy, endometrosis, and as well as post-partum depression that sometimes follows. Each individual within the family unit has their own unique way of processing grief, loss, and trials, and it requires great patience and dying to self when walking in those valleys together. It requires leaning into a support system of people you trust, as well as spiritual direction and professional therapy when necessary. Suffering is sanctifying. It breaks us and molds us. It purifies the heart of its selfish ambitions, and when done in union with Christ, it draws us closer to Him and to each other. While you can never fully anticipate the suffering to which you both will be called to before your wedding day, the reality of God’s abundant Love and Mercy will always greatly surpass your expectations.

 

Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

Long before I even knew my husband-to-be, I confidently committed myself to saving a KitchenAid Mixer for marriage. Despite the friends who tried to talk me into Black Friday sales and family who offered to buy one as a college graduation gift, I desired to withhold this life-changing kitchen appliance until the day I became a wife.

At the time, I made this decision simply because I wanted my life to look and feel remarkably different before and after marriage. It is the same line of thinking that held me accountable to not live with a boyfriend or fiancé before we were married. It is the same delayed gratification that saved other highly valued and anticipated experiences with my husband for marriage alone.

My husband and I are well-into our first year of marriage and my life is undeniably different from the life I lived as a single person. Marriage brought me across an ocean, into the military, away from my professional career and apart from friends and family. As it turns out, I didn’t need to save a KitchenAid Mixer for my life to look and feel radically different.

But God used my playful expectation and desire in other ways. My withholding of a kitchen appliance wasn’t about the mixer itself, but was about instilling in me an anticipation for married life to be a remarkably different life. I recognize how “saving a KitchenAid for marriage” was a means for God to prepare and strengthen me for the immense changes that followed our wedding day.

Nonetheless, our mixer has been a means to build community and serve others in our home. It is a means of love in the form of chocolate chip cookies. It is a stress reliever and a source of joy. Although I don't make financial contributions in our family right now, I make meals for our single friends, new parents and neighborhood kids. God is using my desires—both the playful and the serious—to teach me about myself, open my heart to love in creative ways, and be affirmed in my vocation as a wife.

 

Mariah Maza, Features Editor

My story is different than most. To be honest, I never had a rosy idea of marriage at all. Since I was little, God gave me the grace to understand the profound beauty in marriage, but I also never thought about it without remembering how hard and painful it probably would be. I didn’t spend most of my tween and teenage years fantasizing about my future husband, writing letters to him, or praying novenas that I would finally meet him. I’m sure part of that is because I didn’t hear about these typical “Catholic girl” trends until college, and also because I met my future husband at 14...on the first day of high school.

By 15, I knew I was going to marry him, but not in a squealy, teenage, naive way. I told my mom one day that I didn’t know how I knew, but I was going to marry this cute football player. Call it a crazy Holy Spirit moment! I said it calmly, nodded, and fell silent again, just knowing, and my mother didn’t challenge me at all. She has told me since then that she knew, somehow, too. She said I looked at my now-husband at 15 the way she looked at my dad at 15, when they met.

Seven years after meeting, after a lot of high school and college growing pains, we joyfully (and exhaustedly) walked down the aisle and were finally married. It’s difficult for me to say what surprised me about marriage, because my temperament is the kind to anticipate and expect all the possible suffering and little crosses that I could possibly encounter in the sacrament. This has its good and bad consequences. So when, for those first three months especially, hard times came, conflict flared up, or I found myself in tearful frustration at midnight on the couch, I saw it as the inevitable. I wasn’t surprised, just dealing with the suffering in marriage I knew would come.

