Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
When you’re preparing for marriage, there’s a lot to think about. You won’t remember most of it in the glow of the ring, dress, venue, church, readings, guests, menu and so on. I recall exactly four things from the premarital inventory, talks at the marriage retreat and discussions we held with our bishop.
In the interest of disclosure, I remember my fiancé got sick at the retreat and I told the people hosting the talks that I wouldn’t leave him. It wasn’t much to sit there while he slept, but it was a beginning… in sickness. I remember the elderly couple talking about going to bed every night and holding each other, and they would until death. I remember the bishop talking about the trials that debt brought to a marriage, which would remind us for richer and for poorer. And I remember being stumped by the PMI (premarital inventory) when the question had the answers, agree, disagree and undecided.
For question #107, the statement was: Sex will solve all our problems. I sat there thinking, “That would be silly to presume.” So disagree… but it might imply I know it doesn’t solve all problems and that wasn’t something I could answer, so I put undecided. I also decided that I worry too much about multiple choice… except my husband-to-be had the same discussion going on in his head.
As such, here’s a handy 10-point list of tips about the adventure you’ve voluntarily signed onto for the rest of your life.
10) Your life together is a process, and when you marry, you take on your spouse’s past, present and future — and he or she takes on yours. Do little things with great love and you will find your great love, will grow even greater.
9) Pray for and with your spouse. This isn’t always easy, and sometimes, you’ll feel like not doing it. Sometimes, you won’t remember or won’t get to it. That’s okay. Keep at it. It builds spiritual strength for the trials that will come.
8) Plan date nights — and sometimes, plan them spontaneously. There’s a million cares this world can throw at you, but having time with your husband or wife is time well spent, which allows you to better take on the million cares. They’ll still be there in the morning. Ice cream, coffee, the library, the park — it doesn’t have to cost a thing. It’s the time spent that matters.
7) Hold on to each other. Hold hands. Don’t let a day pass without saying, “I love you.” In word and in deed.
6) Learn to listen well, to hear what is said and unsaid. You’ll get better at this as time passes, but two favorite phrases for getting to heart of things, “What are you thinking?” and “Is everything okay?”
5) Plan things together, like meals, birthdays, vacations, date nights, Christmas, etc., and plan things for each other like birthdays, vacations, Christmas, etc. Your relationship is a mixture of the intentional and the organic, but to last, it must be a willed pursuit.
4) Play together. Cards, video games, scrabble, tag football, what have you. You marry this person because it’s fun to spend time with him/her. Spend time playing, you’ll find he or she is even more fun.
3) Guard your heart. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux understood some of what allows for an intimate relationship with God, was keeping part of her interior life exclusively for God. The same holds true for spousal relationships. If we share everything with a best friend or on social media, it diminishes something of our relationship with our spouse. Cultivating a garden of intimacy with your spouse deepens your relationship, because it is indicative of trust.
2) Challenge and support each other. You’ll come to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses (and you already do to some extent). You can and should be the number one cheerleader of your spouse in their trials, and you can and should be the number one person to discuss with your spouse when things are not right.
1) The wine gets better. God plans it this way. The sacrament of marriage is oriented toward revealing to the world something of God’s love, so it must (like infinity) expand ever outwards, and grow ever more true, more faithful, more sacrificial, more sacramental. It’s not the same five, 10, 15, 20, 30, etc. years out. It’s deeper, richer and fuller.
Your marriage is not about you. It’s about bringing yourself and your husband or wife, and all those you encounter, closer to God.