Dennis and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary while on a retreat with some friends from our marriage support group Teams of Our Lady. Along with time to learn from the videos on the retreat, there was a lot of laughter and good-natured ribbing, not much sleep and a fair amount of food and wine consumed.
We have known the other couples in our group for many years and there is a comfort level among us for which we are deeply grateful. The desire to live a holy marriage brought us all together. Time, our shared faith and life circumstances have brought us all into deeper communion as a group.
As enjoyable as the shared time with the other couples was, on the retreat there was also time for me and Dennis to be by ourselves and to focus on our own marriage. That was the time to “take inventory” in a sense, with the help of the Holy Spirit: to celebrate what was healthy and growing, and to consider those areas in which we needed improvement.
A retreat is an invaluable tool to help a couple renew their love for one another and refocus their efforts to live the Sacrament of Marriage. This one afforded Dennis and me the opportunity to speak together at a deeper level, one that nourishes and sustains our marriage bond.
Dennis and I spent our time alone discussing the lessons from two videos on Christian marriage that we had watched, and how we could apply those lessons to our life together. Having that uninterrupted time to share my thoughts, dreams and hopes with Den, and to hear his as well, reminded me of the early days of our relationship.
When Dennis and I were college students, we would walk together for hours and talk about all sorts of topics. There was an excitement and connection to one another in those talks that left me feeling deeply happy. I was sure of my future with this man, and I “just knew” that life would afford us many opportunities to speak to one another at that same deep level, which I found so fulfilling. I looked forward with joy to a lifetime of soul-sharing conversation.
Of course, life sometimes interferes with our plans. Dennis and I always tried, and continue to try, to keep our communication open, but it did not take long after the honeymoon for that kind of hours-long chat I’d so enjoyed to become few and far-between. The demands of family life are real, and they have a way of sapping all our energy. Misunderstandings occur, and then the sharing of dreams can sometimes feel like pressuring our partner to fulfill those dreams.
Over the years, Den and I were sometimes at odds with one another over how to handle discipline and various aspects of parenting, or the expectations of how the other would live their role in the marriage. Instead of helping each other to be all that we were called to be, we sometimes chose a “peace at any price” attitude. That attitude creates anything but true peace, because instead of improving communication, it creates a list of “off limits” topics, which usually grows rather than diminishes with time.
We were very lucky that we had some good mentors early on in our marriage, who taught us the value of honest communication and dialogue. Over a period of years, we have been able to develop a much deeper trust and confidence to broach difficult topics. This past retreat allowed us to explore new and possibly sensitive areas, including the best way to care for Den’s aging parents.
Hopefully we have grown a little in 34 years of marriage, and God-willing will continue this growth for, who knows…34 more?