We love, not because we necessarily know how, but because it is a necessity of the human condition. Our humanity derives its meaning from Love, and to Love.
"All you need is Love," right?
Yet what happens when you have found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? First, a huge congratulations! Celebrate and rejoice! It is hard to find the one whom you are compatible with.
You love this person, your best friend, and they are your (soon-to-be) spouse, and you dream of starting a perfect life together...
.. but If you are anything like us, you know that life is not perfect and does not go as planned. Love is not a walk in the park. Rather, Love is holding tight in the storm. Love is not just feelings. Love is a decision-- an action, a person. Love is freeing, and this is powerful to remember because, feelings are fleeting and can bind you. Feelings can change based on so many factors, like time of the month, weather, financial stability or other stressors. However, Love is beyond all that. Love is honoring your commitments (even when you don't feel like it).
So, for our (soon-to-be) married couples, go back in time, and remember some of your firsts: what happened during the first fight? What happened when the bills started piling? When the late nights came working double shifts, whether at work or because of your crying child in the middle of the night? What happened when sickness arrived unexpectedly? What happened when disappointments seemed to loom over your dreams?
Love, the decision, was and is what brings you through. *high five your best friend right now (or text them a heart emoji, let them know you are a team and there's nothing you can't handle.. together! --do it, we'll wait)
If you are like us, choosing to Love in Faith is the best thing you can do for your relationship and your marriage. So, never forget, that it's always been a choice, and Love is always worth it.
With that said, here is our (humble) list of seven important qualities and actions to help prepare for a lifelong, faith-filled, Catholic marriage:
Saying "I do," and reciting your vows is serious business. It means this life is no longer about me. It is now we, and what we do for us. Marriage is not a 'one-and-done' type of deal. It is a daily commitment and requires selflessness. This includes admitting when you're wrong, when you need help, and coming to terms with imperfections (for both of you). Being vulnerable with each other will help you bring the best out of each other, kind of like the 'pruning' process that God does with all believers.
It is already important to start, continue, and end each day with prayer; This is all the more important in your marriage. Why? Because it "Takes Three to Get Married" and prayer is a way to stay rooted; for you and your relationship to endure--through the inevitable trials and storms of Life. Prayer will never hurt, it will only help.
There are many prayers you can recite together, including the Rosary, and The Liturgy of the Hours, like morning and evening prayer. Of course, you can also just speak directly to God right where you are. If you need a little more inspiration on where to start, here is a beautiful marriage prayer from our friends at catholicmom.com:
Love is unconditional, and this is what God gives us and asks of us, in and for Love. Did your husband forget to put the toilet seat down... again? Did your wife forget to tell you that she appreciates you? Did your spouse let you down in any way? Three times this week? Three times in the last hour? Well, Mistakes are a part of life, and when these opportunities for forgiveness come about, we need to put our pride aside, and do the only thing necessary: forgive. No matter what. No strings attached. No withholding love because they let you down. Of course, every situation is different, and some require longer periods of healing, but forgiveness is the first and most important step to build up your marriage, and fulfill your vows (in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, remember?).
What do we know about honesty? We know that without it, it hurts. Being lied to, by the person you love, is like a stab in the heart--and not being able to trust the person you commit the rest of your life to, is a mountain that seems impossible to climb. However, honesty requires vulnerability, and vulnerability requires letting go of pride. Honesty also requires faith--to believe in the other person's unconditional love for me. And isn't that scary? It requires faith to believe that someone loves me for me. Warts and all, so to speak. Honesty begins with self, and is vital for any relationship to survive, thrive, and endure.
It is important to note, too, that honesty is easier when you know and believe that your best friend, partner, and spouse, is on your team--that they care about what you have to say, and listen to you, with full attention. Honesty is a two way street, and both actions and words, can express if you are being and living honest with each other.
Oh, what? I can't buy myself whatever I want because I need to make sure I remember my family? But those new Jimmy Choos or Rolex are looking mighty tempting right? Yeah, no. Don't be discouraged, however, because in the end, it is important to value what matters. Luxuries and little extras will fade and you can't take them to heaven! But the Love of family endures everything. Like those hugs from behind. Or the kisses on the forehead. Or the warmth and safety of their hand in yours. Or the sweet laughter you share. That means so much more.
So, husbands, maybe it's time to give your lovely wife the day off to go pamper herself, while you run the errands. And, wives, maybe it's time you watch that new Star Wars movie with your hubby because he loves it (Just us? maybe, but we hope we are being clear: ) Love requires sacrifice.
Again, when you say "I do," your vocation becomes your new priority. That means putting our needs before my own pleasures. The great thing is that you are not alone, and when you really Love, it is never a chore. Your heart seeks to show and give love, always. Loving your spouse and family well, without reservation or holding back, will always increase your joy. The more Love you give, the more Love you get. Love never runs out.
Everything we've mentioned so far can only come about when communication is clear. This includes, putting the phone down from screen time, to have more face-to-face time with the person you love. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that you are being acknowledged and received well, by the person you most love, respect, and admire.
It is maybe more difficult for us to communicate nowadays, with so much getting lost in translation, for example, through texts, without facial expressions and hearing the tones of their voice. However, communicating is an enduring necessity for your relationship. And yes, this means, being vulnerable and honest, to sincerely and respectfully communicate your wants and needs; and more importantly, listening and receiving what your (soon-to-be) spouse is communicating.
We have worked on communicating from the beginning of our dating relationship to now, refining it during our engagement, and we hope to continue growing in our marriage. Something we do is making sure to say grace before every meal we share, and thanks to our wonderful wedding photographer, we also now make sure to play a game. Really! We take time to learn more about each other and communicate after every meal. It's been a simple and easy way to grow in this skill as a couple. Plus, what has helped us is remembering that we are on the same team, that we want what's best for each other, and learning that we communicate differently. Have you taken the 5 Love Languages quiz yet? This is really important to know how you each communicate and receive/express love.
The fact is this: you will both need to communicate through all stages of your relationship: courtship, trials, marriage, hopes, and sufferings. If communicating is rocky right now, don't worry, you can always work on it, if you are both willing (commitment, remember?)! Communication and Love are effortful and totally worth it. Take the time you need to build this very important skill.
If you are like us, you believe that Marriage is a holy sacrament, a union between husband and wife before God. A commitment for life. There is nothing else in the world like this, and we are so blessed to be journeying towards a life of marriage!
We are also astutely aware that we can not do this on our own. It's nearly impossible to love someone who is imperfect and flawed. Love, in this sense, is a miracle! It is a miracle that we can learn to see an imperfect person, perfectly. This is pure grace.
We cling to God's Grace and Goodness, and aim to keep Christ at the center. Why? Because we are not perfect. A wonderful priest told us once that "In relationships, we often tend to place the other person at the center of our world. This can be problematic, because that person is not perfect. But when Jesus Christ is at the center of our relationships, we then have access to pure and perfect love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion--all of which are necessary for healthy relationships to succeed."
Life is too short and Love is too important. Don't waste either.