Something is disorienting about marriage. You take two wildly different human beings, with excruciatingly different upbringings, who possess so many unique nuances and join them together. Cue bliss and romance and awe, until suddenly you realize you are yoked with another imperfect being, with his own crosses, that are now your crosses too. Wait. What did I sign up for again?
I got married less than a year ago. And while so many blushing brides fill Instagram with cutesy captions like, “marriage suits me!” I found myself thinking, “Sheesh! I am horrible at being married.”
In no time at all, the vices I had worked diligently to eradicate all came tumbling out with renewed vigor. Honestly, I do not even know if I can describe my horror at the cascade of shortcomings that seemed to ooze out of my every pore. It was not only frustrating but absolutely mortifying. I was supposed to be the perfect wife. Sweet, supportive, incredibly virtuous, kind, beautiful, an incredible housekeeper, cook, companion, and the list endlessly goes on.
Like a four-year-old who is not allowed to play with a favored toy, I started to fall into self-pity. Poor me. I found that the glistening goddess housewife image lifted, and there I was, doing a feeble job at my new lot in life.
And for all of this, I give thanks to God.
I began to scrutinize my every move. How is it that I love so poorly when I love so much? As stated, I had envisioned myself being an all-star wife, where everything is always perfect — even weathering storms would be an idyllic affair for us.
And total fantasy. I was not living in reality. God quickly and compassionately removed my rose-colored goggles and allowed me to see that earth is not Heaven. And finding my vocation does not mean entering into constant jubilation, but rather, growing in sanctity and learning to die to self.
Like a toddler who did not want to eat the nasty greens on my plate, I reeled back from what I perceived as the fulsome veggies God was sending me.
“Um, God, I’d like only tasty things from here on out!”
Fulton Sheen once wrote that:
“In all human love it must be realized that every man promises a woman, and every woman promises a man that which only God alone can give, namely, perfect happiness.”
I had promised perfect happiness, and I could not deliver.
As a result, my ego suffered. I brought my grief to a priest. “I am just constantly messing up. I do not know what I need to fix.” I admitted as I listed off my every shortcoming. The kindly man smiled, “What an honor it is to see the graces of your marriage so at work in you.”
I admit I had anticipated a comment more along the lines of, “Ooof, where do I even begin?” But what he helped me realize is that I was encountering my littleness. Our egos, inflated and grandiose, naturally despise our littleness, for so often we want to champion ourselves as the best. When we see that we are not the best, our ego convinces us we must be the worst. And so, when we let our vanity govern our life, we find that our internal peace shatters easily; after all, it is not the peace of God but rather self-satisfaction.
In truth, we are capable of little, but that is no reason to be ashamed, for it is in our littleness that Christ loves. And to be perfectly candid, it is incredibly liberating knowing that what I cannot do alone, Christ can do perfectly. I need only lean on Him.
I was trying to love on my own, but human love is finite and tainted with selfishness. It does not comprehend the ways of God, but instead, it listens to the throne of self.
No, the love that I am to have and give is not my own.
Instead, God calls us to love with Divine love, with the perfect love of God. The only way to do that is to love God for His own sake. Our first, unending romance must be with God. God perfects our wildly imperfect love and enables us to love with His love. He fills us up as it were with love and that is the love that overflows from us.
Being married has taught me that, on my own, I am not a good wife. But on my own, I am not really capable of anything save for stumbling. Thankfully, in loving God, He picks me up and loves through me. God makes all things new and reminds us that real love is unending. Through Him, I can be the wife He calls me to be, and that is a cause for profound rejoicing.
“There is no past tense in the verb to love.” — Evelyn Waugh
When my husband and I first got married, I remember someone made a snide comment along the lines of, “You’ll get over it soon.” Initially, I was annoyed.
How could someone be so heartless?
But as I think back on those words, I get it. If you love without God, you will find that those human desires and emotions dry up. A God-sized chasm forms in your heart. The honeymoon phase comes to a halt, and now you are stuck with someone insanely different than you, who cannot give you perfect happiness.
But I do not believe for a minute that is how it is supposed to be. In suffering, Christ exposes His most Sacred Heart, a Heart that beats in love for us, to us. In dying, He conquers death. The eternal love of Christ makes all things new.
In marriage, we too are called to die to ourselves. In that act of surrender, love exposes our hearts in their entirety. Even though the rose-colored goggles of infatuation might fall off, our love should only deepen. We start to love as a response to our beloved’s goodness. For who he is created by God. We learn to love our spouse as God loves. And that is by far more beautiful and exciting.
Only in Christ love is renewed. Christ stretches out the heart, which might hurt at the moment (that particular human organ is often stubborn), but the result is that there is only more love.
Perhaps the honeymoon phase might end, but if it does a lovelier and more joy-filled season will replace it. I have complete confidence in this because, first and foremost, my heart belongs to God, and in that, He expands my heart and fills it with more love to give to my husband.
“As life goes on, they become not two compatible beings who have learned to live together through self-suppression and patience, but one new and richer being, fused in the fires of God’s love.” — Fulton Sheen