Friday, June 25, 2010

How to Pick a Good One

After 18 months of parenthood, nearly three years of marriage, six years of partnership, nine years of friendship, and 11 years since our first (extremely awkward) meeting, I am pretty amazed by the way things have worked out! Based on our experience and a lifetime of Fr. Bill homilies, I have some thoughts about marriage:
Marry your best friend... and stay best friends!

Know that the person you love is a person, who will only change because of a conscious personal choice, not because you want him to change (Ryan, I wouldn't change a thing about you, and I am trying to make that choice to put my clothes in the hamper).

Put your dirty clothes in the hamper when you take them off. It is simple, and it will make Ryan... er, your husband or wife... very happy. And also clear your own dishes from the table.

Remember 1 Corinthians 13, and remember the parts that aren't quite as easy as "Love is patient, kind," etc. "We see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am fully known." This rocked my world when I heard it at a wedding after I got married (it was not a reading at our wedding, but I have grown up with this passage, and will never forget Aunt Char reading it at that wedding). How clear does this passage get in reflecting back upon the wedding day and the entrance into the sacrament?! This is one of my favorite lines about marriage and one that is challenging if you are imperfect like I am.

Marry the person that will die for you. Marry the person that you would die for.

See humor in each other and in yourselves... and laugh about it together. Embrace the wrinkles you will have later in life because of the laughter!

Marry a good father or a good mother; see how the person treats his family and how his family treats each other. That family is going to be your family, and I could not be happier to have my family grow in such a wonderful way by marrying Ryan. He is also an amazing dad, and I saw that in him a long time ago!

Date each other after you get married.

Serve each other.

Turn off the damned television and talk to each other! And then maybe enjoy some tv time together.... or just leave it off.

Prepare for marriage with a sponsor couple. Skip the engaged encounter retreat, and find a sponsor couple. (Ok, I haven't been on the engaged encounter retreat, so maybe it is pretty cool.) I have worked with a sponsor couple in marriage preparation, and it was my favorite part of the weeks leading up to the wedding (more than trying on the dress, more than luncheons and parties, more than meeting with the caterer). Our sponsor couple meetings were a set date to talk about the rest of our lives with a couple who is living their life. We had a workbook (chuckle away) that raised interesting questions, we had amazing discussions, and we shared wonderful stories with people who know how it all works. It was intimate and refreshing, and it wasn't at all hokey or fluffy... it was real and it was about keeping it real.

Get a life... your own life... and let your spouse have his own life as well. We often go out together, but it is equally important to have a guys night or ladies night.

You have got to get one (or a few) of these! I cannot believe how my love increased when this guy came along.

I often reflect on the homily Father Bill offered at our wedding, and the readings we chose for our wedding mass. We chose Ephesians 5: 20-33; the one relating marriage to Christ and the Church. I am so glad to have a husband who makes that passage easy to live by; I remember thinking "you have got to be kidding me" when I heard the verse that says women should be subordinate to their husbands, but now it is a pretty simple task. He has to love me enough to die for me, and we have to live in mutual admiration and respect for each other. Check, double check! It is so easy to live that challenge with someone who loves you as much as you love him. Father Bill gave a beautiful reflection on Humility, saying "If you really want to love your husband, ask him, 'how can I be a better wife to you;' if you really want to love your wife ask her, 'how can I be a better husband to you,' chances are she will run to print a Word document." I could not feel stronger that this would solve so much of the marital strife we have in our society; it is so easy to focus on being wronged or being the winner, but it takes resolve to be humble... especially in those moments that I feel like I've been wronged.

