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National Marriage week May 11th-17th

The forever conversation – “doing marriage”

Following swiftly on the heels of Vocations Sunday where we concentrate on religious vocation, we now prepare to enter Marriage week, 11-17th May where we focus on another form of vocational response to God’s call; Marriage.

A Sacramental Marriage is to be a witness to others of the indissoluble bond of love that Christ has for his people, to demonstrate that, as Pope Francis says, through all the troubles, love can conquer. In our deep relationship with another we catch a glimpse of the love that God has for us. The lived reality is that it is often very hard to always live up to that challenge!   Couples approaching their wedding day are often filled with vitality and the conviction of their ability to live a glorious, happy life ahead, they are not always prepared for the cold reality that at some point difficulties eventually hit us all. Rob Parsons tells this great story.

“One August afternoon I took a break and was walking on the beach. It was a wonderful day. The sun shone out of a cloudless sky. It felt good to be alive. I walked along the beach then made my way back to the cottage. As I reached the road I saw an old fisherman sitting on a bench. “It’s glorious, isn’t it?” I said. I don’t know if he was having a bad day or was just tired of tourists, but he said, “You should see it in January.”

The next day I walked on the beach again. It looked as lovely as it had 24 hours ago, but this time I imagined the hills, the bay and the sea whisper to me, “Will you love us in January?”

I believe that the need to love in January comes to every marriage. This is a time when we do not feel ‘in love’. It may be that everything cries out, “Walk away – it’s over.” But over the years I have seen many couples fight to keep their relationship alive in January by ‘doing’ love. They love at that time as an act of the will”.

The 21st century Marriage by Rob Parsons

We are all at different stages of our marriages but the thing that I am sure is common to us all is that we each approached our wedding day with the hope of “happily ever after”. As time passes, we will have recognised that this requires work and effort to keep our relationship healthy and vibrant. The promises we made on our wedding day are a great start, but the commitment we need to show to each other in order to maintain them is lifelong. We could describe the act of being married as a verb, it is an ongoing action, it grows and changes and takes two people and moulds them together in a way that is irreplaceable. Like all living things it requires attention and nurturing, we can quickly find that we slip into bad habits if we assume that all is well and put the gift of our marriage to the back of our mind. Our desire to nurture our marriage needs to be reflected in our everyday lives, in how we love each other, how we behave, what we do to support each other, even when we are feeling cross or irritated with each other!

For some of us this period of lockdown may be a glorious opportunity to spend time with our families, enjoying each other’s company and relishing in the moment. For others though it might be more difficult. Living in a confined space without the ability for your “own space” is a test of any relationship. It can be at that moment that irritating habits you have managed to avoid being bothered by, rise up and stare you in the face, intolerance is fed by the frustration of being constrained within four walls without access to others in  the outside world who may mitigate those feelings.

Marriage Week is the time to “act love”; to take the time to reflect on the strengths in our marriages. Be gentle with each other, everyone is experiencing a completely new way of living and we will all respond to it differently.

Last year my husband and I celebrated 30 years of marriage and as a treat we signed  up to “The Marriage Course”, it was the best present we could have given ourselves. Taking time out from our everyday life to focus on our marriage, to spend ”Marriage Time” together was such a joy. We both thought that we had a reasonably good marriage, to all intents and purposes we were very happy, but the course opened our eyes to further riches and has given us the potential to be even happier together. Nikki and Sila Lee have transformed their course to provide an online version, particularly suitable for use at the moment and I would encourage anyone keen to invest in their marriage to sign up. The link can be found here: https://www.htb.org/marriage

Here is a selection of online activities which may be useful:

  • The 21st century Marriage by Rob Parsons is available on you tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd2PWQt2s3w
  • The Marriage Week team have produced a series of questions that you could perhaps take time to discuss:
  1. “How much time do we set aside for one another each week?”
  2. “Are we open and honest with each other about things that we are finding difficult either personally or within our relationship?’
  3. “How do we show our love to each other within the daily rhythms of life and routines?”
  4. “Do we handle and resolve disagreements well?”
  5. “What does intimacy mean for us?”
  6. “Do we make more effort or less effort to be kind than we used to?”
  7. “How often do we put our partner before ourselves?”
  8. “How has our relationship changed over the years?”
  9. “In what ways has our relationship grown and in what ways could it improve?”
  10. “Why is commitment important to us?”