Marriage – A perfect partnership of human limitations

For those who have discovered that the only thing that matters in this life or in the next – the only thing that can give true happiness – is to love and to be loved, married life can be a source of continual and untold suffering, even when on the surface it appears to be a success.

What women may have to suffer in this way, is beyond the power of any man to describe. There are husbands who consider their wives as glorified housekeepers or secretaries, as an ornament in their home and a hostess at their table, a social acquisition, a mere means of pleasure and self-gratification, in fact as anything but as what a wife really is: another and better self, a partner in living, one who is a continual influence for the development of all that is good. So few men realize that a man’s wife is his best friend. So few men realize to what an extent their family life, and in particular that part of their family life which they share with their wife, should be the principal part of their life in this world.

They work for their own ‘advancement’ – whatever that may mean. They have a ‘career’ and they feel everything else must be subordinated to that.

One wonders to what extent educators and the media are responsible for this folly. How many boys leave school with the idea that if they are not going into religion or the priesthood, they can do no better that carve out for themselves a career of worldly ‘success’!  What a return to offer God for all He suffered for us! It is true, of course, that it is desirable that Catholics should stand in society as an asset to it, and that they should have the poise and assurance that success brings. This is especially true in a society where Catholicity is despised or where it has just emerged from a state of siege or of persecution. To that extent, the policy of our educators is, perhaps, justified. But God forbid that we should make an end of what can only be a means to an end!

It is also true that, although a man’s wife has first claim upon his devotion, she has not got the only claim. He has a duty to his parents and to the society to whom he owes his origin and development. In the particular case of a man whose work is of Catholic importance such a work has an added claim upon his time. But if he is married, he is married – and he must devote himself in the first place, adequately and generously to his wife and family. It is utterly wrong, for example, on the excuse of important social work, to rush out on all or many evenings of the week after the evening meal to some philanthropic work or meeting, or even to some exercise of devotion. Yet one often finds good Catholics doing just that. The point is they are giving away something that is not their own – they are stealing from their wives to serve – as they imagine – God. God does not want such service. Far, far better for a man, and more meritorious, to spend the evening at home with his wife, or to take her to some entertainment which they can both share, and so to develop and manifest his love for his wife and their community of life. He will find Christ in his wife on such occasions more certainly, more fruitfully and more intimately than he will in all his needy neighbours, or even – I would venture to say – in a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. For Christ is present and is to be received wherever His will is to be done – and His will is that they whom He has joined together should not be put asunder by any man.

There are other sufferings that women have to undergo in secret. There is the shy husband who will not tell his love, the timorous man who is afraid to let his wife know his love for her, the man with that peculiar, but by no means unusual, habit which makes him set his face and assume a mask of solid indifference when his wife shows her affection for him in any way, despite the fact that there is a song in his heart that seems unending. There is the husband who has no tact, there is the husband whose sense of humour manifests itself by teasing. There is the man who always patronizes his wife and who will never show her any deference in public. But there is no need to extend the list – it could not be completed even in a book. It is however clear that nothing but a deep spiritual life will enable a woman to sustain such continual disappointment and suffering and still remain happy. God will always fill the void in her heart.

Of course, it is not always the man who fails to reach ideal standards. Not every single wife brings to marriage a sufficiently high ideal of self-surrender and self-sacrifice. And failure on the woman’s side has more far reaching consequences than on her husband’s. Both man and wife have need of a spiritual life to succeed in their own individual part, and to sustain the effects on them of failure by their partner.

The ideal is a high one, and the difficulties of married life are far from negligible. Only the continual grace of God can make such a life successful. Only the grace of God can make it possible for a man or a woman to live, as it were, in front of a mirror, with somebody who knows one in ways better than one knows oneself, who can see through all one’s self-deception, and realize all the motives behind one’s every action.

No low standard can be safely set for husband and wife than to be ‘another Christ’. So much so that the ideal of Christian marriage can be stated in St. Augustine’s words: ‘And there shall be one Christ loving Himself’.

16 Responses to “Marriage – A perfect partnership of human limitations”


  1. 2 Glenn Turner January 12, 2010 at 14:04

    Good read and very true. I was on the same subject on my blog this morning. http://www.hoteldrawer.blogspot.com.

  2. 3 Katherine Jane January 12, 2010 at 15:23

    Indeed, a great post!
    Just as I expected.
    Personally, I know a lot of women who suffer in silence for the many reasons you mention and don’t mention.. and how many men do I see being rude to their wives!!!!!

