Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Grace and the Gift of a Spouse: Marriage Is a Gift from God, but It Takes Commitment to Keep the Fire Alive

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Grace and the Gift of a Spouse: Marriage Is a Gift from God, but It Takes Commitment to Keep the Fire Alive

Article excerpt

Brigid and Bob have been married 22 years and have four children. They also have a commitment to keep each Sunday holy--and part of the holiness is found in their bedroom. "Marriage is like a fire, it needs tending and fuel to stay alive," Brigid says. "So we celebrate the Sabbath. If the conjugal aspect of our marriage has been neglected, we make sure to join in this way, since this level of giving and vulnerability restores the intimacy of our marriage."

As a sacrament, marriage has more in common with the Eucharist than it does with the onetime event of baptism. The wedding day--with its beautiful flowers, stunning white dress, and unity candle--is just the beginning of a sacrament that continues for a lifetime. Just as we regularly receive the Eucharist to receive God's grace present in the person of Jesus, so it is in marriage that we continue to find ways to connect with our spouse, to receive God's grace present in that relationship.

Gratitude in marriage is key

God's grace is so often found in profound thankfulness. The word eucharist means "thanksgiving," and again the parallel in marriage continues. Spouses who are grateful for each other feel God's grace in the marriage. Denise--married to Arthur, with two teens and one younger child--says she consciously feels grateful for her husband. She learned to do this intentionally a few years ago, one day when Arthur was talking to her about work. "Arthur was telling me about a difficult judgment call he was wrestling with concerning a project he was leading. As he was talking, I was unexpectedly aware of how patient, wise, caring, and humble he is."

"I would have always attributed these characteristics to him, but in that moment I felt great gratitude for these gifts of his, gifts I had perhaps taken for granted and suddenly wanted to cherish and savor," Denise says. "I spent the next few days trying to notice the gift of Arthur. He always lets me use the bathroom first to get ready in the morning. He looks for me immediately when he returns home. He asks each child about his/her day--and really listens to the reply. He starts clearing the dishes from the table as the rest of us finish the last, great dinnertime story. He always waits for me to finish my thought before talking."

Denise explains that while she sometimes forgets to look at the gift of her husband, when she does remember to be intentionally grateful, she finds it easier to overlook the day-to-day annoyances that are a natural part of living with another person. "When I am aware and thankful for the normal gifts, the normal irritants are more easily and graciously overlooked."

Making time to connect

Connecting regularly in daily life is a common theme for couples in strong marriages. Stressful careers and the pressures of life with young children can make it difficult to find time for natural connection. Successful couples recognize the time won't come naturally, so they schedule it in.

Amy and Kevin, parents of three teenagers, recognize that Kevin's intense travel schedule for work and Amy's position as a partner in a law firm could put them at risk for drifting apart. Time is a precious commodity in their household. In addition to taking a yearly vacation for just the two of them, they find more ordinary ways to make time for one another. "With our careers being so busy, we need to make an effort," Kevin says. "We are mindful of how important it is to give time to our relationship. We have coffee in the living room every Saturday and Sunday morning that we can--no paper or TV. …

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