Lessons in Love

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Before I got married, I thought I was the perfect catch. I was confident in myself, loved adventure, was disciplined in my job,  went to daily Mass, and frequented the adoration chapel. I was intelligent and happy and was surrounded by good friends.

Then, I got married. And now someone was seeing all the little ways that I didn’t have it all together. Not only that, but these ways weren’t so little anymore such as my emotional breakdowns and my crippling anxiety. As we had more children, in my mind my weaknesses were so much more glaringly obvious than my strengths. I had little patience and I lacked the discipline to get up early. I lost it and yelled on a regular basis. I had no structure to our days and couldn’t find time to exercise. I had poor communication skills with my husband. I struggled to forgive and be generous. I silently resented my family for my lack of freedom and saggy skin.

By myself, I was great because I only had to worry about me. With my family, I realized how selfish I really am.  Marriage has shown me how much I need to learn to love and be loved in return. And really, this is what marriage is all about. It’s a school of love because it’s through the love of my husband that I experience the love of God, and it’s through learning to love my family that I learn to love God.

Far from getting married because we already love our spouses, we get married TO love them! Love is more than attraction and even compatibility. Love is a choice, the ability to will the good of another. In marriage, we love by laying our lives down for one another and helping each other to love God through our daily actions.

When my earthly life is over, I hope I’ll be more prepared to love for eternity!

Here are some things marriage is teaching me about love:

1.  Love forgives.

- I am melancholic, and consequently I struggle to forgive and let go. I take little things so personally that I blow them up into big things. I will remember that little thing during the next argument with my husband. But unless I forgive, we can never grow in love. Unless I forgive, how can I expect God to forgive me?

- When St. Paul says that love doesn’t brood over injury, he means that love forgives. Forgiveness is what frees us to go forward in love. Who wants to be a slave to anger and resentment? Not me, and marriage is helping me work on that. How can I hold my husband to a higher standard than I can hold myself to? It has helped to see the ways that my husband forgives me when I fail to love him. Although I have a ways to go, I am definitely better at asking and giving forgiveness than I was 7 years ago!

2. Love accepts flaws.

- Like I said, I thought I was pretty close to perfect before I got married. This mirror called marriage in which I see my faults and failings quite clearly is so hard for me to accept sometimes. And yet – my husband still loves me. I forget to do something he asked me to or I am rude to him, and then he does something nice for me. Real love does not demand perfection. Real love takes you for who you are.

- This aspect of love is something we promised on the day we got married when we said: I take you to be my husband/wife. I take you with your impatience, indecision, fears, expectations, virtues, and vices. I know you aren’t perfect and neither am I, but because I love you we will grow in holiness and virtue together.

- It truly is such a joy and freedom to know that you are loved for who you are!
Thankfully, instead of being discouraged at the realization of all my failings, love fills me with hope. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” In 7 years, we’ve already hit a lot of bumps and gone through some difficult times, and I have no doubt that there are more to come. But love can conquer all when it is rooted in Christ.

3. Love calls you on to greater holiness

- Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery: “Go and sin no more.” He allowed Mary, a sinful woman, to wash his feet with costly perfume and she is now a saint. He ate with sinners and tax collectors, and they became his disciples. When we encounter love, we want to change because of love’s goodness.

- If love is to will the good of another, the greatest good is a life in Christ. Marriage is meant to be a life filled with Sacramental grace from going to Mass together, encouraging one another to go to Reconciliation, and renewing your matrimonial promises to each other.

- The best thing you can do for your marriage is to pray together! Praying together helps you grow closer IN the Lord. It puts your hearts in unison and calls you on to greater holiness. Going to Mass together, stopping in the adoration chapel, praying individually for one another, examining your conscience together before bed, or reading the daily readings each morning are just some of the ways you can remain spiritually connected.

Finally, marriage has shown me that we love because “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). My husband cannot complete me. He can’t be my “everything” and give me all the love I need. He shows me love and helps me to love, but God is the source of our love. When our love is grounded in our love of God, it becomes all the stronger.

“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 but rejoices with the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails.”1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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