What I Wish I Knew Before I Said ‘I Do’

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I’m a selfish man. I didn’t know how bad it was before I was married.

I do now.

Marriage has taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s amazing.

Did you grow up with some ideal of marriage? In our world today, that can typically mean a negative ideal of what marriage could be.

Often times these ideals are shaped by our experience. “I didn’t have much of a family life growing up,” is a consistent part of many stories. “My father wasn’t present in my life,” unfortunately is too common.

On the other side of the spectrum, some find difficulty in finding a future spouse who may not live up to unrealistic expectations.

First, take a good look at yourself

boutineerNo matter which of these views you share, if you believe you are called to be married and are serious about finding a spouse, the first step is to take a good look at yourself.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to give my all to my spouse?
  • Is anything holding me back?
  • What are the ways I need to improve?

This is precisely what I wish I had done before I said I do.

I recently attended the wedding of a good friend. The priest’s advice to the husband was to cherish your wife and never lose the perspective that your wife is God’s little girl who has been entrusted to you.

St. Paul urges men to,

“Love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5: 25-28)

So, what did I wish I knew before I said I do?

I wish I knew how hard this would be for me to live.

I wish I had taken the time to root out more of my selfishness.

In college, I often waited on making any commitments to see if something better came around. I could binge watch Seinfeld with no problems. I didn’t stretch myself to meet more commitments and responsibility. I enjoyed being single without those commitments—and that was the problem!

Looking back, what were the things that helped me grow? The mission trip to the Dominican Republic, the restoration trip to New Orleans after Katrina, the two jobs I held every summer to earn money so I could afford college.

I bring all of who I am into my marriage

JagThe fact is that I bring all of who I am into my marriage. Yes, my wife knew me well when we got married, and she married me despite my weaknesses and wants to help me get to heaven.

Daily life offers me many opportunities to give up my own desires for something greater—to be a devoted husband to my wife and a loving dad to my kids.

Coming home from work requires me to be in the right mindset to serve my wife and children.

Yes, I’m tired from traveling or from a long day. But, if I am to take St. Paul’s command to lay down my life for my wife as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25), I must have that mindset when I come home.

It would be so easy to look out for myself; to get some food, a drink and sit on the couch. But, that is not what being a husband and father is about. It’s about preparing myself on my drive home so that I can give my wife a break, instead of taking one myself.

It’s about making my wife a priority after a long day, and helping with dinner and wrestling with the kids. I admit, I still fail sometimes, but I know what I should be doing, and give it my best.

Jesus’ image of laying down his life for the Church is the icon of a spousal relationship. Have I created a habit of laying down my life?

It’s never too late.

What marriage is really about

What it means to be a husband and father.

I’ve learned that in those long days, marriage is about mutual service, not about coming home and being expected to be served. And this is precisely what I can never forget.

God continues to give me opportunities to grow in virtue, to say no to my own selfish desires, and I’m grateful for that.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that one of the great gifts of marriage is that it helps us grow in holiness.

“After the fall, marriage helps us to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving” (CCC, 1609).

That is one reason why he called me to the vocation of marriage. The beauty of it is that we’re in it together, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Marriage is about mutual service.Click To Tweet

How single Catholics can prepare for marriage right now

The key to preparing for marriage is to take advantage of the single life. Don’t miss out on opportunities to grow in virtue, to overcome selfishness now.

Whether you are dating, looking for a date, engaged, or married, keep these four things in mind:

  1. Reflect on Ephesians 5 monthlyHow are you preparing yourself to lay down your life?
  2. Practice saying “no” to yourself. Go on a mission trip. Volunteer in your community. Grab a friend and train for a marathon. Greatness can be cultivated by going outside yourself.
  3. You will never be perfect, so don’t wait for that day. After all, your spouse is supposed to help you.
  4. Pray. Beg God for the grace to become who He created you to be.

I’m convinced that if you keep these simple things in mind, you will continue to develop into the spouse you are meant to be.

It’s never too late.



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8 Comments

  1. Joel-1364361 January 18, 2017 Reply

    Pray. Beg God for the grace to become who He created you to be. Absolutely true article. It is essential that you recognize that we all have faults that need work. I know more now about what it takes to give of myself than I ever have before. Marriage definitely takes work and being unselfish and giving more than you receive are key factors to making it work. Each person needs to help each other to be the best they can be. Thanks for a great article.

