Giving All of You
Earlier this year, Mark Hart from Life Teen was on Lino Rulli's The Catholic Guy Show right after Super Bowl Sunday. Mark, an avid sports fan, was discussing how viewing the Super Bowl has changed in the years since he became a father. Predictably, he spent little time actually watching the game this year. Instead, he was helping his wife and interacting with his kids. Mark's story perfectly illustrates how marriage requires both a full commitment and a willingness to make your wife and family the priority in your life.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of having an "undivided heart" in the married life. In that post, I discussed the internal predispositions that were important for a successful marriage; namely by pouring yourself totally into your marriage without distractions. Today, I want to focus on the exterior application.
None of us are ever fully prepared for marriage. There's no marriage prep course or "trial marriage" that can accurately and completely portray the dynamics of the married life. In that sense, we’re all exploring and discovering what it takes to have a high quality, low conflict marriage. While we can't get the full picture of marriage in our marriage prep courses, we can get pieces of the picture. I hope that you had a strong example of marriage in your life while you were growing up. I hope that your parents, grandparents, or an aunt and uncle gave you a good example of what a healthy marriage looks like. Even if you didn't have a good model, you still understand what sacrifice is. You understand the concept of forsaking what you want for the good of another. You also know how to maintain a relationship, to a degree. It may just be a friendship or a dating relationship, but you know how to manage the various aspects of a relationship so that it's both low conflict and enduring.
Marriage, unlike any other relationship, is always all-in. It's not a rubber stamp and it's not rolling over for the other. Instead, it's both spouses bringing their best, putting it together, and benefiting and growing together. If either spouse holds back even the smallest amount of good, both suffer. A healthy marriage simply requires all of both spouses: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. That means stopping whatever you’re doing when your wife needs you. It means making time to pray together, as a family, as difficult as that can be. That means having quality communication time over dinner or at some other point during the day. That means going on walks together, or hikes, or any other type of physical exercise that helps you both live a healthier lifestyle. That means turning off all distractions and devoting your full attention to your wife when she needs help with a problem or needs some other emotional need met. Although this is a sacrifice, it also presents a huge tangible benefit to you. You can’t walk away from quality time with your wife and be unchanged. You can’t walk away from quality time with your wife and not have a healthier, more vibrant, more robust relationship.
Marriage requires proper prioritization. Your spouse must be at the top of the list at all times. There's never anything more important than what your wife needs. There's never anything that you'd rather be doing than spending time with your wife. Although you might be fighting, there should be an even stronger desire for reconciliation. Like Mark's story, even though you want to be watching the game, you're more concerned with being present to your family.
In order to have a strong, healthy marriage you not only need to bring an undivided heart to the table, you need to back it up with action. Your wife is your top priority, and everything else can wait.