What do you think of when imagining a perfect marriage? One that has past the test of time, with both husband and wife happy always, smiling constantly in public, and never seen arguing or cross with each other? This is what most people want when starting a marriage, a life of happily ever after, as seen in most romantic movies. This is not necessarily the case though. A perfect marriage might include arguments, frowns, and tears. It might take time for the two to join together as one working unit. Disney movies don't include this fact in most of their love stories: Marriage is a sacrament where two sinners come together to grow closer to God.
I think most people have heard of the 'honeymoon' phase of marriage. The first few weeks, months, or years where life feels like a fairy tale. It seems like most people also know that this phase tends to pass, but what we hear less about is the phases that follow, and why we go through phases at all.
Many religious and secular sources acknowledge the changing phases in marriage, even if they vary slightly in their descriptions. For this post though, I will be referring to the stages as described here. Many secular websites I have seen tend to use a negative viewpoint on the changes in marriage, and basically make it sound like marriage sucks most of the years the couple are together, specifically the child years, and that marriage is not enjoyable until after the children leave and the couple can be together again. The link I shared from foryourmarriage.org gives a much more positive light. I think it is because, being a Catholic website, it understands the true meaning of marriage, and the purpose it is supposed to bring about.
Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic church. Sacraments are 'signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The purpose of sacraments are to sanctify men (Catechism of the Catholic Church).'
If marriage is a sacrament, and if sacraments are meant to sanctify, then by it's nature marriage will change the people involved. If the couple is letting the marriage work in their relationship, they will grow. Growth is hard work. It takes humility to see problems within yourself, and even more humility to let God work through another human to get rid of those problems and grow up. The couple may also grow at different paces, causing even more hardships.
I often see arguments as failure. Something didn't go right, and because of that an argument happened. Someone wasn't being humble. Someone wasn't being understanding. Someone was being selfish. I'm starting to think that arguments themselves are not the issue. The important part is how gracefully we act before, during, and after an argument. We are all imperfect sinners, or else we wouldn't need the sacrament of marriage. We are all going to mess up and stumble at some point. The goal is that spouses are understanding of this and are Christ-like in their reactions to the fall: They love each other unconditionally, even in the face of a mistake. They are there not to point fingers and to place blame, but to offer help, support, and forgiveness.
We marry because we love each other, we want to spend the rest of our lives together, and because we want to grow close to God together. All three aspects need to be present in a successful marriage no matter what stage we are in. A perfect marriage is one where we change from sinners into saints together as a couple. Is there any fairy tale with a sweeter ending than that? In the wisdom and words of my toddler, "I don't fink so Mommy."