Madeleine and I were that young couple that made people who don’t believe in love sick in their stomach! We prayed the rosary with the same beads, held hands everywhere we went, could talk and talk for hours on end and give each other that kind of hug that made time and the world stand still. I was madly in love with her, and she (I hope) was madly in love with me.
We had read every chastity book Jason Evert had written, listened to all of Christopher West’s tapes on Theology of the Body, what could possibly go wrong?
No matter how in love a young couple may be, or how many books they read, or even how many marriage prep courses they undertake – the struggles of marriage are real and no couple will escape them.
There is no other way to say this – marriage is hard. Please read that again. Marriage is really, really hard. And very often painful. The person you marry can bring you the greatest joys, and also the deepest sufferings. They know us so well.
Many of us grow up desiring the joys of marriage so much (me especially), that when the natural and inevitable challenges surface, we aren’t equipped to lean on Jesus and suffer well through them with our spouse. When we are hurt and resentful, we often inflict even more pain on our spouses.
Maddie and I have hurt each other enormously. We have apologised to each other with tears running down our faces more than once. This doesn’t mean we have a horrible marriage – quite the opposite. Madeleine and I experience deep joy, intimacy and love in our marriage – but it means that the grace of the Sacrament is working! The Lord is shining lights on our own weaknesses that wound our spouse.
What is the best way to prepare for marriage? Read the books, attend the courses, absolutely! But, make sure you both know that there will be many times in your marriage that you will hurt one another and need to ask forgiveness and extend mercy. Marriage is meant to make us saints, and suffering is central to the path to holiness.