He says: I feel like our marriage is falling apart.
I don’t want to give up, but sometimes I feel like we already have.
She says: Yes, we’ve definitely grown apart.
But I want this to work as much as he does.
It’s so good that neither of you is seriously considering divorce. Even better, if you renew your shared determination never to give up on your marriage, this itself could be the beginning of the end of its troubles. Here’s why.
By exchanging marital vows, a couple creates an unbreakable, lifelong bond. That unbreakability serves in part to protect them even from themselves, that is, from any later temptation to quit their marriage. So, when life in their happily-ever-after castle feels more like a life sentence, they know they have to make it work.
But there’s more to the power of permanent commitment than its brute constraining force. Studies show that the decision troubled couples make to remain unconditionally committed to their marriage can have its own transformative effect. There is something embedded in human nature that makes us flourish when we keep our commitments even when we don’t want to, indeed especially when we don’t want to.
Through the sacrament of marriage, God’s supernatural graces elevate and strengthen these natural protective and transformative powers of permanent commitment.
The indissoluble, unconditional vows you made were to love and honor one another “for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad” until death parts you. As you live out that commitment, whether the happy feelings of connectedness are there or not, God is always there to support you.
The most important thing is that you keep working on your marriage and praying for it. Working at it could include Retrouvaille (marriage help program for struggling couples) or going to counseling. Praying for your marriage must include going to Mass together, and then perhaps thinking of small ways throughout the days to sacrifice or show love for one another.
Most importantly, remember that God is even more invested in your marriage than you are. Turn to him for support and strength.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pt 4:8)
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.