“…stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
I read and hear a lot of people talk about what “you deserve” in a relationship. When these things are said, it is implied that if your spouse is not doing these things for you currently, it must not be real or the relationship should be questioned and possibly ended. I disagree.
You deserve to be treated with all the respect, dignity, love, and care in the world. Absolutely. Each person on this earth has immense dignity and worth because that comes from God. We were all created in His image.
You deserve flowers for no reason, thoughtful gestures, kisses just because, and things to make you smile. Some days. Some days you could probably do more to love your spouse.
You deserve for your spouse to always make you happy? Well that’s just an impossible request.
You deserve a lot and are worth more than you can imagine.
But when did marriage become about what you deserve? When did marriage become so selfish? When did we start believing that if you aren’t treated the way you feel you deserve to be treated that the marriage has failed?
On the days you feel like you aren’t treated how you should be, how often do you look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself if you are treating your spouse in the way they deserve to be treated?
What a humbling question. If answered honestly I have always found there was more I could do. My husband is also a child of God who was worth God giving his only son to die for him. My husband is so loved by God that God forgives him every time he fails. My husband is worth Jesus leaving 99 sheep to go out and find him. My husband is worth so much and means everything to God.
Do I really treat him in that way? Do I really let my husbands great worth sink into my soul? And do my thoughts, actions, and words reflect and remind him of his worth?
I find that in the moments when I am upset because I felt like I wasn’t treated the way I deserved, I could equally find ways I failed to treat my spouse as he deserves. So many of those times if I am honest with myself, I can see how selfish of a response that is. Although I deserve the world, although my God died for my salvation, although I am worth everything to Christ, I must look to God for my worth and be patient with my spouse. I must be willing to humbly accept that we will never be able to love each other with the same perfection that God loves us but we can and always should strive to love each other as selflessly as possible, to breathe life into each other, and to keep each other’s worth and dignity in God’s eyes at the forefront of our minds. And that is what the marriage is – a journey together to explore God’s love by learning how to see and love your spouse as God does.
Marriage is not the journey toward being treated how you feel you deserve – it is the journey toward learning how to love your spouse in the way God says they deserve to be loved, which is unconditionally.
Loyalty is deeply tested in marriage like Peter’s loyalty to Jesus in the Passion. Not only our loyalty to God but our loyalty to our spouse. During the marriage vows, we promise to be true to our spouse in good times and bad, in sickness and health. What happens when that promised loyalty is tested? Peter stood before Christ and said he would never deny him; but Jesus knew that Peter would deny him because the spirit is willing but the flesh is week. Like Peter, during the vows we stand before Christ and vow to never deny our spouse, to be true to them, no matter what comes later in life. How easy is it to say those words yet how hard at times to live them out, to deny the temptations of the flesh and uphold the calling of the spirit.
How often do we try to fight for our flesh’s desires, our “happiness,” or what we feel we deserve? How often does our flesh pull us away from our spouse, from our vow to be loyal and true? It can happen through small glances at others, jealousy, affairs, disengagement, avoidance, or so much more. It can happen in small ways but each time that loyalty is tested in marriage and the weakness of the flesh falls into the traps and temptations Satan sets, the divide and distance between spouses grows larger.
Like Peter, we mean with all our hearts that we will be loyal to our spouse through good and bad times, but when the trials come, when we are forced to choose in difficult situations, the flesh puts up a good fight in the battle.
It is easy to look at Peter in the story of the Passion and think “how could he deny Jesus, his best friend and his teacher?” We all hope that if we were put to that same test we would have the strength, courage, and faith to proudly remain loyal and faithful to Jesus. I think in our marriages we have that test given to us daily. We are to love our spouse as Christ modeled love. When we deny our spouse, even in the smallest of ways, when our loyalty is tested and we fall to the flesh, we not only deny our spouse, we deny Christ in them. For Christ said whatever you do to the least of these you do to me. Does that not also apply to how we treat our spouse? When we deny or spouse or fail to remain loyal, are we not in that moment denying Christ just as Peter did? Are we not succumbing to the weakness of the flesh despite the fact that like Peter we said before God that we would not deny him?
As we go into this Holy Week, we have an opportunity to examine our lives and where we can relate to Peter in the story of the Passion. I think as married people, we can so easily relate to him in how we choose to either deny or remain loyal and faithful to our spouse, our vows to them, and Christ in them in each moment of every day.
Nobody was created just to have a happy marriage. Men and women were created to win the happiness of heaven
Fr. Donald Miller
How often do we look to our marriage, to our spouse, to make us happy? How often do we feel like our marriage has failed if we are not happy in that moment? When those moments come it brings up the question – what is the purpose of marriage?
I have heard so many people tell me that if their marriage isn’t making them happy then maybe it wasn’t meant to be and they should search for happiness elsewhere and find someone else who makes them feel happy.
If marriage is to be the thing to make me happy it is destined for frustrations. No person, no thing, can make us happy all the time. That is a crazy expectation to put on your spouse and one that no person could ever live up to or achieve. At the altar the promise is “for better or for worse” recognizing that there will be hard times and trials in every marriage. So if we know that all marriages won’t bring happiness all the time, what is their purpose?
The purpose is your path to holiness and heaven where you will be eternally happy. It is to help your spouse grow in holiness and be in heaven with God some day. It is standing by your spouse through the triumphs but also through the trials. It is praying for your spouse and gently encouraging and supporting them in their faith.
If we look at marriage in this way and with this purpose, it can never fail. We are never done in our faith journey. There are always opportunities to pray for your spouse and to support them in growing closer to God. When marriage is viewed as your path to holiness for you and your spouse, it may be tried and it can never fail, never be broken, and there is no reason to try to find your path to salvation in someone else because your journey with your spouse to holiness never ends.
What an honor to be called as married persons to not only grow closer in individual holiness but also to play a huge role in the holiness and salvation of your spouse.