Perhaps what began to surprise me, little by little, was my husband’s consistent, loving, patient response to all the selfish things I said and did that first year. He truly got the worst of me, because marriage felt like looking into a mirror that showed all your worst weaknesses. But he loved me tenderly in spite of them. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that when I would say something incredibly hurtful, he would often pull me into his arms, apologize for upsetting me, and tell me he loved me so much. He showed me what it was to be quick to forgive, to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of your spouse, without any complaints, and to say sorry even when I was the one who had started a quarrel! He loved (and still loves me) like God loves me: so good that it hurts, because I know I don’t deserve it. By the grace of God, I know the sacrament of marriage is forming us into saints, together.

 

Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

Whenever someone asks me what I’ve learned so far in my marriage, I always half-jokingly respond: “I’ve learned how selfish I am.” While I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a particularly selfish person during my single or engaged years. However, marriage demands so much more of me than anything else I have experienced.

I thought (albeit, naively) that I would always be the best version of myself once I got married. And while marriage has certainly shaped me more into the woman God made me to be, I still frequently have days where I’m grumpy or frustrated or downright annoying. My life is not my own anymore, it’s shared with my husband. Everything I say and do has an intimate effect on him and over the past three years I’ve been learning how to forget myself and actively choose love.

At the same time, however, I’ve found more joy in this process than single me ever could have imagined. I really feel like I have found myself through my vocation and I’ve been able to watch my husband grow more as a man. And through that, I’ve been able to encounter God more fully. It’s through self-denial that God has rooted up the weeds in my life (as painful as it can sometimes be) and has replaced it with fertile soil.

 

Mary Wilmot, Social Media Manager

I was just thinking the other day about how when we were dating and engaged, date nights and alone time spent together were so frequent. It really made me miss those early days! It was so easy to plan a spontaneous night out together at a new restaurant or bar in town. However, almost six years into marriage and add in two small children, our state of life has changed. Budget constraints and parenthood commitments obviously make this impossible, if not difficult. However, I am so grateful for the joy and struggles that come with raising these two little people. As much as I sometimes wish it were the opposite, weekly date nights out just aren’t a priority right now. I do not want to brush over the fact that date nights and quality time spent together are important for marriage and should be made a priority. I realize now though that date nights don’t have to be out to fancy restaurants each week, like I thought in my dating and single days. It’s easy to compare our realities to others’, especially in the age of Instagram stories when you can literally see what others are doing in the moment.

As my expectations change, I have learned to really appreciate the little moments that my husband and I are able to spend together at the end of the long day, praying our rosary, getting to mass together, reading our books of choice next to each other, and even listening to our favorite podcast together or having a special at home date night.

When we are able to secure a sitter and try out a new (or old favorite) restaurant, our nights are especially valued and savored. In fact, this past fall, we were even able to save up for and take a dream anniversary trip to Italy. With a little sacrifice and a lot of help from our families, we were able to spend this amazing, priceless time together and I am truly grateful to the Lord for that!

 

Danielle Rother, Pinterest Manager

During my single years I fantasized quite a bit about what my future husband would be like. I made a list of the qualities I was looking for in a husband after reading the book How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert. I knew I wanted to find a practicing Catholic man who would go to church and pray the rosary with me ­— someone who was handsome, chivalrous, kind, gentle, and had similar interests to me. While the message of the Everts’ book is just as beautiful as the enchanting artwork pictured on the front cover; my own expectations were just about as real as finding a Disney Prince for a husband.

I believe having high expectations is a good thing, and at the same time, there comes a point when it’s important to recognize when those expectations have become unrealistic. Perhaps I sought to find someone so similar to me that I was basically looking for a male version of myself. Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that the person I would end up with was not going to be a carbon copy.

The truth is, the man I fell in love with does hold many of the qualities I was searching for in a husband and he is also as different from myself as one can get. We have completely opposite temperaments and personalities. Throughout our courtship I knew that we were very different from each other, but it wasn’t until we were married that those differences became very challenging for us to navigate. Both of us have needed to adjust our expectations.