And now a bit about the wedding: If you want someone phenomenal to say your wedding mass, may I recommend Father Bill? I had heard all kinds of stories that he "won't let the father of the bride escort the bride into the mass" or "he'll embarrass you in the homily," and all I can say to those claims is "HOGWASH!" He prepared us in the most amazing way I can imagine: he met with us, asked us challenging questions, set us up with a phenomenal sponsor couple, and gave us wonderful suggestions. The myth about not letting you walk down the aisle with your dad goes something like this, in Father Bill's words: "The gold standard is to walk into the wedding together, as a couple, because you are the ministers of the sacrament. (I had never thought of this before in my life) The silver standard is to walk into the wedding with both of your parents; they have shown you everything you know about marriage and we don't want to stuff mom into the pew to be lonely through the processions. (awesome, I love this!) The bronze standard is for the bride to walk in as the center of attention. It isn't a 'look at me' event; it is an us event." I'm pretty convinced by the gold standard, but because we both come from traditional families, we opted for the silver standard to honor our parents. There were never any negative feelings that we made that choice. As for the homily, I have never felt more edified and challenged in my life; it was personal, it was far-reaching, it was moving. The number one comment at the reception was, "AMAZING SERMON. And this risotto is delicious." THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! A healthy dose of truth at my wedding and about three quick bites of that tasty risotto

What makes marriage tick for you guys? Favorite date night ideas? Favorite date night ideas that do not involve leaving the sleeping toddler home alone? Any amazing pearls of wisdom from your own weddings or experiences together? Post it as a comment... on the blog... not on facebook...


  1. Well, one thing that I've noticed throughout both of my pregnancies is that I am a horrible person during pregnancy. Plain and simple. I'm selfish, a "princess," and I let even the smallest things bug the SHIT out of me, when I know I could let them go. I've chalked it all up to hormones, but nevertheless, I suck most of the time during pregnancy. Mainly in the first trimester, and then things start to balance out for me - but wow, I can be quite the hormonal bitch.

    That has been the most challenging time for us, I think, dealing with all of the changes in life, in such a short amount of time. For me, I got married fairly young (1 month shy of my 21st birthday) and I got pregnant with my first baby 3 days before my 21st birthday, so after less than a month of being married - I was KNOCKED-THE-FUCK-UP! :o) During our 2 and 1/2 years of marriage, we have gone through moving into our first apartment, finding out we were preggo, getting a puppy (WHAT THE FUCK WERE WE THINKING - good thing we love the little shit), having our baby, moving a month later into a home that we're renting from a good friend, getting ANOTHER puppy a few months later, (I KNOW, RIGHT? We're CRAZIES), him working long hours, only to come home and have his phone ringing off the hook some more (owns his own crime/trauma scene cleanup business that he will be selling his share of in the next week or so - YAY!), finding out we're pregnant again - YAY!!! and then deciding we're going to try photography out as a career, even though neither one of us have any experience in it whatsoever, I'm the one who just happens to have a passion for it. YIKES! He often tells me that I have grown and matured in these 2 1/2 years of marriage, more than most people can say by the time they're 30! "You're 23, got married at 20, you're a mother of almost 2 kids, you've moved (almost) 3 times, you've dealt with your own bills, groceries, meals, etc... not many 23 year olds can say that - and there are still some 30 years olds that can't." While I do take pride in all of that - it has been very hard on our marriage. (I mean, c'mon - that's a lot of stress wouldn't ya say?) Sure, we've brought some of it on ourselves - getting 2 dogs probably wasn't necessary, but we did it - and like I said, they are the best dogs ever, and we love them. It's also been hard because we made the decision for me to be a SAHM - which has been hard on us financially (rewarding in more ways than we ever thought possible, and I would never want someone else raising my kids - no way jose!). We're "making it" sure, but it has been a big struggle. ALL of this is very trying on a marriage, and I know that I need to be a better person.

  2. Both sets of our eyes were opened a couple months ago when yet another really REALLY big fight occurred and we actually sat down and talked to each other about each other's needs. He needs me to pick up after myself better, put my clothes in the hamper, clean my dishes up, do laundry before it gets to piled up, etc.... and I need him to be more sensitive with the things that come out of his mouth, and to not write me off as he so often does... lots of stuff! And you know what he did? He typed each of our needs out in a list format, and we each have a copy of the other's needs in our nightstands to remind us everytime we look at them. We also have a duties chart on our fridge, and no, they dont always get done by the person who's supposed to do them, but having it there as a reminder certainly helps. People probably think we're silly for doing that when they come over, but some people probably think it's a good idea. Frankly, I dont give a damn - because when our kids get older, and they see that "hey, Mama and Daddy have chores too" the more likely they are to contribute and help out. (Whether they like it or not - they're having chores to do as well.)