  2. Susan-1320822 May 15, 2016 Reply

    Very good article. Sounds like all participating are practicing Catholics. But if you are not, and have not taken the time to be properly catechized, do not attend Mass regularly or receive reconciliation or maintain a state of grace, you accept the teachings of the current culture regarding sexuality, are considering marrying a non-Catholic when you yourself are not strong in your faith, I wouldn’t suggest even marrying in the Catholic Church until you know accept and love what it means to be Catholic. Otherwise, You will very likely make a mistake and if you end up divorced. If you want to find a new loving relationship, you can’t get married in the church again unless the x is deceased. If you do remarry and are not chaste (most likely this will be the case) you cannot receive communion. Also beware of potential spouses that tell you about abuse in the home they have grown up in. You need to understand that most people who come from abusive homes will end up abusers themselves. The stress of career building and raising a young family can bring out this tendency. Only a very faithful confident catholic could successfully navigate this and you could be forced to leave the relationship. And spousal abuse is not considered a good enough reason for an annulment. You only get the one chance. The Catholic faith is not for lightweights. It is heavy duty stuff. I would suggest that when you are dating, you invite Jesus into your life to help you choose the spouse who is the right partner for you. And focusing on scripture readings is perfect. Don’t wait until the wedding for your relationship to be blessed. That’s a little late. Make sure you understand the sacrament of matrimony . With the sacrament comes the grace and blessings to handle the issues that come up. Your job truly is to help each other get to heaven. Now if you know the faith, you read about the saints, the lives of the early church fathers, you cannot help but love Jesus and the teachings of his church. There is so much truth and beauty there. You need to have this first before you get married. It is your armor. I would also like to mention that so far as marrying a non-Catholic goes, one of the strongest indicators that children will grow up to be practicing Catholics, is having a dad who brings his family to church every Sunday and leads his family in the faith. So Husbands and dads, please take this to heart.

  3. Anne-1158588 May 14, 2016 Reply

    “After the fall, marriage helps us to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving” (CCC, 1609). This sums up the challenges both of marriage and parenting. Self-giving needs to be at the heart of all of it or there will be problems. When we commit ourselves to others, we can no longer think only of ourselves. When we can learn to really do this, we will find the joy that the fruit of self-giving brings. The outcomes of it are truly amazing!

  4. Michael-410923 May 12, 2016 Reply

    A man may be very focused in his work, and taking away that focus may undermine his work. Many gents focus on work, and their families benefit from that. If one wants more of a companion, the tradeoff is less bounty.

    I remember working part-time to pay for accounting courses. It was suggested to everyone to warn their families how intense the course would be.

  5. Craig-1296038 May 12, 2016 Reply

    In one word: ” W O W ” ! ! !

    Lots of food for thought. Need more good articles like this one.

  6. Jennifer-728047 May 11, 2016 Reply

    Very good article. I affirm these exercises, and so my suggestion as a Nurse who has not a minute to her name during shift and is selfless to the point of negative because you end up not respecting yourself enough to believe you actually deserve to take care of yourself which is too, a problem — opposite end of spectrum but similarly, unhealthy ….but with balance, I say ‘volunteer often’ and not in a ‘feel good’ ministry, but one that demands your sacrifice like being at an abortion mill at 5am to pray for the providers, the women, the men and the children. give of yourself often every day, to continue practicing selflessness. Guys, get off the porn! It’s more destructive than you think, and we can pick it out immediately in your inattentiveness…..turn off = understatement;)

  7. Joan-529855 May 10, 2016 Reply

    Very well written and inspiring article. Please keep these articles coming as we can all use encouragement when it comes to living self-lessly.

  8. Jeannie-822585 May 10, 2016 Reply

    Beautiful and honest testimony that we can all learn from–thank you. I posted months ago in the forums the topic of Ephesians 5 and no one responded but only viewed. I was so happy to see that when posters, like myself, inserted into a current forum that the topic is taking off with lively discussions. I love that you didn’t just quote a passage or two of Ephesians 5 but rather the entire chapter to read monthly.
    Praying for my Ephesians 5 man to come. Jeannie

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