  3. 4 Jeffrey Low January 12, 2010 at 16:44

    The mutual sacrifice and devotion of husband and wife is a true picture of Christ’s sanctifying sacrifice and devotion to His Church.
    “Matrimony has its significance in the first place from Christ who took the Church as his bride at the price of his own blood. And also because when he offered his life as the price of her ransom, he stretched our his arms in an embrace of supreme love. And thirdly: as Eve was formed from the side of Adam while he slept, so the Church was formed from the side of the dying and dead Christ, as the two chief sacraments poured from his side – the blood of redemption and the water of absolution” (Albertus Magnus).

    It is only from this point of view that one can understand the Church’s unceasing struggle against any attempt to see marriage as something unholy or something merely profane, of no concern to religion.

  4. 5 churchmouse January 12, 2010 at 17:19

    Happy New Year, Gabriella! Once again, another outstanding post. What a great topic — Holy Matrimony — with which to open your blogging year!

    Re the part about rushing off after dinner to serve the Church. I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, some women are just as guilty. The clergy and church-active laity do not help by saying, ‘You must serve your church. You must play your part by volunteering.’ It’s rare enough to have happy, stable, long-standing marriages, so why they would want people to not only work full-time but then serve the church in their spare time instead of their families is beyond me. I don’t recall such calls to service when I was growing up (1960s – 1970s).

    Great to see you back. I, like many others, missed you greatly. Hope you had an excellent Christmas.

  5. 6 pablo January 12, 2010 at 21:38

    A woman’s heart should be so lost in God that a man needs to seek Him in order to find her.

    Dear Miss Gabriela,

    The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is the first created by God.

    It is under horrendous attack, and many Catholics have lost its meaning.

    Two broken hearts lonely, looking like houses
    where nobody lives
    Two people each having so much pride inside
    neither side forgives
    The angry words spoken in haste
    such a waste of two lives,
    It’s my belief pride is the chief cause
    in the decline in the number of husbands and wives
    A woman and a man, a man and a woman some can,
    and some can, and some can’t.
    Two broken hearts lonely, looking like houses
    where nobody lives
    Two people each having so much pride inside
    neither side forgives
    The angry words spoken in haste
    such a waste of two lives,
    It’s my belief pride is the chief cause
    in the decline in the number of husbands and wives…

    Sadly, there is not enough room on a blog to address the issue of relationships.

    I do want to state no matter what your station of life, God comes first.

    (Hooray! for Jeffrey Low’s great comment. God bless his Catechists.)

    *

  6. 7 Karinann January 13, 2010 at 02:40

    Gabriella,
    Welcome back. Too many who enter into marriage do not understand what it is truly all about. I think unless it is seen and entered into sacramentally, the chances for failure are great. I have a friend who always says marriage takes three: man, woman and Christ.
    Also because men and women are marrying later, they tend to bring some heavy baggage as well-past marriages, abortion that has not been dealt with just to name two. The abortion issue is one our archdiocese is beginning to deal with during marriage prep (Pre-Cana)
    This is an excellent post and as one of your previous commenters said, not enough room on a blog to address the issue completely.
    Thank you for giving much food for thought here.
    Under the best of circumstances marriage is tough; God needs to be invited in in order for it to work.

  7. 8 anne bender January 13, 2010 at 02:52

    Welcome back! I missed you! Love the Pokemon pictures!

    You could have written this post about me. My husband is perfect, a truly devoted family man. It’s me who is always running off to a devotion or an appt. with my spiritual director or a visit with friends or family, leaving my husband to care for the children without me. And even when I am home, I am not truly present, because here I am on this blog. Perhaps it is time for me to re-examine my schedule.

  8. 9 Mary Nicewarner January 14, 2010 at 05:15

    Welcome back, Gabriella! I hope your break was fruitful, but I am glad you have returned🙂 Marriage is tough, Randy and I have been married for over fifteen years. Neither of us is perfect but we try hard to have a good marriage. It’s kind of scary these days because there are so many divorces. I’m blessed to have a sister to exchange babysitting hours with so that we can get out with our spouses regularly. This helps, it’s nice to look forward to a night out to dinner with your husband. My husband is the stay at home type and I’m glad🙂

  9. 10 Korrigan January 15, 2010 at 08:58

    Many years ago prior to my conversion there were many times in many different places where I would hear: “Why would I ever want to be married to the _same_ woman for the rest of my life. How boring is that?”
    Now, there is a line of truth in that saying, but the implication is that she would remain static throughout the marriage . . . that is never changing.
    What person remains static throughout their life? Perhaps one that knows nothing more than fear or someone that has never tasted true freedom?
    Both Alice and I have passed through some significant moments of healing and growth lately.
    So much so, that when I look at her I do not see the same woman that I saw even a month ago.
    One of the more beautiful gems of Grace that comes to us in sacramental marriage is the ability to pour our heart into prayer for our spouse. No matter the circumstances, our Lord truly understands what it means to break down and pray at the deepest levels for another.
    And because of that, He answers those prayers that rise from deep within our heart and spirit for our spouse. He never answers those prayers in ways we expect Him too either.
    So, today, as I read this post, I gaze upon the most beautiful woman I have ever encountered with my mind’s eye colored by the glasses of my heart with a truly deep seated Joy. 🙂
    I am truly blessed to have Alice as my wife.

