By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published August 3, 2017
It’s rare to see a solid marriage on television. Instead, couples are seen yelling at each other, humiliating each other—and sneaking around with other people.
In the real world, however, many couples have good relationships based on respect, friendship and a shared faith. In my case, my husband and I had different temperaments, but we agreed on the important things—especially Catholicism—and were content with simple joys.
He died two years ago, on Aug. 3—and he’s in my thoughts every day. And since we had a calm, happy relationship that lasted 33 years, I’d like to share some pointers for other couples:
Respect each other’s space. Jef had a downstairs studio, where he created his oil paintings, while I had my own study upstairs. In our separate “caves,” we were quite happy being creative—and later took a walk together and talked about our projects. Jesus took a respite from the crowds to pray in deserted places—and we all need some solitude.
Accept the differences. I like shopping for clothes, while Jef would’ve preferred a root canal over a trip to the mall. On vacations, he wasn’t content sitting on the beach staring at waves, like I am, so he’d sketch in the condo and emerge later in the day. Rather than being upset because he wasn’t a shopper and a sun worshipper, I was happy that he was happy. It’s important to recognize your spouse is not your clone.
Be truthful. Sometimes it’s tempting to tell a “white lie,” rather than give the whole story—but deceptions mar a marriage. Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” In marriage, little things quickly pile up and become huge snags. If something is bothering you, share your concerns in a respectful fashion, rather than saying everything’s fine.
Be grateful for small joys. Jef and I didn’t need an expensive night on the town; we’d eat a homemade meal on the deck. We didn’t require fancy vacations to faraway places; we headed to the seashore and were content. Practicing gratitude helps overcome the inevitable problems in life. A baby’s smile, a full moon, hummingbirds, clouds—and don’t forget ice cream—can prompt the simplest prayer of all: “Thank you, God!”
Help your spouse carry the cross. Every marriage comes with its share of suffering. In our case, we faced surgeries, cancer, his sister’s death and his mother’s dementia. No one escapes the cross—but couples can help each other bear its weight.
The afterlife lasts forever—as in billions and billions (and more billions) of years—so earthly problems pale in comparison with the promised joys to come. Still, there were times when Jef and I nearly fell under the weight of various crosses. We continued going to Mass, praying and helping each other keep our hearts centered on Christ.
Encourage each other. The worst stereotype of marriage is a nagging spouse who’s constantly nipping at the other spouse’s heels. Instead of pointing out what’s wrong, celebrate what’s right. Mr. Husband cleaned out the garage? Thank him and give him a hug. Mrs. Wife is volunteering at the soup kitchen? Surprise her and the kids with supper that night. Jef was the chief cook in our marriage, while I was the baker and clean-up crew—but sometimes he did the dishes to give me a break.
I still pray for my husband daily and offer holy Communion for him. My life’s purpose now is helping him, just as I did when he was alive. He came to my rescue so many times, and still does now—with his prayers—after death. It’s true that marriage ends at death—but love endures forever.
In a letter, author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “There is a place called ‘heaven’ where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet.”
And I’ll add to that: we may walk together yet, share a feast together yet—and celebrate the full moon on a quiet beach in heaven.
Artwork (“Sam and Rosie,” 8 x 10 oil painting) by Jef Murray. You may contact Lorraine for information about purchasing Jef’s work. Her email is email@example.com.