The extrovert in me is always seeking interaction and attention while the introvert in him is constantly looking for some solitude. My love language revolves around extravagant grand gestures and my husband is more content with the ordinary pleasures of life. Some days it seems like we have come to an impasse; yet somehow the grace of the sacrament has held us together. The reality of marriage means constantly dying to ourselves just a little bit more every day; compromise is an art form that we are still learning as newlyweds.

While the dreamer in me will never stop dreaming, I’ve learned that it’s important to live in our own reality and not to have unrealistic expectations in our marriage. I will always be grateful for the magical moment that was our wedding day, but everyday life in marriage can’t be a perpetual fairytale. It would be unsustainable. And even if it were possible, the magical moments would be less magical. It’s really the storms in life that we experience which help us to appreciate the joyful moments—because without rain there would be no rainbows.

The Sophia Series | Jessi

We invite our longtime married readers to share the experiences that have marked, refined, and anointed their marriages; months and years that, by grace, transform the mundane, the bitter, and the incomprehensible into the fruits of holy wisdom. A purification and a clear vision for the path to heaven that lies ahead. The Sophia Series.

Jessi Caruthers, married since 2011, discovered the sorrow that unexpectedly lay beneath the thought of openness to life. And through the grace of her marriage, she learned to sit within that sorrow and find its redemption.

Photography:    MD Turner Photography

It was on our first real date that my future husband told me there was a good chance he would never be able to parent children. We were sitting in this overpriced little Italian restaurant before going to an awful opera where Tim held my hand for the first time. We had known each other for a couple of years, and I knew he was a childhood cancer survivor. Before we began any sort of serious relationship, he wanted me to know that the treatment which, by the grace of God and modern medicine, saved his life, had the possible--even likely--side effect of causing infertility.

I thought very little of infertility that night. I was too busy worrying about what to do with my hands and if there was something in my teeth.

A little less than a year later on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on a shared kneeler in our beautiful parish, Tim asked me to marry him. I said yes. Six months later, we were married in that same beautiful church. We vowed openly to accept children as gifts from God. We were also vowing to accept that our marriage would not be given that gift; at least not in the normal way.

While it is true that from the very beginning of our relationship I understood we were unlikely to conceive children, somehow I didn't really think that would be our cross.

We are good people. We would be good parents, I thought. Surely, God does not want us to be childless.

Doctors were pretty hopeful, too, since there were no other indications of underlying problems. So, we hoped.

We were eager to start our family when we married. I drove myself and my dear husband a little crazy each month when the signs I thought pointed to pregnancy actually pointed to quite the opposite. I was a wreck. I cried a lot. What made it worse was that I knew Tim felt responsible. After a year, Tim convinced me we should seek a diagnosis or prognosis to determine whether there was any hope of conception. Over the phone, we received the medical answer: zero chance. No clarification was needed. No explanation was given, just "not going to happen."

Once one has a ring on her finger, everyone from her hairdresser to her aunt, the nice lady who sits in front of her at mass, even her social media ads start wondering when the children will start coming. If it has been a couple years, some ask. Others simply assume that perhaps a couple isn’t really open to life.

Infertility is invisible and so isolating.

I remember sitting in the choir loft of our parish, looking down on all the women who stood for the priest's blessing, on the first Mother's Day after we found out with some certainty that we wouldn't have children. Sitting there, looking down, I wept bitterly. I was angry with God and I was angry with myself. Children are gifts from God--truly "the supreme gift of marriage"--but one that I would not have and that, I knew, was not owed to me. How dare I be angry with God for withholding a gift I don't deserve?

So, in shame and fear I hid myself from my husband, from my friends, and from my Creator. It was precisely in my desire for children that I neglected my vow to give myself totally and freely to my husband. Instead of leaning into my marriage by leaning on my husband; instead of leaning into my faith by embracing our cross; instead of allowing my friends to share my burden, I hid myself in work and pity. I busied myself, but I stopped praying. I felt all the feelings, and I tried to feel them alone. And at that I failed.

