Every Marriage Matters ~ Guest Post by Terri

It’s a big day! Everyone, please meet Jen’s mom Terri, our special guest blogger. She has been married to Ted for almost 46 years, and together they raised Jen and her two brothers, which was no small adventure. Now there are 8 grandkids begging her to retire from her impressive health care career.

We are so proud to have her here today, with such an important message about marriage.

I ran into you at church and asked, “So where is Dave today?”  You said, nonchalantly, “He is not here. We are getting a divorce and he is going to another church now. ” Trying to discern your mood I said, “Oh Beth, I am so sorry. “  You looked me in the eye and said, “No big deal. It doesn’t matter.”  Then you walked back towards your car and left.

I stood there shocked and pondered your announcement and your response. As a believer in marriage, committed to my husband for over 45 years, I felt so sad. Sad that your marriage was ending but just as sad because you think it doesn’t matter.  Every marriage that fails impacts those of us who are married.

I remember when the first of our friends announced that they were splitting up. We had been married about 10 years. We got caught up in their battle and started arguing ourselves. We each felt that there was this little voice saying “Whoa, if it can happen to them, maybe it can happen to us.”  We finally shared that fear and realized that our relationship required increased vigilance and constant attention and that we were NOT going to let that happen to us.

So your broken relationship does matter very much to those of us who are committed to loving and living together for the long haul. It is a little bit of failure for all of us.

I have thought about you so many times since that day. And I have thought about my own children, all of whom have been together with their spouses about 10 years. What issues are they facing and what could I say to help them understand the value of their married relationship?

Some critical things came to mind.

Every married couple needs to remember that they are the primary relationship.  Their family started with just the two of them.  The children will grow up and fly away, as children are meant to do.  And the couple needs to be sure that they have nurtured their marriage.  There will be crazy, busy times:  crying   hungry babies, work deadlines, PTA meetings, running from practice to scouts to dance recitals.  But when things get too hectic or too distant, one of them needs to say “Stop.  I miss you and need your time and attention“   There is nothing like hearing that from the person you love most.

The marriage also matters to the children.  It is hard for them to overhear the arguments but it really hurts trying to tell their friends that their parents are divorcing.  It is painful to hear their parents talking poorly about each other, to live in two homes, carrying precious belongings back and forth. And it is even worse to feel like a prize in a carnival game, where the winner gets the most and best days.

When I was 28, a married mother of 2, my Dad left my mom.   I was devastated!  I cried and cried and raged at him for hurting my mom, for not being willing to stay the course, for separating himself from me and my family, for giving up.  Over time they resolved their issues after long and intense counseling but it was a painful and difficult time for all of us and I was an adult, beyond depending on them for food, shelter and support anymore.

So separate is not necessarily better for your kids unless the living situation is riddled with fear or abuse. They just want to feel safe, happy and together, not drawn into your “stuff”.  They want peace in a unified home.

And marriage matters to your married family and friends.  It impacts those who love you, watch your life splatter and feel your pain. It hurts those who thought it was a relationship to emulate and are shocked to find that it was not.  And what about your unmarried friends and relatives who still have hope that there is a great person out there for them?  They lose a bit more of their hope and anticipation.  They want the marriage, the long term relationship but become fearful about making a commitment because they see your pain and are disenchanted.

What could you have done?

I don’t know much about your relationship and my perceptions may be all wrong.  I have only seen you in our church setting.  But you two seemed to have so much going for you.  And if there has been substance abuse or physical or mental abuse, these words do not apply.  But if you have just drifted apart I would like to tell you some things I noticed.  When you spoke about him to others you often did so without respect.  You poked fun at him when you told stories about the things he did.   I know, I know, a lot of people do that—it helps to be able to unload on someone uninvolved and he laughed, too.  But when you talk disdainfully about someone often enough, eventually you start believing that they really are stupid and worthless.   Instead of affirming him, you ridiculed him and no one can take that for very long.

I also noticed that you both seemed to choose activities with your friends over activities with your spouse.  I heard you talking after church about activities and trips with friends, not spouses.   I saw pictures of you on Facebook and it always seemed that you had an entourage of girlfriends and family.  Where was your attention?  Who was prime in your life?

Your commitment to your children is obvious but you made a vow to commit to your marriage.  If you don’t pay attention, your partner becomes a stranger.  You cannot put “spouse-ing” on hold while you do 20 years of parenting and expect to find a happy spouse waiting with open arms.  Not too many people thrive when they feel second or third in your life all the time.  And it is so true that the best gift you can give your children is to love and honor your spouse.

I think you are a caring woman, an amazing mother and a committed friend to many.   I care about you and pray for you to have whatever you want in life.  I will support you in everything that I can.  But I want you to know that the demise of your marriage does matter to many of us more than you may ever understand.

