I believed this. Want to be miserable? Get married. In my teen years I decided I didn’t want anything to do with marriage. No one I knew was living the happy ever after I had read about or watched in movies as a little girl. In life it seemed that Cinderella either never found her prince charming, so she settled for less. Or Cinderella and the prince were doomed to become cold, dissatisfied, grouchy complainers trying to bang out a life together until one of them decided they were better off alone or with someone else.
Recently, I read “Time Warp Wife’s” blog post, “An Open Letter to Young Girl’s Everywhere” where Lisa Jacobson writes about this very same belief among many young girls today. I don’t intend to repeat what Lisa has already beautifully written. Below is my advice to those young women who are feeling like marriage isn’t the road to “happy ever after.”
I have been thinking about that young seventeen year old girl who was swept away by the man who would be her husband. What changed my mind? What was my heart set on?
1. Take the time to discern if marriage is your vocation. Marriage is a vocation, a divine call to God’s service, a function or station in life to which one is called by God.
Truthfully, my heart didn’t really change. My mind had decided that marriage didn’t seem worth it. However, in my heart I knew that I would one day be a wife and mom. I was raised in a Catholic family, however I had never been encouraged to do a proper discernment as to what God was calling me to. I trust if God wanted to call me to religious life, he would have placed this option in my path somehow. My opinion is that every young person should take time to discern God’s call. Cultivating and nurturing a friendship with Christ is necessary even if you are called to marriage. Allowing time in your life to explore what God is calling you to, whether it is marriage, consecrated life, or a nun, will provide the ground that Christ needs to bear good fruit in your life.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to witness how beautiful the consecrated life is, while attending a convention for Catholic women at Mater Ecclesiae College for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, in Rhode Island. It was there I understood why someone would choose to give their life to Christ. I also sensed a great peace in knowing that I had been called to give my life for Christ through my vocation as a wife and mom.
2. Pray for your future husband and don’t be afraid to be specific about the characteristics you would like him to have.
My mom encouraged me to pray for a good husband. My prayer was not very specific. I wanted a man who was respectful, would treat me good and shared my faith. Today my husband is all those things, and so much more. A dear friend of mine cultivated a much deeper friendship with Christ in her youth, and prayed for her husband. She wasn’t afraid to be specific. She created a list that she presented to God in prayer of all the physical and spiritual characteristics she would like her future husband to have. When she met the man who was to be her husband she was able to check off all the items she had listed. She knew God had sent her the man she prayed for.
3. Be prepared for the cross. Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” Find someone who is committed to facing life’s crosses with you. Someone who will always choose you, his wife.
Even though I didn’t know my faith very well, I had some idea that if God called me to something there was bound to be some suffering involved in that calling. After all there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. The marriages around me seemed to be failing because there was too much suffering, or nobody wanted to suffer.
Now every situation is different, I know. There are some difficulties that married couples face that cannot be undone. Situations where one or the other did put in the effort, prayer and sacrifice necessary, but the other spouse was not willing to match the effort. I have dear friends who are divorcee’s that still live a life of faith and I am certain there has been much pain and hopefully much healing in their circumstance. I am not speaking of those situations. All too often we don’t even put in the effort to work through struggles in our relationships, we just give up.
I knew that for marriage to last, both spouse’s had to be committed to sticking it out no matter what came their way. At the age of sixteen I attended a parish youth group retreat. During the retreat we were all asked to choose a scripture verse that spoke to us and share why we chose that one. A certain young man chose a passage from Matthew 19:3-9. It’s a passage where Jesus answers a question concerning divorce. Then he explained why he chose this passage.
“Many couples give up on their marriage at the first sight of problems. They forget what brought them together in the first place. I think married couples need to come together and commit to working through the problems. Divorce should not be an option. They should remember the love and attraction that was there from the start instead of pulling away from each other.”
My mind was changed, in that moment I thought, “If I ever get married, it must be to someone who thinks like him.” Little did I know God was showing me the young man that would steal my heart for life.
4. Choose him. Only Christ was a perfect man, don’t expect to find a perfect husband. Be prepared to accept and respect him. He may very well change over the years, but it is best to leave any changing that needs to be done in God’s hands.
There are certain weaknesses or flaws that we cannot accept or deal with for life. Abuse, addiction, infidelity are among the greatest deal breakers for marriage. That doesn’t mean marriage cannot survive these issues. However, if these issues are apparent before marriage that is the time to consider if this is truly the man God wants you to commit your life to. God brings a man and a woman together to help them get to heaven. Marriage is a doorway to the sacred. God loves all of us unconditionally and sees beyond our faults and weaknesses. He calls married couples to love each other this same way. My husband cannot change me, anymore than I can change him. I pray that God will change me into the wife my husband needs, while hoping and praying that my husband is open to the changes God wills for him.
5. Listen and seek advice, support and prayers from older women who are living their vocation as a wife and mother, lovingly and faithfully.
We all need a support system. A few years ago, I prayed that God would send me a living example of a Proverbs 31 woman. God is generous. He didn’t send me one woman, he sent me a few. Many of which I have met in my parish community, through various ministries I have been involved in. Being surrounded by women who value marriage, encourage me in my role as wife and pray for me and my marriage has been a tremendous support and a grace of God. One woman was in my life all along. My own mom is the best mentor and example of a Proverbs 31 woman. She and my dad were married for over 50 years, she withstood all the issues many of us would consider deal breakers. After he passed away, we asked her if she had any regrets.
“I have no regrets, I gave all of myself to him and if God allowed him to live longer I was prepared to give more. “
There are many other lessons I have learned in my seventeen years of marriage. These five points are not exhaustive. However, it has the five points that would have been helpful to know as a young woman. Therefore, my hope is that this will be helpful to some young woman, who is thinking, as I once did, “Marriage is the road for the miserable?”
My short answer to that is, “It may be the road God has chosen for you to get to heaven. Heaven is the only place we will experience the ‘happy ever after’ we desire. Are you ready to turn your back on it?”