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Jun 10, 2021 521 Father Joseph Gill, USA
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Q&A : How to Ensure a Marriage Will Remain Strong

Question: I am preparing to be married in a few months, but the idea of such a lifelong commitment fills me with anxiety. I know so many marriages that end in divorce or misery – how can I ensure that my marriage will remain strong and full of happiness?

Answer: Congratulations on your engagement! This is an exciting time in your life, but also an important time to prepare – not just for the wedding, but for the many years of marriage that God will bless you with!

Humanly speaking, marriage is a difficult reality, because it puts two very imperfect people together into one family…for the rest of their lives. But thankfully, marriage is not just a human reality: it was established by Christ as a Sacrament! As such, it is a source of grace for all who enter into it – graces that we can tap into at every moment!

So, the first step to a happy marriage is to keep God at the center of it. Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote a book entitled, “Three to Get Married,” because the marriage is not just between a man and a woman it also includes a third person– God, who must remain at the center. So pray together as a couple, and pray for your spouse.

The more time you spend with God, the more you will become like Him – which is good, because you will need to develop virtues as you go through your married life! Patience, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, integrity, and self-sacrificing love are indispensable virtues. Even before your marriage, work on growing in these areas. Go to Confession regularly as you seek to grow to be more like Christ. Pray for these virtues; practice them daily—especially forgiveness.

A good marriage never exists outside of a wider community, so surround yourself with mentors in your marriage – couples who have been married for a while and have weathered a few storms but have come out stronger. You can turn to them for advice and inspiration when rocky days come. Not all of these mentors need to be alive: some great saints lived the married life, such as St. Louis and Zelie Martin, or St. Monica, whose difficult marriage made her a great saint.

Your marriage WILL be attacked – the Evil One hates good marriages, because marriage is the clearest icon of the Trinity here on earth. Just as the Trinity is a life-giving community of love, as three Divine Persons give of themselves to each other for eternity, so a good marriage should be a visible example of that here on earth – two persons who give of each other to their spouse so fully that their love results in new people being created (children). So the Devil abhors marriage with a special hatred. Prepare yourself for spiritual warfare, then. Usually that takes the form of a natural human disagreement being blown out of proportion. Perhaps you have a small disagreement and all of a sudden thoughts of divorce start nagging your mind; perhaps you will be tempted, as soon as you are married, to daydream about other husbands or wives; perhaps you will just find yourself too distracted to spend much time communicating with your spouse.

Resist these attacks! As Protestant author John Eldredge likes to say, marriage involves two people “back-to-back with swords drawn”. The enemy is NEVER your spouse – you two are a team, bonded by vows and grace, fighting for your marriage by fighting the true Enemy, the Evil One.

And we have many weapons! The Sacraments, the Word of God, prayer, fasting…all of these should be a regular part of your marriage. Rest secure that God will give you the grace to live out your vows, come what may. He is always generous with those who are generous with Him; He is faithful to those faithful to Him. Study the Church teaching on marriage and family, such as the encyclicals Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, or the “Theology of the Body” or “Love and Responsibility,” and conform your marriage to this beautiful vision for married love that the Church proposes.

Most of all, never give up! Once when I was teaching a religious education class, I brought in a couple who had been married for over 50 years. They gave a great presentation about their marriage, and then they asked the kids if they had any questions. A precocious 12-year-old boy spoke up and said, “Did you ever think about splitting up?”

There was a great deal of awkwardness in the room. Reluctantly, the wife said, “Well, yes, there have been days…” Her husband looked at her with surprise and replied, “Really? You too?”

They persevered – and made it to 50 years. I pray that your marriage will do the same!

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Father Joseph Gill

Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

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