Do I know what makes a relationship work? Hell, no...
I have been married for 25 years to a really great guy. We have had our ups, downs, and in-betweens. We have had smooth sailing, and sometimes we have hung on for dear life. Catholic talking heads, like the kind you see on EWTN, would say that we have stayed together because of: our shared faith, the Grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony, our embrace of the teachings of the Church in sexual (and other) matters, and our regular participation in Mass and the Sacraments. In short, certain Catholic talking heads would attribute our marital success to our Catholic-ness. They would probably have a good point.
I have been reflecting on relationships lately, though. And just this morning, I had a lovely exchange with my husband that has inspired me to write about this topic, and its seeming complexity. Because things aren't always as cut-and-dried as they may seem to be. Thank the Good Lord.
(Back Story: On Sunday, a couple of men who I really like and admire were criticizing modern Church music. These men really do not like modern Church music. At least that's the impression they give. And they were describing how certain lyrics of certain songs promote the "gay agenda". Now, I have been singing these particular songs for years. And it has never entered my mind that the lyrics promote the "gay agenda" in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I have found these lyrics to be a balm to my soul at certain points in my life. Now, I don't know for sure the intentions of the composers of these songs. But, I do know that things can be taken in many different ways, and I have always felt that you should not attribute bad motives to others unless you are absolutely sure and it is absolutely necessary. Sort of like that "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" song. There is more than one way to look at it. And even if the lyrics are, in fact, promoting the "gay agenda", is that necessarily a bad thing? Because, as far as I can tell, the words are simply a baring of the true self to God, with faith in God's love and mercy. And if you actually read the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning gay people, you will see that God has much love for them, right where they are. So, when these men were voicing their opinions about these songs, I went and opened my big mouth and told them the opinion that I just stated for you. They seemed to be a little taken aback, and one of them was very apologetic.)
So, this morning, my husband said to me, as he was getting ready for work: I was really proud of you on Sunday, for standing up to so-and-so and such-and-such about the song lyrics and the gay people. I agree with you. And I was really proud of you.
Now, my husband is a very traditional Catholic. He accepts all the teachings of the Church on faith and morals. Sometimes, we have had heated debates over these things, when I have had a harder time accepting some of them. So, on Sunday, I was not sure what he thought about what I said. He stayed pretty quiet throughout the "conversation" I had with the two dudes. But, he was proud of me. And he told me so. It made me think he was very sexy.
So, what makes a relationship work? Grace. All is Grace. But, sometimes Grace is not where or what or how we expect it to be. I have met people who think that if you follow the "right" Catholic formula, all will be well with their marriage. And I have seen this not turn out to be the case. I have seen people pronounce that those who have pre-marital sex or who live together before marriage will have bad marriages. And I have seen this not turn out to be the case. I have heard it proclaimed that using contraception will wreck your relationship with your spouse. And I have seen this not turn out to be the case. Alternatively, I have been told that if a couple practices Natural Family Planning and shuns all contraceptives that they will have a good marriage. Again, I have seen this not turn out to be the case. I have also heard it said that a person who "leaves" the Church and marries a person not of the True Faith is dooming that relationship to ultimate failure. Yep -- not always the case. In fact, the people I know who have done this have very happy, very successful, marriages and families. They are leading outstanding lives.
Now, I am not proposing that Catholic people leave the Church, throw away Humanae Vitae, and do whatever they please. That is not at all what I am suggesting. I am simply suggesting this: God and His Grace are a lot more complicated than we think they are. The factors that affect a relationship are not so simple. So, perhaps we should not be too quick to judge how another couple's relationship might go. Perhaps we have no right to judge another couple's relationship at all. And, maybe, we should not take the success of our own marriages for granted, even if we are doing all the "right" things.
So, what makes a relationship work? I really don't have a definitive answer. I have seen too many unexpected things in my life. But, there are a few things I do know, which were brought home to me today when my husband told me how proud he was of me. If you want to be loved, you've got to love. If you want to be cherished, you've got to cherish. Even if you don't feel like it all the time. You've got to let the other person know that he or she is valued, that his or her thoughts and opinions matter to you, even if you don't agree with all of them. You've got to let the other person know that you're in his or her corner. That you are together in this adventure called "life".
And if we see the ship of another couple's relationship hit the rocks and shatter, let's not jump to conclusions, let's not judge. Because it might have been our relationships hitting those rocks. Heck, it might someday be our relationships hitting those rocks. Even if we do everything "right".