silouette_facing_left_45x55For years I believed, and even told some people, that I have the best marriage I know of. My husband and I have our problems, but ultimately we forgive and love each other and want to grow closer to Christ.

I haven’t said that in a while. We’re in a rough patch, is what I think, though I’m willing to accept that it’s just me in the rough patch, or that maybe it’s not just a patch.

What I think now is that my marriage at this point is like an out-of-body experience. Sometimes I see my husband and think, you drive me crazy and how did this become my life? (You know that relationship Jerry Seinfeld has with Newman? Every time Jerry sees him he says, with a sneer of contempt and disgust, “Hello, Newman.” In my head I say hello to my husband like that, it makes me laugh at my own self. Try it — but only in your head — it relieves stress!)

And sometimes I look at him and it’s more like, you are so helpless and lost without my overarching generosity and charity and you are so lucky I love you. (I don’t have a pop culture reference for that, it’s more like I am a great saint and he’s not.)

So I can see the problems, but I know the only way to get through them is love.

Notice I say that love will help me get through, not “fix,” the problems. In a marriage, some things just can’t be fixed. I think this is difficult for our generation. We understand the need for therapy, for marriage prep, formation, which some people talk about as if it ensures marital bliss. As if, if we think and analyze and get enough advice from priests, we can make each other perfect, or at least we can be constantly happy with each other’s imperfections. But we’re all broken, because we’re all sinners. And this is the out-of-body part: I see the problems and know they cause unhappiness, but I also know they sometimes can’t be fixed, so I wait through the suffering, watching it all from an emotional distance.

I don’t want to dismiss or diminish anyone else’s suffering. My troubles are not as great as most and some problems can’t be suffered through. But I have non-Catholic friends going through divorce and sometimes when they tell me the reasons that led to their decisions I think, yup, yup, right, been there. I’m sympathetic and supportive, but I think to myself, I could be divorced several times by now. But then, I am saved from that by the out-of-body experience: the separation of my emotion from my soul; my self-focused longing from my reasonable expectation; what I want for myself from what I need to get myself, my husband, and my children to Christ. This is what it’s about: my vocation to help us get to heaven.

I think, why isn’t he being the strong man I could lean on? Or the gentle one who will comfort me? Why is he arguing with my most brilliant decisions? But who can be everything I need at all times, except Christ? So I rely on Him more, and in some patches my vocation is to support and comfort, not because I am stronger, but because that’s what’s needed. Believe me, in a rough patch I could break down on a regular basis, get bitter and resentful. But maybe in a few years or tomorrow, something happens and our marriage changes – again.

The thing about marriage is that it’s dynamic, as in constantly changing. Life is always changing and if you add in the stresses of married life, the constancy of change can overwhelm: jobs, finances, difficult children, abstinence, problems conceiving, everything.

So I embrace this rough patch in a way, maybe I pick up my cross. I wish we were back to the best.marriage.ever stage, but we might not be there for a while. The out-of-body experience gives me peace in a strange way. Actually, I still love him more every day, even the bad days. That love doesn’t come from my gentle heart (I don’t have one of those) or rational thought, it comes from my soul: it’s the gift God gives me for getting through it. I see the flaws (all his, of course) and struggles, but I know the emotional reaction is not something I can build my life on. I can only build my life on my vocation, and when I need what I can’t get, I turn to Christ and realize that, even when it’s rough, this is a good life, a good marriage, and a long path to heaven.

10 Responses to My Difficult Marriage, and How it’s Actually Pretty Wonderful

  1. Wendy says:

    You had me at “Hello, Newman”. Great story. I bet there would be less divorce if women and men looked at their vocations as crosses lovingly given to us by God. Our culture RUNS from any type of suffering whether it be emotional, physical, or spiritual. Thanks for your inspirational story!

    • Annie D. says:

      I agree with you, Wendy! — Our culture runs from suffering and is definitely scared of commitment. I think that’s why divorce rates are getting higher — and why couples are waiting a longer time to get married (as in, it seems that the average age to get married is getting pushed back each year). Many people want instant gratification, and to do exactly as they please without any ramifications. They don’t want responsibility, and in many cases, I think our culture tells them… they can’t handle it.

  2. Hilary says:

    Wonderful, insightful post. We need more of this positive realism. Please keep spreading your simple, but profound, message. There is such a need!

