How to Stay Married: Check In Creatively

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When I go out of town for service trips or conferences, I’m always caught between missing my wife and dog and enjoying the time spent with the students and colleagues. These trips are often times when I really get to know the students well, spend some real quality time with them and get to see them in a new light. I also grow close with colleagues on these trips and have a huge feeling of accomplishment by the end of the week or so.

But my wife is not here to share my joy. My dog is not here to enjoy things at the end of a long and hard working day. They, in turn, miss me. The dog in particular gets out of sorts when I’m not around.

And I’m terrible about calling. I get wrapped up in my work and forget to check in. An old colleague chastised me for that, “You need to call that girl and tell her you miss her and just tell her about your day!”

And so I do. But we’ve also come up with other things to remind one another of each other when the miles are distant.

I once set up a daily scavenger hunt around the house. A note hidden in a cookie jar, a chocolate hidden in a cabinet, an entire tray of her favorite cookies in a hidden spot in the pantry. And lots of notes leading to clues to find “me.” Pictures, etc.

For my wife’s part, I usually find a note or two, if there’s a long trip, they’ll be one per day. Shorter trips like this one usually have one note hidden somewhere amidst the packed clothing. I found this one yesterday:

Bun, (her pet name for me)
I feel like you will be gone so long.
Haze will really miss you. I’m going to miss you. Haze will be the man of the house. I love you and you’ll be in my heart. I know you’ll be doing good work.

I love you. Love, the bunner

Reason #7,146 as to why I married her.

Off to call my bride before the students arrive in force.

How to Stay Married: Celebrate Quirks with Humor

IMG_0405The other night my wife and I went out for a late night Chinese food meal at the end of a long day. I can usually decide what I want to eat at a restaurant quickly and easily. My wife on the other hand usually takes a rather lengthly period with the waitress or waiter coming back to our table two or three times before she has made a decision.

And even there she’ll usually have questions.

This night was no different. She didn’t want something too spicy (which should be translated as “not at all spicy”) and she began to search through the menu for something that would suit her palate. She had several questions for the kind waitress and time was growing thin as the kitchen was getting ready to close.

My head hit the table and I claimed to have died from hunger in the 10 minutes or so that she discussed options with the waitress.

Needless to say, my darling wife did not appreciate this. I think the waitress didn’t find me amusing either.

But regardless, I said to my wife: “You know what they are going to write on your tombstone?”

Marion: “No, what?”

Me: This was the 15th tombstone that she looked at before deciding on this one.”

Major laughter. Soda nearly came out my wife’s nose.

It gave me pause though that there are few people that can actually look at one another, at all their quirkiness and laugh. The truth is that I was annoyed by my wife’s quirkiness, but I have come to expect this and know that this is what I should expect from her. More importantly, I need to remember that I am in love with my wife–and that means that I am in love with all of her–not just the parts that don’t bother me, but also the parts that stretch me into loving the parts of her that annoy me.

And I know that there are parts of me that are hard to love for her.

Moreover, there are hard parts of all of us that are probably hard for God to love.

Might our stubbornness, our hatred, our tempers, our prejudices be difficult for God to love in us? And while God may in fact, hate those things about us, God still loves us in our entirety anyway and calls us to do the same for others.

So today, husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church, the people of God. That means even with some shortcomings, God is able to love us anyway.

Marion, I love you. May your choices at table remind me to be more patient in my life and remind me that the longer you take to order your meal, the more time I get to spend with you.

The Office Gets Religion

Just watched the most recent episode of The Office and was really taken by this scene.

Indeed, they understand marriage, but it’s not that often that Hollywood gives us a message like this. Can we stay together when times get tough? That’s the question that all married couples need to repeatedly ask themselves over and over again.

Marriage…it’s about commitment. Not merely happiness.

How to Stay Married: Go to Weddings Together

923220_10100378887343630_1891030656_nTwo of my students, Ryan and Lauren (now known as the Undercoffers) got married today! I was honored that they chose St. Joe’s to have their wedding and then honored that I was asked to say grace at the reception.