  10. 11 Judy January 15, 2010 at 14:00

    VERY POIGNANT POST GABRIELLA!!!

    So sad in today’s society, that when couples begin to face some of the issues you so adequately describe in this post, rather than pray, discuss, and make needed change…they simply call it quits and divorce, thinking that the NEXT time they will find a better-suited “match”; then too, only to find themselves right back in the same situation ten years later with a DIFFERENT issue.

    Your advice to SPEND TIME TOGETHER…(and in front of the Blessed Sacrament!!!! WOW! WHAT A GREAT DATE NIGHT!) is so wise.

    I love the quote with which Pablo began his comment.
    And I love our dear humble friend Anne’s self-admonishment that perhaps she needs to rethink her schedule…THIS is what we spouses need to do…not come out fighting with defensive boxing gloves…but pay attention when we glean some good advice and be willing to say “Hmmm…I DO that…I’d better RETHINK it”.

    I forget the author of the quote (it was a priest) who wrote:

    “There is no more noble, nor extraordinary calling, than that of the day to day life of the ordinary man and wife”.

    THANKS GABRIELLA…you’ve given us MUCH to ponder!

  11. 12 Morinne January 15, 2010 at 17:41

    I also love Pablo’s quote🙂

    And like Churchmouse, the part about rushing off after dinner to serve the Church struck me the most. How true!

    Yes, a truly poignant post!🙂

    “Husbands and wives should live peacefully in their union of marriage; they should be mutually edifying to each other, pray for one another, bear patiently with one another’s faults, encourage virtue in one another by good example, and follow the holy and sacred rules of their state, remembering that they are the children of the saints and that, consequently, they ought not to behave like pagans, who have not the happiness of knowing the one true God”. (John Marie Vianney)

  12. 13 Bill Turner January 17, 2010 at 12:36

    Gabriella, a great AND VERY REAL point of view on Catholic marriage.
    Excellent marriage bible verses also include Our Lord’s teachings, like:
    “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? Therefore now they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4-7).
    The great Pope Leo XII also left the world a great treasure with his 1880 papal encyclical on Christian marriage, titled “Arcanum.”
    God bless you all.

  13. 14 booklady January 20, 2010 at 03:11

    Beautiful! True! To the point! Needs to be given to (and read by!) every young couple before they are even allowed to start dating!!! And then read again on a regular basis … at least once @ year during married life.

    God bless you Gabriella!

  14. 15 Pablo H. January 21, 2010 at 00:58

    Our compass is broken.

    I was driving through the state of Colorado, USA once, and had the radio tuned to a Protestant channel. While I don’t listen much to heretics, I heard enough of uncle so and so’s show to understand he was giving a presentation on relationships. Both prior to and subsequent marriage.

    He left our Rica, CCD, and other Modernists Catechism classes eating his dust.

    There was no touchy feely, compromise, or toleration of pervert deviant behavior. He was espousing what used to be Roman Catholic teaching.

    Over viewing the worldwide teaching of Catholic Catechism, the Champions of the Faith are the SSPX Priests. While the Protestants are better teachers of some Truths, the SSPX holds all the Truth. (I am not a member of the SSPX. As a matter of fact, they hate me. And my dog, too).

    I do listen to the catechisms the SSPX has, and the sermons. As a matter of fact, I have a web site with predominately SSPX sermons and Catechisms. They are in the public domain, so I use them, and offer them free for the edification of souls.

    This is the best Catholic Blog I have ever come across. It edifies souls, and causes us to think. It gives to those that hunger and thirst. God bless Gabriella.

    God writes straight with crooked lines.

    He has Protestants preaching some Truth and schismatic’s keeping the Deposit of Faith.

    And He has appointed a woman from Italy to help fix the compass.

    May God our Lord in His infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us His abundant grace, that we may know His most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.

    Santa María de Guadalupe Esperanza nuestra, salva nuestra patria y conserva nuestra Fe.

    *

  15. 16 Cory December 29, 2010 at 22:28

    What a courageous and insightful passage. You have demonstrated god’s love and presented it in an attractive manner…
    That must be threatening to those who are so dedicated to promotion.
    Thank you


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