  3. Cathy says:

    Thank you! As far as I’m concerned, this was absolutely on the mark! So much on-target insight and wisdom! Truly we need more of this forgotten virtue of ‘long-suffering.’ Remember that word? Unfortunately today we hear nothing of this virtue, much less the word for it.
    But defines it as:
    noun 2. long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation.
    And if this isn’t a perfect description of some of those “patches,” I don’t know what is.
    One of my favorite heroes of long-suffering was the Patriarch Joseph of Egypt, and look how God rewarded him.
    Yes, again, you are right on here. Please do keep on sharing your gifts.
    Also, how providential that this was posted on July 26, the feast of Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus and proven masters at the art of long-suffering.

  4. James Drake says:

    I think the new generation wants to avoid being in your situation- where you wake up everyday without your life in your hands and instead it’s in the hands of someone who does not know love or have the capacity to love. You have been robbed of everything God gave you- your sensibilities, emotions, thoughts, and life. You forsake God’s gifts so you can look good to other people, or you’re simply staying married because people believe that’s what’s right. Do not rely on the expectations of others. They do not know your whole story and can’t sympathize with you. I have experienced your situation. I’m a doctor in training, and I’ve studied the New Testament. You should reflect on your own emotions and thoughts and create a life in which they are enhanced. God does not want you to forsake the things he has given to you. He wants you to truly love them and experience the gift He’s given you in full, much like Jesus did. Jesus spent his life giving words to those who could not speak, acting for those who couldn’t, and giving life to those who had lost it (like you). So if you want to follow him, then do as he did. Take action for yourself, carry your cross. Your cross is to divorce, so you can save your life. That is your difficult path but its also right. You will be criticized by those ignorant of you, but you can explain yourself. You will have to do something that priests might not be happy about, but remember it was the priests that ordered the capture of Jesus, questioned, and delivered Him to be crucified, so they are not always right. Your life is on the line… can you carry your cross?

  5. Paula says:

    Please listen to this song it Sums up all you Have shared

    By Chris August

  6. maggiemae says:

    Hmmm, yes. I am right there with you. I too am long-suffering lately in a rough patch plaguing our pretty wonderful marriage. Not a really rough rough-patch… we’ve weathered far worse. Just one of those me-focused ones where I’M not getting what I THINK I need… or WANT. Thanks for the reminder that there’s another “Man” in my life I can turn to to get all that and more! And, thanks for reminding me that one of my job responsibilities in the vocation of wife and mother is to get my hubby and kids to Christ… and to heaven. Those words alone may be my saving grace in this — not the first and not the last — marital rough patch. My pop culture reference dates me but Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler” came to mind when you touched on the break down of marriage today: “you’ve got to know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealin’s done.” Ain’t it the truth that any/every hand (marriage) could be a winner… it’s all in how we play the cards we’re dealt. And the day we’re standing at the pearly gates is the ONLY day for counting (though we’re not the ones doing the counting then either! LOL Thanks for the thought provoking read this AM.

  7. Lisa says:

    Love is a DECISION, not a sentiment or a feeling. When 2 people get married, they become one flesh, individuals still, yes, but united in this one flesh that reflects the selfless life-giving love and commitment of the Holy Trinity. More than anything, God is Love. And that Love is Relational. To divorce one’s spouse is to destroy the image of God and to go against the teaching of Jesus Himself who said, “What God has joined together, no man should put asunder.” Unfortunately, our society places greater value on self rather than the other. While I acknowledge that there are marriages that are destructive and abusive, the post does not seem to indicate this or even comes close to justifying divorce.

  8. Jen says:

    @ James: It is great to study the Bible, but we all need to be sure to interpret it correctly. For one, I would be careful about comparing the Pharisees to Catholic priests. Secondly, Jesus wouldn’t agree with you about divorce. He strictly taught against it, actually. Check out Matthew 5:31-32, and Matthew 19:6. And perhaps you missed the temperature of “Conversation with Women”—it is meant to be an encouraging forum for women looking to follow Church teaching, not go against it. As well as for women who have been deeply and positively changed when seeking Holy Mother Church’s wisdom, and want to share the joy and forgiveness they have received with other women. It is not a place to encourage women to do otherwise. Moreover, it is for women, not men. As for “the cross,” Jesus’ life was on the line, and He still carried it, and encouraged us to do the same: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”(Matthew 16:24-25). Lastly, I would leave you with this from Bishop Fulton Sheen: “The key to the solution of crosses of married life, if they come, is not in the breaking of the bond, for that is unbreakable. Rather, it is the utilization of its sufferings for self, for children, and for the spouse who, for the present at least, is the cause of the suffering. Christian love not only can make such suffering bearable; it can even make it sweet.”

  9. Laura Stoker says:

    Great story, I think it is awesome you are acknowledging the struggles! I wrote some marriage tips that may also help:

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