I can remember the semester Ryan studied abroad and how much he missed Lauren. He worried that then as they graduated he might continue to miss her as Lauren moved into a year of service and he began work and school.

Dude got it bad. He really loves that girl. High school sweethearts!

I remember telling Ryan once that Lauren would always be there for him and that she would never leave him and that she missed him too. Marriage is not merely about happiness, rather it’s about commitment…about staying together through loneliness and reminding one another how much better it is when you are together.

Can we stay together despite a lonely time or two? Isn’t our love for one another able to withstand that?

Our culture does not always value or honor marriage. It seems too easy to be dispensed with at times. Ryan and Lauren have found each other and more importantly have found that they both value marriage.

In Ryan’s speech today that the wedding he said (and I’ll paraphrase):

I always knew that you would be my wife since I was 16. I knew when I asked you out for the first time and you said ‘no.’ I knew when I asked you out for the second time and you said ‘no’. I knew at our Senior Prom and I knew all through college. And I was right.

Man, if that’s not the genuine article…I don’t know what is.

It is good for married couples to go to weddings. It helps remind them of their own commitment to one another. It reminds us as Fr Jack Ledwon said today in his homily that committing to another in marriage pushes each partner to want to be better people. He used this scene from the movie “As Good As It Gets” to explain his point:

Ryan and Lauren are indeed better people for simply being together. Ryan’s been a great public servant and Lauren has served some of the city’s poorest people as a paralegal for many who can’t afford…well, much of anything.

As they move into the next phase of their life, in Syracuse where Ryan will be entering a Political Science PhD program, may God continue to bless them—but also for God to remind them to bless each other. As they do, they bless us with their lives and that makes all of us want to be better people.

Thanks for the invite and for reminding me how much I love my wife and how important our commitment to one another truly is for us and for the world in which we live.

How to Stay Married: The Birthday Edition

Today is my wife’s (unintelligible number) birthday. I’m not dumb enough to tell you how old she is but suffice it to say that she looks amazing and always has since the day I met her. To me she is the most beautiful and gets more beautiful with each passing year.

We laughed and laughed last night over our own silliness. It is a joy to be able to laugh at ourselves. And she’s kept me laughing for nearly 11 years of marriage.

And she’s also moved me to tears, tears of gratitude for having such a wonderful woman in my life as my wife. I am in need of nothing more than what God has given me with bringing her into my life.

So today I will celebrate the day of her birth with great joy. Truly I am filled with gratitude for her parents, now no longer with us, but who chose to have her and given such a great gift to all of us who know her.

Tonight a simple meal of pasta awaits…but the best part of the meal is that we share it together.

You are the gift that keeps on giving, my love. Today know that and be filled with the grace that God has already imparted to you. The joy of being all that you are for others, for me, your husband and for all those who have come to be blessed by you.

Happy Birthday, Marion.

Divorcing Rituals

I was reading in the NY Times today about people suggesting that there should be a ritual for divorce. Something like this:

In October, the former couple stood before a roaring fire at a lodge in Lakewood, Colo., with views of the Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Continental Divide. Nick Meima, an officiant from the Celebrant Foundation who led the event, had sent out a questionnaire in advance, asking the couple to describe what they were letting go of and what they would miss about each other. At the ceremony, he handed them a rope made of two different colored strands. The couple took turns expressing what they were leaving behind while cutting the cord. “When it was all over, they each had half of the rope,” Mr. Meima said. “And then I extended it, and I said, ‘Now you are literally at loose ends, and it’s up to you to choose how to weave these things together in your new life.’ ”

Ms. Shores said, “The ceremony provided a way to acknowledge the good things we had together, and provided a continued path for forgiveness and moving on.,” She added: “Emotionally, it was more draining than I thought it would be. At the same time, it was very releasing.”

Another couple did a 90 day hike from separate ends of the Great Wall of China, they met in the middle, embraced and then left each other.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is ridiculous.

The issue at hand I believe for many is not that they need a ceremony (which this really is–not a ritual) to emancipate themselves from their marriage. Rather, what they really needed was to take the ritual that is marriage seriously.

