Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about a term that’s become popular in reference to marriages. People are always asking, does (or will) this marriage “work.”
Everyone seems to speak like this, including couples themselves. But to think of marriage as something that does or does not “work” is to fall into the frenetic spiral of functionalism and utilitarianism that so characterizes our a materialistic world.
We don’t “make a marriage work.” We simply make a marriage. And, if I may, here is how it “works.”
- My marriage works because my wife and I are different. This seems obvious, but it’s actually quite difficult to accept all this statement implies. We are different because each of us is unique and unrepeatable, both of us made in the image of Christ. We are different because I am a man and she is a woman. We are different because our bodies are different, because we enjoy life differently, because we listen to others and to God differently. We caress with different styles. What we think and even what worries us and stresses us is … different.
- My marriage works because my wife and I are not in agreement on everything. We have different hobbies and we don’t fit together like pieces of a puzzle. My marriage works because my wife and I are not “soulmates.” We fight. We draw each other out from behind the walls we put up. We don’t complete each other because we are, each of us, complete.
- My marriage works because I don’t call her mommy and she doesn’t call me daddy … because our children aren’t covering over what the marriage lacks, because we know they aren’t ours, and because we didn’t need them before and don’t need them now. My marriage works because we’re still a couple, because we place ourselves as the stabilizing center of the family, from where we can best engage as responsible parents.
- My marriage works because in our family we live out our purposes, with all our imperfections, our disorders, our disorientations. Our differences are accepted and tolerated with love, always, in the midst of the tension. We give hugs for no reason, say “I love you” when we need to calm down, and still have passionate disagreements. We adopt an attitude of generosity and are open to mutually forgiveness, with our limited mercy swept up in God’s greater Mercy. We have questions and answers about this journey being traveled together, doors that are open, and a table at which we gather, together. We have prayer made manifest, and the passion and the cross each day.
- My marriage works because it wants to. Because we have crises and we — my wife and I and our children — actively look for solutions. There is no greater courage, no greater loyalty, no greater strength than to face one’s own weakness amid our mutual weaknesses. No, the one who never doubts, who never falls, isn’t better. What is better is to experience the permanent sensation that one simply isn’t as good as he’d like to be, yet realizing that he is capable of loving another and receiving from the other her self-gift, imperfect yet freely given. It is to feel the tenderness and the softness of the hand in yours as we walk through tests and challenges; to feel the hand become more wrinkled with each day …
- My marriage works because the bedroom is the place where we retreat with our complete selves. It is a whole world made to fit us — the nation of two, where my wife and I dwell together, where there is feasting and celebration, where relaxation and pleasure is also rest and where rest is lived in togetherness. A chosen place, to be who we are, without masks or evasions, and to love every wrinkle, every freckle; the bedroom is where we love the whole in each part.
My marriage is, simply, ash, clay, molded earth; shaped by the hands of God and animated by his Spirit. Of the ground, yes, but it is sacred ground.
Translated from the Spanish