Photography:    MD Turner Photography

During one of our monthly confession dates, a priest told me that in withholding this darkness from my husband I was failing him as a wife. I was not allowing him to be what he vowed to me: to be my husband, my rock, "in sickness and in health." It was a valuable lesson, a lesson that is unique to every marriage, but one I have realized all marriages need to learn in some way. For it is precisely in the hard things that we learn to love.

What we’ve learned is that marital love is a total and complete gift of self. And sometimes the gift of self that you would like to give--that gift of the self that has it together and is in control--is not the one you are able to give. Christ emptied himself on the cross. We are called in marriage to empty ourselves to our spouse, trusting that they will not leave us empty. That is precisely the icon of God's love that is found in marriage.

So, I became vulnerable before my husband. In allowing myself to be vulnerable, I allowed my husband to be who he vowed to be to me. And I allowed my husband to bring me back to trust in God.

I would not wish infertility on anyone. But as with any suffering, there are things to be learned and graces to be gained that could not be learned or received without that suffering.

I learned why the Church teaches children are the supreme gift and fruit of marital love. From an abstract, theological perspective, I understood, but it wasn't until it was suggested to me to get a sperm donor that I really got it. "You can even get a family member if biology is important to you," someone said.

I realized viscerally what I had only understood intellectually before that day: that I didn't just want to be pregnant and to have children. I longed for children precisely as an outpouring of our love. I wanted children that had my husband's nose and my eyes. Not for stupid aesthetic reasons, but because it is precisely out of that kind of love that children are gifts, and that children deserve to be born out of that love.

We might have been able to "fix" my not being able to be pregnant and my desire to have children, but it would have been without the only man I wanted to be their father. This is why only couples, not individuals, are infertile. My husband's cancer and his diagnosis might be the reason for our infertility--but precisely because we are married, if he is infertile then so am I.

I also learned to allow myself and others to grieve. I felt that because I hadn't lost a child, and we aren't owed a child by God, we had no right to grieve. We have this desire (especially Americans, I think) to fix people rather than embrace their sufferings. Suffering is uncomfortable, and we want to get over it as soon as possible.

When my husband and  told others about our infertility we were often told that it was God's will--as if taking away the right to be sad; if it is God's will then I should just surrender to it and even be happy about it. Even more often, we were given the ubiquitous advice that "you can always adopt". But adoption is not a replacement for fertility. And despite the myth, it doesn't cure it, either.

In Catholic theology we learn we are called to beget children as the gift and outpouring of marriage, but both in infertility and adoption, something has gone wrong. If we allowed ourselves and each other to grieve the fact that we would not have children by nature, that I would never feel the kick of a child in my womb, that Tim would never have children that look like him, we would be treating the children we adopt as replacements rather than the unique and unrepeatable individuals they are.

Infertility also taught us about grace. In the Easter Vigil liturgy we hear the proclamation "O Happy Fault that merited such and so great a redeemer!" It is precisely in our brokenness that God is able to fulfill us and to bring about an even greater good than we could have expected.

We are his children by adoption. It is through our brokenness that we are his, by grace.

It wasn't until we were able to accept our brokenness that we were free to suffer our inability to have children by nature, and that we were really ready to become parents by grace. And adoption is always from a place of brokenness. Something has gone wrong. We aren't there to fix that brokenness, but to redeem it in love. Love for expectant mothers in fear and crisis, love for birth parents who love their children more than themselves, and especially for those children, who enter into the world of brokenness and are placed in our family to be our children by grace. And like our redemption, it is truly a beautiful grace.

We learned to trust in God and listen to his desire for our family--to rely solely on him. Adoption is expensive and, as two teachers with student loans and small salaries, it seemed hopeless that we would be able to bring children into our home. My husband and I relied so heavily on each other's strengths: I relied on his ability to trust, and he relied on my ability to plan every eventuality. By relying on each other, and especially through the incredible generosity of our friends, God made adoption happen for us. We pray he has other children in mind to become part of our family.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you... and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Through our struggles with infertility, I learned that the yoke of selfishness and control is so much heavier than whatever cross Christ asks me to take with him. I learned that my husband is here to share that burden. And that, really, is what marriage is: carrying our cross together.

