“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” ~Mignon McLaughlin
The great marriage myth of our time is that happy marriages “just happen.” When we were first married, we—like many couples—were under the impression that true love was all that was required to live happily ever after. We certainly didn’t believe that we needed to put any work into our marriage, because only unhappy couples “work on their marriages.” Plus—and here was the really important part—we were different. Special, even. The troubles and stresses and fights and outright tragedy that befalls other marriages won’t afflict ours. We’re in love, and love conquers all. Truly good marriages, are always blissful and easy. We had it made.
Wow, were we wrong.
The images of love and marriage that surround us in popular culture today reinforce the idea that real love is easy, and experiencing hardship means that you’ve married the wrong person. So we break up or divorce and remarry in hopes that we will find an easier love, a perfect love. Of course, the reality is that while we are more compatible with some people than others, we are still human beings struggling to find our way through relationships. We make mistakes. We let each other down. We fail. We fight. We sin.
The story of creation in the Book of Genesis reminds us that, while we were created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27), we are not gods ourselves. We’re human beings with a great capacity for good, but also the capacity for evil. When God discovers that Adam and Eve have eaten of the tree of life, we are reminded of our human-ness and imperfection:
And then LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." (Gen 3:22)
And so from the beginning it was foretold that human beings would know both good times and bad, sickness and health, and that there would even be a “’til-death-do-us-part” part. Humanity’s first couple getting evicted from the Garden of Eden should’ve been our first clue that marriage wasn’t going to be easy!
Difficult times visit every marriage. Unexpected challenges arise: illness, job loss, or death in the family. You’ll face your own crises, as devastating to you as expulsion from paradise was for Adam and Eve. But that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. Far from it.
We hope you’ll find this book different. We’ve written it to help couples strengthen their marriages so that when life’s challenges happen, your marriage will bend, not break. We’ve done some research, we’ve recounted some stories from our own experience, and we’ve talked with other Catholic married couples who have their own stories to share.
We feel qualified to give marital advice not because our marriage has been perfect, but because we’ve had our own challenges.
Most of all, we’ve tried to give it to you straight without sounding fatalistic. Just as much as no marriage is a constant honeymoon, it’s not all gloom and dirty dishes, either. We’ve tried to talk about the real-life things that get glossed over in marriage prep courses. We don’t pretend to have The Answers, but we do believe that this book serves as a good reminder of the right questions to ask, and gives you tools to help you to find your answers—the ones that will help your marriage.
Copyright © 2012 Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
Excerpted from Stress-Proof Your Marriage.