The sacramental view that the Catholic Church has on marriage or Holy Matrimony is stunning. The Church sees marriage not as a secular contract but as a covenant between two people and God. As the Church is Christ’s bridegroom, so spouses are to imitate this relationship. With a life-giving attitude toward each other involving dignity and respect, seeking goodness for one’s spouse, with an openness toward life, and the hope for growth in the love of God, we who are married seek out the best for our spouse. When we turn to our spouse in this way, the union is a beautiful thing.
However, this dance is not an easy one to do. In my past professional experience, I have seen it turn sour and become a tragedy, filled with criticism, blame, and anger. Personally, my parents’ relationship was fraught at times with argument and ill will. There are no easy and simple answers to these conflicts. John Gottman, a noted marriage authority, says that how one deals with conflict is an important sign of the vitality of a marriage. He sees four characteristics that impair a positive regard for one’s spouse. Focusing on the other’s faults (criticism), quickly putting up one’s defenses (defensiveness), having a strong negative evaluation of the other (contempt) and being unwilling to talk about things (stonewalling) are like a cancer that eats away at the good fabric of a relationship. On the other hand, actively listening to the other, not allowing the negative to overcome the positive, and being willing to talk and share are things to do that facilitate health in a relationship. Making the first move to come together after an argument and asking for forgiveness are also needed correctives. Being married is a beautiful thing, but it requires practice in showing respect and appreciating the dignity of the other.
“A soul in which the Holy Spirit dwells is never weary
in the presence of God; it gives forth a breath of love.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars