Catholics believe in vocations, and the most common vocation is that of marriage. It happens to be the one I was chosen to and that I chose. And please let me tell you that I suck at it. I’m not a very good wife.
I try to be. I think most of us do. But I think a lot of us also tend to focus our attention on other endeavors and callings and trust that our primary one will sit peacefully on the back burner. I think we believe that since we feel the love we promised on our wedding day that we don’t have to worry about doing the love we vowed on that day.
And perhaps it all stems from that messed up notion of love — the notion that says that it’s all about flowers and fluttery feelings and positive sentiment. Or maybe the more mature married notion is that it’s about comfort and home. Honestly, I think we’re taught by the world around us that love is about what we get from it, not what we give. It’s about satisfying our needs rather than the needs of the other. It’s about, first and foremost, our happiness.
And we only have to look to our children to see how that doesn’t work.
I think we all know that we can’t emotionally love our children but neglect them. We can’t feel positive regard for them but let their needs slip by the wayside. We can’t keep those feelings locked up inside and expect an occasional “I love you” or hug to be sufficient.
No. We know with children that our love needs feet and it needs to be expressed through our hands and our mouths and our ears. It needs to become a force in the world and in our lives. Love needs to be acted.
And then it comes to our spouses, and we are just so darn tired.
Often we have spent the day taking care of the needs of everyone around us. We have put out fires and built monuments and cleaned it all up by day’s end, and so when it comes to our spouse, we just let it out and trust that the feelings of love will suffice for the loose tongues or the tired eyes or the lapse into selfish thinking.
But it doesn’t work that way.
And so I think that I, at least, need to change. I need to remember that the relationship that matters the most to me needs to be the one that I feed the most. I need to remember that being in love with your partner makes both loving and partnering more difficult, but it also is what makes it all worthwhile. And I need to remember that when I feel I have nothing left to give, that I still need to find a way to give more.
Because we can sit back and let the emotions do the hard work of marriage. And we can sit back and let ourselves receive rather than give. And we can then wonder why we are left feeling even more drained and tired.
Or we can step up and remember that it is in self donation that we receive. When we give ourselves away, we build up something so much greater than ourselves. We build something worthwhile and strong and beautiful.
And I am going to try better. Because I suck at this, and I’m really sick of that.