Any many don’t. For many, marriage is a next step in a friendship with benefits. Something that you can dissolve if the going gets tough and worrying about it not working out doesn’t even enter their mind because they have an escape hatch in the back of their mind. My firm opinion is that if you enter marriage with the attitude of “well if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just divorce” then you almost surely are halfway there already.

Now, I want to also admit that some marriages need to be dissolved. There are couples with irreparable issues that even with God’s help, they have a hard time healing from. The truth is that even in these marriages at least one partner doesn’t take the vows seriously enough. Some don’t plan to be true to the other, or to place the needs of the marriage ahead of individualism. Some don’t come freely or without obligation—they are trapped in their own addictions–perhaps even of romance or sex. Others feel obliged to be married at a certain age or at least at a certain time in their lives and they’ve committed to that-but not to the partner.

What people often don’t realize is that marriage is not always a carnival. Sometimes people get annoyed with one another. Sometimes people don’t live up to expectations. Sometimes people aren’t exactly who you think that they are. Sometimes people are just downright crappy to each other and sometimes bad things just happen that people will have to work through and support one another through.

Life is unfortunately never perfect. And marriages are never perfect either.

Marriage is centered on commitment. The marriage ritual is centered on celebrating the commitment that two people take so seriously that they are willing to stand before their family, friends and God and vow to stay together through thick and thin. There are no games, there are no deals.

That takes a lot to be able to say. And getting into marriage means that you realize that the person you are marrying is far from perfect and that you will also disappoint your husband or wife continually throughout this marital relationship.

Woo-hoo, sounds like a party, huh?

The truth is that every bit of it is not wonderful, unless you can look back and see that this kind of commitment led you into a greater sense of love for one another–despite your own pig-headedness, despite the cards that the fates handed you. Living the ritual and not divorcing one’s self from it is a calling that clearly isn’t for everyone. Perhaps it’s not even for most–because nearly half of the marriages end in divorce.

But to ritualize the fact that you didn’t take your vows seriously in the first place is not necessarily helpful.

In fact, it’s kind of silly.

On Being a Yenta

We often call, my wife, Marion “The Catholic Yenta” because she loves to do matchmaking. She even has two marriages to her credit.

So..NPR did this whole thing on the word Yente or yenta a few days ago. Turns out the word yenta does not, in fact, mean matchmaker. Shadchen is actually the yiddish word for matchmaker.

So what does a Yenta mean? Well, first of all the character in Fiddler on the Roof’s NAME was Yente but she was the shadchen. And the name was popularized because of a character in the Jewish Forward also called yenta who was essentially a busybody. Which is what the name actually means–an old gossip.

To which I said to Marion… “Well, it still fits you, either way!”

The couch, fortunately is kinda comfortable.

For the record my wife is neither old, nor a gossip. And now order has been restored to the marriage.

Reagan on Marriage

Deacon Greg pointed me to this today. The interesting thing is that Reagan was divorced and it seems as if he was looking to make sure that his son, Mike, didn’t make the same mistakes in marriage that he did.

An excerpt from Letters of Note:

There is an old law of physics that you can only get out of a thing as much as you put in it. The man who puts into the marriage only half of what he owns will get that out. Sure, there will be moments when you will see someone or think back to an earlier time and you will be challenged to see if you can still make the grade, but let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn’t take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home, nor should you want any other woman to be able to meet your wife and know she was smiling behind her eyes as she looked at her, the woman you love, remembering this was the woman you rejected even momentarily for her favors.
Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should. There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.

I remember the wise words of Deacon Nicholas Mazzei from my childhood parish to a married couple at their wedding:

“Marriage is not a 50-50 partnership. Marriage is a 100%-100% partnership. Each partner has to give 100% of themselves to the other always. If one’s only giving half of who they are then they withhold the other half. And that’s no way to have a marriage.”

True enough.

Today go and find your husband or wife if you are married and let them know that they are loved. And pray for those who are lonely or in troubled marriages.