Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Mistakes Married Couples Make: Not standing up for number one!


As one who has given talks at diocesan Engagement Encounters, led Cana marriage programs at the local parish and personally (not professionally) counseled spouses from distressed and broken marriages, I have come to learn over the years that fewer people are being prepared for the demands of marriage. What used to be common sense and good instincts, as far as making relationships work, are fewer and far between nowdays. After all, Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large so emphasizes and even glorifies the first phases of romantic and sexual love that it completely ignores the self-denial and virtues that are required for a life-long marriage. Perhaps, this is why so many television programs are centered around unmarried or divorced/remarried couples. Hollywood produces these kind of television shows and movies precisely because this is all they know! Indeed, their lifestyle and values lead to a total disillusionment of that "forever kind of love." The kind of love Christianity upholds as the ideal.

It is unfortunate, but true, that the air people breathe is not that of Christianity. Rather, it is the secular air of the entertainment subculture. To be sure, the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for in this respect. Catholics- both clergy and laity -have failed, in many ways, to maintain a world-renouncing, counter cultural posture towards sex, marriage and divorce. This is why the divorce rate among Catholics in the United States does not fare much better than the rest of society.

Okay! You might ask: And what about the mistakes married couples make? And what about the in-law factor? Well, one of the advantages of having Christ-crucified, as St. Paul would say, as the standard by which we live our lives is that we are more disposed to make sacrifices for loved ones. Even more, we better understand what ditches are worth dying in. The question we often have to ask ourselves is: Second to God, who comes first in my life? Who comes second? And so on.

I am amazed how many married spouses want to please, as their highest priority, their own mother, father, brother or sister; even against the wishes or well-being of their own spouse. Also common among married couples is the mistake of making the children the highest priority; even above that of their own spouse. I'll never forget a picture I saw in someone's kitchen. It reads something like this: "The best thing a father (or mother) can do for his children is to love their mother." How true! And yet, for a good number of married couples this maxim is not etched in stone.

How many times have I heard a husband (or wife), for the sake of "peace," not get involved when his sposue is being verbally abused or infringed upon by his immediate family? How many times have husbands or wives failed to mediate the concerns of their spouses to their own flesh-blood family? And when I say mediate, I mean defend the legitimate concerns and the best interests of the spouse.

Marriage implies that a man and a woman leaves or graduates, if you will, the family he or she grew up in order to become "one" with their spouse. This oneness is an indissoluble union- composed of two distinct personalities -that God himself has fused into one thing! Indeed, this union, according to two thousand years of Catholic teaching, becomes- second only to God -the highest priority for the married couple. Anything that threatens that unity is suspect; including a disgruntled a "mother, father, brother or sister in-law."

I am especially critical towards men because I believe in Western Civilzation they have become soft and even feminized. They should be the first to sacrifice, the first to take the lead and the first to take action. But quite often they do not. Too many husbands fail to be men because they are still mamma's boy or are beholden to their siblings. They refuse to defend their wife for fear of displeasing their own relatives. However, the momma's boy syndrome can put a lot of stress on a marriage. I have to say women can be equally guilty of this dereliction. In any case, not standing up for number one, namely, one's spouse, is symptomatic that we have lost sight of the proper order of things. Moreover, we are not accustomed to make the proper sacrifices needed in order to keep marriages intact.

Being a disciple of Christ means that doing God's will or doing the right thing just might upset those closest to us; especially family members. Perhaps, this is why Jesus said, "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." (Luke 12:51-53)

Notice Jesus did not draw the line of division between husband and wife. There is a reason for that! He will not divide what he has united. Again, second to God spouses come first in a marriage; even if it means clashing with other family members! So, stand up for the number one person in your life and let everyone else adapt accordingly.