When a Catholic priest speaks or writes about marriage – or even human love – the natural tendency among the readers or hearers is to say, “What does he know about marriage anyway?” And I must admit that there is a certain validity in this reaction. Obviously an ordinary priest can’t know “all about marriage” as he hasn’t experienced it. But then, neither can anybody else. Perhaps the priest can be more objective in his view than the married man or woman, because they – as a rule – can view the married state only through the focus of their own personal experiences and those experiences must be as varied as are the characters and temperaments of the people who get married. If every human being is unique, then so is every wife and husband. So, as the priest is uninhibited by what I might term the “one experience” syndrome, perhaps he can take a broader view of the entire subject. I’m not prepared to die in defence of this opinion, so discard it if you will!
What happens to all those wonderful promises?
Why do so many marriages which began in such a glow of hope and happiness end in separation or divorce or a “cat and dog” relationship? In a word, why do so many marriages end in dismal failure? I don’t think it is possible to pinpoint any one specific cause for this sad state of affairs but recently I read an article in an American paper called “The Twin Circle” which seemed to get as close as I have seen to a “common denominator” cause of marriage breakup. The writer, Dr. Alan Roy McGinnis, sums up his findings, based on a long experience thus, “I think most marriages die of neglect. Pure and simple neglect.” The doctor goes on to say that somewhere we were handed down the idea that “True Love,” when it happens, will burst into flames by some spontaneous combustion, and that once you are married the fire will burn on its own.
Married love has to be worked at – all the time!
Using the very apt analogy of a neglected house – which falls apart rapidly if not maintained – the writer states that many of the couples who come to his counseling office with their marriages in shreds, did not start fighting about big problems of married life. Their marriages are not suffering from major malfunctions but merely from a series of small deteriorations that a little adjusting and tightening up earlier on could have corrected. What he is saying is that married love, like maintaining a house, needs to be cared for and fostered on a daily basis. If we allow door handles to fall off, fuses to blow, roofs to leak, etc. it won’t be long until the house is a shambles. Similarly, if a husband and wife allow small expressions of love – physical signs of affection, kind words, mutual courtesy, interest in the other’s concerns, meals prepared with attention to the other’s tastes – to cease, the home will soon be a shambles. And a home in shambles is much more serious than a mere house. When buildings get broken, they can be put together again. When lives are in pieces – and they always are in a broken marriage – all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put them together again. Only God can and very often He is not even invited to lend a hand! In fact there are many cases when prayer together is the only solution.
When two people get married the most important thing – and nothing else is in the same league – is to build their lives (or life!) together. If they succeed in every other area – career, social life, charitable works – and fail in their home, they have failed. The family as a unit can never be weighed in competition with anything else in the world. The mere effort to do so implies wrong values from the start.
What colour are her eyes?
In the article to which I referred there is an arresting tidbit. Somewhere in New York there is an organization called, “Tracers Company of America Inc.” which specializes in tracing lost persons. According to the president of the company, more wives than ever are running away, not because they have found new lovers but simply from the boredom of married ‘existence.’ Very often when a husband engages the assistance of this agency to trace his missing wife and is asked for a description of her, he can’t remember the colour of her eyes!
Can you remember right off the colour of your spouse’s eyes? If you have to hesitate, even for a moment, take a good look into those eyes this evening and you might see something far more vital than the colour – a dormant love that is yearning to be awakened!!