Jessi’s words of wisdom for brides:

Tell your husband what you need instead of making him guess: You need to hear that he thinks you are beautiful? Tell him. You need to feel appreciated? Tell him. You need him to do the dishes? Ask him to do the dishes! In the first couple years of marriage, I wanted my husband to just intuit what I wanted and needed, until I realized I was setting him up for failure in my mind. My husband is a great man; he wants to bring me to God and help to make me happy, but I was expecting him to be a mind reader, too. When I tell him what I need, he exceeds my expectations.

Find a prayer life and time that works for you and your spouse, and pray together. Make it a part of your shared lives, so that even when you don't feel like it your husband can move you to prayer, even when he isn't feeling it you can help him, so in your life you are always both pointed toward God, together.

Try to outdo your spouse in service and forgiveness, and try to outdo yourself each new day.


About the Author: Jessi Caruthers is a wife to a really good man and a mother through adoption to an adorable and busy toddler. She puts her degree in Thomistic philosophy to good use teaching high school Ethics and Religion in a suburb of Houston. She aspires to shabby hospitality in her little yellow house, living a simple liturgical life and making beautiful things.

WEBSITE

The Sophia Series | Annamarie

ANNAMARIE HAMILTON

 

I met my husband Kevin in college. We were best friends for about a year; as time passed, it became obvious that we had feelings for each other. From very early on in our courtship, we knew we would end up getting married. We knew we had each found the one who was God’s perfect match for us. Kevin proposed during my senior year, and the following August we got married. While our marriage has been far from perfect, we had had a fairly easy time for the first five years.

During that time we had three children; Dominic, Lucy, and Simon. Although having children definitely changed our marriage and made life harder and more stressful in general, we were still living a happy and generally peaceful life, and our marriage was as solid as ever.

On August 8th of 2017, a few days before our fifth anniversary, we ended up taking two-year-old Lucy to the Emergency Room. She had been very lethargic for a few days and wouldn’t eat anything. We were completely blindsided when she was diagnosed with leukemia.

Kevin and I were both in complete shock. It is the kind of thing that you think will never happen to you until it does.

The next few days were an emotional whirlwind of new information, surgeries, chemo, and hospitalization. Two days later, as we celebrated our anniversary in the Operating Room waiting area, I remember thinking and talking about our marriage, and how this was something we never could have planned for.

In our vows we say “in sickness and in health,” but we never really thought seriously that we’d have to deal with real sickness, or what that would look like.

That day, we talked about how grateful we were to be going through that together. To have someone else who knew exactly we felt and who loved our daughter just as much. Although this is never where we thought we would be, five years into our marriage there is no one else I would want to go through this with. Over the past few months, Kevin and I have grown closer than ever, and I think our marriage is stronger than ever. We have had to lean on each other and learned to love and support our spouse even as we deal with our own pain. That has given us a bond we could never have imagined.

This journey with cancer is far from over, yet we feel our family is finally in a good place again, and everyone has learned to adjust to the “new normal” that is our lives. We already feel stronger as a family and as a husband and wife from having gone through this. Although this time of our lives has been the hardest yet, we feel confident that if we can get through this, we can get through anything.

Annamarie’s words of wisdom for brides:

Don't be afraid to be dependent on each other, rather than trying to work out problems on your own.

Pray for each other.

Don't take the little, everyday things for granted.


Contibutor headshot MEDIUM 200px (4).png

About the Author: Annamarie Hamilton is a stay-home-mom from Baltimore, Maryland. She is married to her best friend Kevin and together they have three children: Dominic, Lucy, and Simon.

