The 10 Commandments of Marriage

Not sure how I found my way to Bridal Guide magazine, but I did, in searchman and woman of something suitable for this site now that my regular second job is on hiatus, leaving some time to work on marriage issues. The article from which these ideas are stolen is one of those multi-page things that most of us hate, but I encourage you to stick with it and read them all. Very sound secular advice.

1. Thou shalt be fun.
2. Thou shalt be sexy.
3. Thou shalt be financially honest.
4. Thou shalt be grateful.
5. Thou shalt keep confidences.
6. Thou shalt keep thine own lives.
7. Thou shalt be an extended family.
8. Thou shalt let bygones be bygones.
9. Thou shalt be faithful in every way.
10. Thou shalt live a healthy lifestyle.

Had this article been prepared with a more spiritual outlook, it probably would have dropped a couple of these in favor of, say, “practicing thine faith together” or “thou shalt respect the sanctity of the marital bed.” Actually, it’s not too hard to imagine a Catholic magazine publishing this same article and replacing items #1 and 2 with these two directives.

Cute-Romantic-Love-CoupleWhich, in my opinion, would be a mistake. The first two items on the list deserve their place of prominence not just because they apply to young brides and grooms, but moreover because they enable couples to navigate the waters from “newlywed” to “golden anniversary.” Being fun, or funny, is one of the failsafe techniques for keeping relationships blooming. I like to think that my wife of 40 years has laugh lines around her eyes partially due to me; lacking any number of social graces, I’ve always tried to at least keep her smiling, if not laughing out loud.

Item #2 is, likewise, important during the entire course of our marriages. old-couple in loveAs we age, our sexual abilities, wants and desires change.   However, these changes do nothing to our ability to be interesting, perhaps playful, to show interest, to initiate intimacy, to be clean, shaved and fresh, to put clean sheets on the bed, light a few candles, put on some music, etc. Sexual encounters, once a couple is empty nesters, are fairly simple to arrange, but sometimes difficult to execute in the conventional way, or ways. With young kids in the house, it takes real commitment to intimacy to find time—or even a place—to enjoy each other’s presence. There’s some frustration built into each scenario—having the ability and not the time, or having the time with diminished skills—but it remains important to keep fun and physical intimacy in your relationship, else couples risk ending up living together as brother and sister, polite and considerate with nothing resembling passion ar mutual engagement. This is NOT how to keep a marriage strong and healthy.

I think items #3-10 are pretty intuitive. Gratitude, forgiveness, faith, maintenance of self are all qualities that we easily maintain with our friends, but not always so easily with our spouses. The one commandment that is REALLY missing, the one that is more important than perhaps any of the others, goes something like this:

Thou shalt be friends first, foremost and forever.

holding handsAs we have remarked often in this space, couples have a much better chance to make it to their golden anniversary—roughly 2-3% of married couples accomplish this—if they are friends as well as lovers. Friends don’t cash in their relationship because of a fight or disagreement. Friends tend to usually fight fairly with their friends; spouses perhaps not so much. John Gottman, in his book we have virtually worn the cover off of in this blog, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, states unequivocally that friendship before and during marriage is one of the great predictors of a couple’s likelihood of staying together, happy and content.

God bless all married couples during this busy and exhausting season of joy.

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So, That was Peaceful

© Denise McGonigal.  October 2015

Family meals have only become more chaotic. Our nightly events with four daughters have evolved into loud and crazy commotions, with three sons-in-law, a boyfriend, and four rambunctious grandchildren added to the mix. As we packed up to leave her home last Sunday night, securing crying babies in car seats, placating over-tired toddlers who pleaded for “just five more minutes, Mommy,” Meghan remarked in her usual irony-laden tone, “So, that was peaceful.”

Ha! Not so much! Yet, when I sounded a family dinner invitation the following Wednesday and again on Sunday, everyone came pouring back together and the whole raucous riot played out again.

You know the “stuff” of typical family dinners. A glass of milk invariably splatters across the table. Twin boys produce messy diapers and bombard the table with sweet potatoes as they practice their new spitting trick. An argument ensues among the girls about who-wore-whose-sweater-last-and-who-should-wash-it-before-returning-it. Mom’s “you look tired” comment gets blown all out of proportion. “Catch the stupid ball” erupts from the family room when a Colt’s receiver misses a pass. And a two-year-old tumbles down the steps – boom, boom, boom – throwing everyone into a panic.

Same scenarios. Different homes. Yours and mine. Every time.

So why do we keep coming back for more? Is there something imperceptible that happens deep down inside the fabric of our families while the symptoms of our brokenness, our humanness, play out when we’re together?

Perhaps it’s…
…the laughter we create that connects our joy with the heavenly chorus.
…the sadness we unload that deepens a bond that forever roots us.
…the forgiveness we extend that forges a trust that can’t be shaken.
…the dreams we weave together that give us courage to face the future.
…the hands we join in prayer that unite our hearts to a love beyond us.
…the story we create as family that connects our lives to the Great Story.
…the peace within our chaos that announces God’s kingdom within our midst.

During his visit to Philadelphia, Pope Francis offered a charming off-the-cuff tribute to the joys of marriage and parenthood, remarking, “Families have difficulties…in families, we quarrel. Sometimes plates can fly. Children bring headaches,” even adding, “I won’t speak about mothers-in-law.” But he also offered the profound prayer, “Holy Family of Nazareth, reawaken in our society the awareness of the sacred and inviolable character of the family, an inestimable and irreplaceable good.”

Let’s all pray that we keep sight of that “inestimable and irreplaceable good” of our families amidst the messiness of flying plates.

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