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Dating & Relationships

I come from a large Catholic family. My parents got married when my mother was 18 and my dad was 21 and they will have been married 54 years this October. They have 26 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. 

 
My older brother got married when he was 21 and his wife was 19. They have been married 30 years and have eleven children and nine grandchildren. His oldest son married at 20 and he and his wife have been married for 10 years and have 5 children. I could continue on about happy families that start out young because I know a lot of them, despite the fact that my specialty is helping divorced men and women. But I won’t, I just wanted to highlight these examples in contrast to a recent blog post I read entitled, Why I Believe Marriage Shouldn’t Be Allowed Before Age 25.
 
 
Now at first glance, the title of the article sounds a lot like many of my own laments regarding engaged couple approaching the altar (or the beach, or the Vegas backdrop, etc.) with wishes of a happily ever-after that are so entirely unrealistic, it’s heartbreaking. I’ve said several times, it should be harder to get married, not harder to get divorced. And I believe that sentiment is probably at the root of Ms. Nagy’s article. But it’s not stated that way and actually misses the point entirely. 
 
 
Her point was that people haven’t matured sufficiently or lived enough life before the age of 25 to be capable of settling down in a monogamous relationship. While I commiserate with the author and her unhappiness about being divorced at the age of 29, I vehemently disagree with her point. 
 
 
The problem with marriage and divorce is not rooted in the age in which people marry, but their state of readiness for this romantic, exciting, challenging, and often difficult time. Do couples today understand what it takes to make a marriage work?
 
 
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
 
 
Marriage is thrilling as you stand together on the altar looking like a million bucks while your family and friends watch you take your vows. How romantic it is to take your first kiss as man and wife!
 
 
Marriage is so wonderfully sublime as you return from your honeymoon and settle into your new home. To begin building this family life together through the weeks, the months, and the years is an unbelievable privilege, especially when the children come and the family grows. The memories that are made, the bonds that form become unbreakable and bring unbelievable joy.
 
 
And this is what is important to remember: When the difficult times come, marriage is still a privilege. 
 
It’s a privilege to be together when a job is lost, financial difficulties set in, you can’t sleep at night and the stress level becomes almost unbearable.
 
 
It’s a privilege to be together when the husband works all day, comes home and cooks dinner, does the laundry, puts the kids to bed and gets up and does it all over again because his pregnant wife is on bed rest. 
 
 
It’s a privilege to be together when your child is in the hospital with a serious condition and you have to sleep on chairs for nights on end. 
 
 
It’s a privilege to get fat together (sorry people, I don’t care how skinny you are now, it’s a reality) and realize how much you’ve changed since your wedding day.
 
 
It’s a privilege to argue with each other, to know each other’s deepest secrets, to see all the good stuff that no one else sees, to cheer each other on, to keep each other in line, to laugh at all the jokes only the two of you know, to pray together, be strong together, no matter what. It’s a privilege to be married.
 
 
And this sense of privilege seems to be missed by so many people… except those who are divorced.
 
 
A good and lasting marriage doesn’t depend on age. It’s not about how your spouse can make you happy. It’s about how you can make your spouse happy and how you can get each other to heaven. It depends on maturity and appreciation of this beautiful gift God gave us. George Elliot said it best:
 
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting (George Elliott [aka Mary Anne Evans], Adam Bede)
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14 Comments

  1. Henry V. June 8, 2012

    A few thoughts come to mind. My Mom & StepDad were married for 34 years (until he died of cancer recently).. and had the sort of marriage we all hope for. They were best friends to the end, cared for each other, always together. However, when they first met for the first time it was a Saturday. By that Thursday they were married. Does every marriage last like theirs after only knowing each other for less than a week? Statistically, I’d say the odds are against it. Yet they did it. So much for knowing a person 5 years prior to getting engaged.

    I then look at my own experience. I married at age 19 and by age 21 I was a Father. Ten years later, divorced. Getting married while still in the naive, hopeful stage of life with all good intentions is simply not enough. I’d dare say that a good case could be made for some level of maturity prior to marriage. But I’m sure somewhere out there are stories of people like my Aunt/Uncle who married at age 17 and were together for over 40 years until his death.

    While discussing ‘true love’ in today’s modern world with three friends last week, the consensus among the working women was that there is no such thing as true-love. (I was the only one defending that concept.) They stated that the only reason two people stayed married for an entire lifetime is because they had resolved themselves to a miserable life with a partner it was illegal to kill. They stated that long marriages was just a matter of accepting infidelity, disrespect or abuse that was bound to occur and making the best of it until each was too old to be bothered by it anymore. A cynical outlook, from my perspective. (all these women were still single and/or divorced, btw)

    Personally, I believe that in order for any two people to last in a marriage they have to have only TWO THINGS in common: (1) A common definition of marriage/family and (2) A common faith. Everything else can be totally random.. favorite foods, cultures, dancing, personalities, hobbies, etc. But if these two people are going the same direction.. wanting the same Family and Faith, their paths will not divert. However, if two people ‘seem’ totally compatible but cannot agree on either a common definition of Family or Faith.. they are doomed. Eventually their paths will part.

    – Henry Velez

  2. Nancy S. June 9, 2012

    Lisa,
    I married at age 23. Was I ready? NO! I did not have an understanding of what it took to be a wife. The understanding that I am talking about is the faith based understanding. I do believe that God put my husband and I together for a reason but in our nearly 21 years of marriage we joke now that the only reason we did not get a divorce was because we could not afford it.

    We did get married in a church but did not have God at the center of marriage. Henry said to have two things in common I am not even sure that we had that. I came from a Catholic/Methodist family and his was a divorced Episcopal/something family. His side and mine are still do not have a common thread in them. Second the religious though closely related are very different.

