Catholic Husband

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Humility in Marriage

Marriage is unlike anything else in our world. It's a relationship that cannot be fully comprehended without entering into one, and it's many layers make it a lifetime effort of discovery. As is normal for human behavior, we try to compare marriage to a relationship that we do understand, bending it to fit into a reality that we can comprehend. The result is error, confusion, and misunderstanding. We often treat marriage like a business transaction, but marriage isn't a joint venture or partnership.

Marriage requires the sort of humility that doesn't demand preference, credit, or glory. Marriage requires that both spouses give up their selfishness, sacrifice for the good of the other, and act in ways that foster harmony. No other relationship demands this level of mutual sacrifice. No other relationship can reach this depth.

When we compare marriage to a business transaction, we misunderstand the fundamentals of what marriage is. In business, one must look out for oneself. There's plenty of marketing, posturing, and the occasional crushing of a rival through scorched earth tactics. Conversely, in marriage, you look out for others before you look out for yourself. The relationship is not about what one can gain, but how one can serve their spouse in a way that helps them to grow and have a better life. While ethical businesses can, and do, survive and thrive, there's always an element of looking over one's shoulder at the competition. The permanence and safety of marriage allows spouses to always look to the other without fear of betrayal.

Humility is the essential ingredient in a healthy marriage. Pride builds oneself up at the expense of another. It may not cause direct harm to someone else, but it does have an opportunity cost, funneling resources away from others to oneself. In a marriage laced with humility, everything is done out of love, not in search of credit or glory. Things are done because they're right, beautiful, and loving. This reality, when lived and fully experienced, is sublime. This type of behavior goes against our fundamental human inclinations, rejects selfishness, and serves the greater good. When one spouse is able to achieve this level of humility, their marriage can't help but grow. When both spouses reach this level, their marriage becomes utterly and completely boundless.

It's wise not to be naive about achieving these levels of marital success and humility. Denying yourself and retraining your brain to resist selfishness is a lifelong process. Our humanity is strongly programmed into our decision making and it will prove a challenge to overcome. Yet, it is possible. As you try to grow in humility and charity, especially in your marriage, remember these truths:

  • Great teams aren't made overnight. It takes years of training to make a championship team. Great teams also don't fail overnight. When a championship team enters the new season, they aren't likely to end up in last place. But over time, without careful attention, they can fail.
  • Expect lots of failures along the way. Leave your past in the past, but let it form and inform your present. By that I mean to understand how you've failed in the past, but don't dwell on it.
  • Leave your pride at the door. It doesn't matter who's right, who's to blame, or who isn't pulling their weight. Give as much grace as you expect to receive.

Marriage is a beautiful garden that requires attentiveness, care, and loving labor. Through time and discipline, you can overcome your innate selfishness, pour your whole self into loving your wife and together reap a bountiful harvest of love, peace, and serenity.