    We have cancelled cable, and with the exception of the weather channel and the occasional HGTV or Food Network, the TV is pretty much off 100% of the time. Lily does not watch Sesame Street, or other little kid shows nor does she have an interest in them. My mother-in-law babysat last week in the morning for us while we went to my 20 week sonogram and she turned on sesame street for her - she said she watched one elmo skit, and one skit with ernie singing to his rubber duckie, otherwise, she didn't even pay attention. Hey, works for me! Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with sesame street, I just feel like she learns WAY more by playing by herself or with us, reading to herself or with us, or just learning from us in general. Of course, we're not perfect, but the thing we have to remember is, SHE THINKS WE ARE, and she will for a long time, so we must try to act like it in the best way possible - otherwise, "perfect" to her someday, might mean a swear word every now and then, being selfish, not picking up after herself, not talking to God as often as she should (I'm so guilty of ALL OF THAT right now - it sickens me), and she might just end up choosing that in a spouse because she just doesn't know any different, which you can't fault her for.

    We haven't been able to afford a date night every week because we live a good 40 minutes away from my in-laws which are the only people I trust to watch Lily. We can't afford that in gas, even if it means that we dont go anywhere or do anything that costs money. However, the few times that we have gone out on dates, we have realized the importance of them, and we always become more refreshed and more appreciative of the other person. It's crazy how quickly you forget what it was like to just be the two of you when that little one comes along.

    Okay wow - that actually felt really good to type all of that out! I'm glad I know about your blog now Renee! I've enjoyed chatting with you recently. I could probably say a lot more, but I think that's a good stopping point for the time being. :o)

  3. Megan,

    I could not agree with you more that pregnancy is VERY challenging, both personally and maritally. I am the SAME way; I feel like I am not myself and I feel like I am too exhausted to do anything for myself - like even taking a shower is a chore that I will put off when I am pregnant because it is just too much work to stand and bathe sometimes. I'm also in the same situation of A HECK OF A LOT OF LIFE happening in a very short timeframe. We'll celebrate our 3rd anniversary in August, and we've got a house (with a fat mortgage and loads of imperfections that need to be addressed), a toddler, a baby on the way, bills (for the first time in my life when I got married), work, insurance issues, and every once in a while Ryan talks me out of getting a dog (I am thankful for this, but I have irrational days that I want to just drive down to the shelter and bring one home... Don't worry, Ryan, I won't do it.). You are absolutely right that this is more "growing up" than many people do by the time they are 30. I will be 25 in July, and I cannot believe that so much has happened in the last few years!

    What a blessing to be able to stay at home with your children (even if it feels harder than a desk job... which it is)! If you EVER need some ideas of things to do with your child as she grows, I would be happy to offer suggestions from my Montessori training and from my conversations with the trained Assistance to Infancy teacher (that's the fancy title for Montessori under 3-years). I would love to stay home, but I need to be working at the school we want our children to attend so that we can send them there (it has very expensive tuition, and there are no public Montessori options in our area). We are also fortunate to have my parents 7 minutes away and my in-laws 30-40 minutes away; my mother-in-law is AMAZING and watches Dominic on days that Ryan and I both work (up to 4 days a week) and Ryan is home with Dominic on the days he doesn't work (24 hour shifts twice a week).

    As for date nights... what time does Lily go to sleep in the evenings? Ryan and I have some of our best dates on the couch with the kid sleeping down the hall. If your in-laws are too far away for a date night out, maybe they would be interested in keeping her for a weekend a couple times a year, or watching her all day on a Saturday so you guys can go on an all-day date (couple's massage, anyone? trip to a nearby hot spot or cool city? trip back to your house to have alone time? check, check, check!). I need to write a post about date night... I love date nights, and if you can get the kids to sleep by 8, date night can happen every night!

    You are absolutely right that Lily will absorb the things she sees in you and in your house. Being a model of the way to live is so important, but I would also say that there is value in knowing that we are imperfect and that we can just try again to do things differently tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your experience, and don't be a stranger!

  4. i love your thoughts! great pointers :-)