INSTAGRAM

Reflections on 10 Years of Marriage

ANDI COMPTON

 

By the grace of God, my husband Matt and I have now been married for 10 years. We were married on one of Our Lady's feast days, and she really took care of all the details that day and throughout our honeymoon. Twenty-one year old Andi had no idea what the next decade of her life would bring, but standing here on the other side, I’d love to share with you some insights I’ve gained through it all.

2018-02-05_0009.jpg

Pray for each other unceasingly.

Thank God on your knees for the gift of your spouse and your vocation. Invite him into your decisions, large and small. Even a simple prayer of, “Lord, help me be a good steward of our money while I grocery shop” helps us keep God at the center of our thoughts and reminds us where all our blessings flow from.

There will be seasons.

Some years are just amazing, completely full of grace and tangible joy. Others have felt like overwhelming dark valleys where we’re just barely hanging on together. This is why I love the part in the traditional vows where we promised to love each other for better or worse. Because there really will be better and worse days and seasons.
 

SPOKEN BRIDE / Photo Credit: Rae & Michael
2018-02-05_0001.jpg

Stay close to the Church.

Make Sunday Mass, Holy Days, and confession a priority for your family. Even on vacation. Even when you have to split up and take kids to different masses. Even when it seems pointless, just go and give yourself to God. Try to go to confession once a month and make a date out of it. If it becomes a habit now, it’s much easier to incorporate kids into the routine later on.

New identities and roles take time to get used to.

It takes awhile getting settled into a new identity as a wife (or a husband) and to set healthy boundaries with family and friends. It’s all trial and error. For me, the two hardest adjustments were learning how to have a roommate and checking in with my husband before making large purchases. As an only child who lived at home until marriage, I’d never really learned how to share my space with others, and I had no idea of all the work it takes to take care of a home (bills, maintenance, cleaning, cooking, and more). I even joked with Matt that we should just get a bunk bed so I didn’t have to share my bed with him. Fast forward to ten years later and I can’t sleep if he’s not there!

2018-02-05_0011.jpg
2018-02-05_0003.jpg

Embrace NFP, especially when it's hard to do.

Natural Family Planning has been a real gift to us despite it being something so counter cultural and, some days, a huge spiritual battle for me to want to stick with it. Every couple will have a different experience during different seasons, and I want you to know that it’s okay.

Some couples will choose never to use NFP, joyfully accepting children if and when they come. Others will struggle immensely to abstain during fertile times but know it’s a cross they have to bear for a season. And then there will be those who honestly don’t struggle as much with abstinence and, due to circumstances have to abstain for months or years at a time. I’ve experienced all of the above situations and it’s likely you and your spouse will encounter a wide range of emotions towards how God is calling you to use NFP for the moment. And that's alright.

So long as we hold to the truth that God is in charge of our families, use our best discernment through prayer--individually and as a couple--and bring in a spiritual director if needed, we can make the best decisions for our families.

Learn to be vulnerable.

It takes time and patience to trust another person 100% with your spiritual life, emotions, sexuality, possessions, and the parts of your personality the rest of the world doesn’t see. There have been times in our marriage where that trust has been broken, and when we had to show love for one another by asking forgiveness and working towards complete vulnerability once again. Couples therapy can be a wonderful tool, and there is absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it.

I think the wedding toast we’ve prepared for our kids pretty much sums up our thoughts on marriage: “May you be a slave to one another, but most of all to Christ.”

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your months or years of marriage that you’d like to share with other brides and wives?

Photography: Rae and Michael Photography | Shoot Location: Rancho Buena Vista Park, Vista, CA | Cake: Mili's Sweets | Andi's Apparel: Shirt, J. Crew. Necklace, Loft. Dress, Adrianna Papell. Shoes, Sam Edelman.


About the Author: Andi Compton is Spoken Bride's Business Director. She is the owner of Now That's a Party where she coordinates weddings, fundraising galas, and social events. Read more

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST