As someone who lives and breathes all things marriage, I am frequently amused by the common need for people to give unsolicited advice to engaged couples.
I have had more than a few laughs with the couples I work with about the well-meaning, but often tone-deaf things they hear. Over and over, they are inundated with the mantra that marriage is “hard,” so much so, I’ve often been asked, “If it’s so difficult, why do it?”
A very good question.
My response is always one of reassurance. When asked the question, I tell them their intuition is spot on. Marriage may involve work and effort, yes, but what worthwhile things don’t?
“Work” should not be equated with “hard,” and while difficulty and even suffering sometimes are a part of marriage, these things are not directly caused by the institution; they are simply a part of life.
To foster the belief that the essence of marriage is “hardship” gives its difficulties a disproportionate emphasis. And that’s something we should not promote, even accidentally.
The real and true essence of marriage is for it to be life-giving. It brings us to a special place where God wishes so many of us to be. It is a form of fulfillment, yes, but also of honor and of purpose. It allows us to participate in God’s wish for all of his children: to build, to create and to sanctify.
These are attributes that stem from God himself and in which married couples are privileged to participate through their union.
When we speak of marriage, no matter what our own experiences might be, we must remember and promote its virtues first and foremost. Engaged couples know this instinctively, and the rest of us can learn from their optimism.
Work is a sacred thing and growth must be our pathway. Should that call for effort, change and adaptation on our part, then let it be so.
God intended it that way, and that’s a sacred thing.
Deacon Bowling is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Family and Life Ministries. This article was published in the Record’s bridal section for July 2023.