My husband and I celebrated 6 years of marriage this past December. As we approached our anniversary, I joked out loud “Oh no, we’re entering the dreaded 7th year…!”
I thought it was a joke. But then, the next 4 months turned into a nightmare. We had the pettiest fights. We constantly accused the other of not trying enough. We constantly felt hurt, frustrated, helpless.
It was exhausting.
At one point I said out loud, “I think we stopped loving each other.”
God said, “Exactly,” and helped spell it out for me – as he does. During these nightmare months, I was at a wedding where they read Paul’s classic letter to the Corinthians. I am normally guilty of tuning that reading out, because my brain says “oh I’ve heard this.” But God said, “Pay attention!” And my heart listened:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated. It is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing (1 Cor 13:4-6).
Ouch – those words hurt to hear. I had been so impatient, so rude, self-centered, angry, and SO proud when I was right and my husband was wrong. I had definitely not been loving him.
We both knew we were in a bad place – we both knew we were missing the love - but we didn’t know how to escape. We had lots of long conversations. Lots of crying. Lots of struggling to connect – emotionally, spiritually, sexually. We would think we had solved it (finally!), and then we’d be spiraling all over again – with more ridiculous fighting.
It took us much longer than I would have liked before we finally realized: this angst in our marriage was the Devil’s work.
It wasn’t until we finally said it out loud – “we have been letting the Devil win!” -- that things began to actually change.
(As an aside here: It is startling how many times I’ve let the Devil sneak into my thoughts/actions, and how long I can go without realizing it. If things are feeling “off” in your life, don’t discount the Devil’s involvement! My favorite way to send him away is to say out loud the words of Christ: “Get behind me, Satan!”)
As I write this reflection, I know I still have so much personal growth. It can honestly feel exhausting. But, I know that God’s graces are so rich and so generous – that if we remember to tap into them, he can help us get through our growing pains.
An example: Just last week, my husband and I made plans to have sex one night. We spent the evening flirting with one another, winking, smiling. We rushed the kids to bed. I went to the bedroom and changed into some lingerie – feeling eager with anticipation and proud of how much better our marriage had been lately. When my husband walked into the bedroom, he complimented my appearance, and I gave him an affectionate kiss. And then I pulled away: “Um. Why am I tasting chocolate?? Did you get candy without me?! That is SO selfish! I can’t believe you would do that. I feel so unloved…!”
(Seriously, you guys. I run a “Good Catholic Sex” blog and these are real arguments I start up, instead of having sex. I didn’t exaggerate when I say I’m in need of SO much personal growth!)
But! This is where God’s graces come in. Because my husband almost (justifiably) walked away. I almost was left alone in our marriage bed, wearing my lingerie and shedding tears of pity for myself. But! God didn’t let it happen! Truly, by the grace of God, we managed to reconcile and had beautiful sex anyway. And that is good Catholic sex – sex that relies on God’s graces to overcome our weaknesses.
My husband’s body said, “I know you didn’t mean to pick a petty fight with me, and I love the real you.” And my body replied “Thank you for seeing the real me, and not letting my petty fights get in the way.” And it was glorious.