 

Ted and Terri, 45 great years kater
Ted and Terri, 45 great years later
Ted and Terri, August 17, 1968
Ted and Terri, August 17, 1968

 

Terri and Ted have done Marriage Preparation and Marriage Enrichment classes for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for twenty years. They can  be reached at dostee245@gmail.com

Receiving Mode ~ Jen

Grace

Shea and I have a big decision to make. For three weeks we have been talking it around and around, with no success. Finally, at 11 pm the other night, when we had covered all the options and their pros and cons for the third time without coming to any kind of clarity, I told him that I couldn’t go in circles anymore.

“I know” he said. “We have to pray.”

I took a moment to bask in the warmth of that.

But then I reminded him it took me a year to hear the answer about having another baby. And that was all my fault. I wasn’t in receiving mode. I was praying, but not listening. I let all my own thoughts and worries fill my head and heart and drown out everything else. Finally, I got bored of myself, and stopped. And into that quiet space came my answer.

“So we have to go into receiving mode” I told him. “We can’t talk about it. We can’t think about it. Not chew on it. Not worry about it. Trust that the answer will come.”

Shea thought for a moment and then said “I like that analogy. Just wait for God to throw the bomb.”

I stared at him. What?

Then I started to laugh.

Because when I think receiving mode, I see this in my head:

Is Anyone Out There

And when he thinks receiving mode, he sees this in his head:

San Francisco Herald
San Francisco Herald

I know that God will meet us where we are, but I hope he has a spaceship. Because it’s roughly 75,000,000 miles from Venus to Mars.

I Fainted at my Wedding. So? ~ Jen

The story starts like this: I opened my eyes to the sound of my mom calling my name. I saw my dad’s face and realized I was looking up at him. He’s not supposed to be on the altar, I thought.

“Did I just faint at my wedding?” I asked. Then “I’m going to puke.”

Moments earlier, I felt it coming. I leaned over to my cousin and whispered “I think I’m going to faint.”

“No, you aren’t,” she said with a sunny smile, and turned her face back towards the priest.

So I leaned over to my husband. “I’m think I’m going to faint”, I told him. “Ok” he said. That was it. Next thing, I’m looking up at my dad.

I was not drunk. I was not pregnant. And I was not scared.

I was hot. And kneeling. And trussed into my dress like a dang rump roast on Christmas Eve.

I enjoy telling this story to people. The reactions are fun. Some people laugh with me. Some shake their heads. But it’s the ones, usually single women, whose faces collapse in horror and pity that are my favorite.

It becomes a learning moment.

I fainted on the altar at my wedding. So?

“What do you mean so?!” one of my students asked me once. “All that money! All that planning! Ruined! I would be humiliated!”

I’ll admit that I had to do a magnificent job of shaking it off, a la Scarlett O’Hara: I’ll think about this tomorrow. I could have let it ruin my day.

But I didn’t. Look at the pictures. If you didn’t know I fainted, you wouldn’t know it from the pictures.

Married!
Married!
One of my favorites!
One of my favorites!
Who fainted??? Party Time!
Who fainted??? Party Time!

Beautiful, happy bride. Beautiful, happy day.

But most important of all: Almost nine years, three kids and two dogs later, beautiful, happy marriage.

That’s what a wedding does—it begins a marriage. Despite the wedding industry’s best efforts, we don’t say “We’re having a wedding!” We say “We’re getting married!”

Besides, a wedding is just one day. Not even the whole day. I waited eleven months for my wedding day and spent too much money on the details of making it lovely. For what? A blur. One moment I was fainting on the altar and the next I was lying on a beach in Mexico.

And I’m not saying that weddings shouldn’t be big and sparkly and fun. All of the weddings in our family have been big and sparkly and fun. We love weddings!

But that day, when you wear the crazy expensive dress and feed people food they will not remember, pales in comparison to the day you hold your baby in your arms.

The love you feel for your fiancé at your wedding is nothing to what you will feel when your spouse gets up with that baby at 3 am.

You think it’s the best day of the rest of your life? It’s not. It’s just the first best day.

We learned lesson #1 about marriage at our wedding: It wasn’t perfect.  It was human and loving and beautiful. There was a moment it went a bit left, and then the moment passed, with the help and concern of our family and friends. Which is exactly what happens in a marriage.

When I look back, I regret nothing. Especially not the fainting. Because when we got home from our honeymoon and watched the video, we saw a  church hushed with concern. My mom’s good friend Lu, a doctor, walked up the aisle to see if she could help. My bridesmaids held hands and prayed for me. Except for my sister in law, who crawled underneath my veil, hairdo be damned, and loosened my dress so I could breathe. When I finally was up and seated on a chair, wobbly, teary, embarrassed, everyone applauded.

I fainted on the altar at my wedding. So?

Brides and Bridezillas, don’t plan a wedding. Celebrate a marriage. It’s a very different thing.

The first lasts a day. The second lasts a lifetime.