    I don’t think it is age so much as my parents got married at 19 and 16 years old and the family says it was a marriage like non other, they were truly in love but there was an accident and life happens.

    I feel that in today’s society we live in everything is disposable and we have the attitude I have to do what makes me happy. This does not work in marriage as the rough times working together or sometimes only one spouse working at it, gets us through and can make us stronger. Lots of prayer helps also, but one has to give up on “fixing” the other spouse and let God fix them first.

    Great blog Lisa and I look forward to reading more from you.

    Nancy Sherfick

  3. Stephen-725391 June 9, 2012

    Lisa, You know that I have the highest regard for you as you have kept me from losing it. Ever since I read this blog, Ms. Nagy’s blog (linked) and the Chicago Tribune article (linked by Ms. Nagy’s blog), I have been uneasy and finally decided that it was better to respectively disagree.

    The things mentioned are part of life and marriage but PRIVILEGE just doesn’t seem to be the right description. DUTY, OBLIGATION, RESPONSIBILITY, MARITAL DEBT – these are and can be assumed by MATURE individuals FULLY INFORMED. Isn’t that what Canon 1095.2 (defect in judgement of discretion which was added in 1983 to the Canon) is all about – maturity.

    Yes, those who have been forced into divorce may view it as a PRIVILEGE granted by the Church to be freed by annulment to try again, but that and even s second go round or even a 3rd go round – once chosen (which may or may not qualify for the term PRIVILEGE) carry these DUTY, OBLIGATION, RESPONSIBILITY, MARITAL DEBT which when faithfully (not talking religious here) executed/followed develop into mature love.

    Note: there are some TRUE medical conditions that involve an increase in body weight, other than those, it’s pure laziness and disrespect for the other spouse and is a dis-service to the marital debt, IMHO.

    Stephen

    • Stephen-725391 June 9, 2012

      I think the Church in using the term – marital debt – has done a dis-service to the Sacrament of Marriage.

      • Lisa-727959 June 15, 2012

        Stephen! Love to hear from you. But, the human body gains weight as we grow older. I’m not targeting anyone with health issues, just stating the facts of aging.

        - Lisa

        • Stephen-725391 June 18, 2012

          Lisa, Not starting a fight just the American diet IS designed to do that – HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP and the LOVE of MONEY that it brings in over the HEALTH of Americans! Stephen

  4. Paul-850415 June 9, 2012

    My Mom was 18, my Dad was 22. The were children of the Great Depression and came of age and matured during WWII. They married soon after the war and raised 11 children. I’m not sure ANY successful marriage is a “happy” marriage. I believe a “successful” marriage is the one that endured “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.” What “happily married” couple does not have a bad day, a rough week, a difficult month, a seeming unbearable year? My parents had all of that. But I also remember those moments when they laughed over a funny story from the events of the day in their individual lives, took time out of the insanity of a house full of eleven kids to catch a VERY occasional dinner at a nice restaurant. I now know, after my divorce, that marriage requires a value system that supports the very definition of marriage. As for what age to marry, it’s irrelevant! It’s knowing if you’re value system matches up to the rigors that come with any marriage. If you’re value system isn’t on par with what it takes to be married, that’s fine! Be honest with yourself and just don’t do it, then!

  5. Jim-397948 June 9, 2012

    You can’t say they didn’t try.

    After an impressive 115 years together, two giant turtles at an Austrian zoo are refusing to share their cage anymore, the Austrian Times reported Friday.

    “We get the feeling they can’t stand the sight of each other anymore,” said Helga Happ, director of the Klagenfurt-based zoo, where the turtles — Bibi, the female and Poldi, the male — have lived for the last 36 years. Before that, they called Basel Zoo in Switzerland home.

    According to the paper, zoo staff realized something was amiss when Bibi bit off a chunk of her partner’s shell. When the attacks continued, Poldi was moved to another cage.

    Animal experts even attempted couples’ counseling — feeding the turtles aphrodisiacs and encouraging them to play games together. But so far, efforts have failed to bring the shelled lovers back together.

    Turtles aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom known to “divorce” their partners. Studies have shown that some birds who mated successfully with a partner one year have “divorced” and moved on with another partner in successive years.

  6. Barb-505508 June 12, 2012

    Dear Lisa,

    My husband and I married when I was 19 and he was 21. We were young, in love, and starry-eyed dreamers at the time. We traveled many a bumpy road during our marriage, raising 3 sons during the recession of the 80′s and the recovery of the 90′s. The worst thing for us was seeing our oldest son became ill at 14 months and then suffer throughout most of his life with illness. The true test in our marriage came when we laid him to rest at age 26. Yes, we were privileged to be Daniel’s parents, and the interesting thing is that his passing made the bond between us stronger. We believed in our wedding vows and lived them every day of our young lives.

    I was never divorced, but I can tell you that I do understand the privilege of having someone to share the good as well as the bad times. When my husband passed away, I thought my life was over at 48, but then I met Mr. Right who also suffered through the death of his spouse.

    Mr. Right and I love and cherish each other with an intensity that I don’t see in many couples today. I believe that the bond between us is so strong due to having loved and lost. We recognize the value of love and make sure to include God in every decision big or small that we make.

    Please, remember that the widowed you see all around you understand all too well what a blessing, honor and privilege it is to have found love, not just the divorced. As the saying goes, “It is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.”

    With sincere gratitude for the work you do to give so many others out there hope,
    Barb

  7. Lisa-727959 June 15, 2012

    Dear Barb,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so sorry for the loss of your son and your husband. Although I have not shared those same circumstances, I am friends with several people who share your same sorrow and I know it is a terrible challenge to face. What a great example you are to others!

    I am glad to know you have found Mr. Right and that you share that common life link. I will keep you both in my prayers. God bless!

    Sincerely – Lisa

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