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April 11, AD 2012 10 Comments

Everyone tells you how hard marriage is. They warn you against letting the sun go down on your anger, give creative ideas for date nights and share war stories from their newlywed years. Intellectually, you know all of this is true, all possible, and so you take notes. You try hard to budget for a date night, talk about your day and listen to your spouse, and you look forward to the time you can share your own war stories. “Remember when we only had 1 closet for the 2 of us?!”

I knew marriage would be hard. Ryan and I are both first-borns, and we have the typical first-born personalities. Sometimes getting along is not easy. I knew that, I expected those types of clashes. What I did not expect was for life to become overwhelming. I did not expect to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of my responsibility as a wife. I didn’t expect to feel pulled in 1000 different directions. We have the same goals, but the situations we’ve faced weren’t one we could’ve anticipated. After living away at college, we didn’t realize we’d miss our families so very much. I naively didn’t realize that my oh-so-practical business degree wouldn’t get me a job that I love – or that I would be so burnt out that job searching would leave me frustrated and feeling worthless, feelings which negatively affect my marriage. I’ve been Catholic and he’s been Protestant all 4 years of our relationship and while I went to Mass alone during our college dating years, so I was not expecting to feel lonely when I sit in my pew now. We talked about this, we planned to go to the Saturday vigil Mass together, and then a service at a church of his choosing on Sunday morning. We could never have planned for his job to occupy his weekends. I didn’t realize that the wife I want to be isn’t the wife that I can be – not now, not at this stage in our marriage. It’s surprisingly hard to accurately time dinner so that all of the food is ready at the same time, with the hot dishes still hot and the cold dishes still cold.

I took my frustrations to Confession this past week and was surprised by my priest’s counsel. He told me to go to our Mother, to look to her example and to ask God for her simplicity of heart. I went back to my pew a little confused. I decided to just trust him and pray quietly to God. I felt better (who doesn’t after Confession?) but left the chapel still not quite understanding what Mary could teach me about my frustrations. She is the Mother of God. Her husband is a saint. They practiced the same religion and she definitely knew she was doing God’s will. Let’s not even think about her grace-filled soul. Just in practicalities we’re polar opposites.

But I’ve been thinking about her a lot, and it was only today that it finally dawned on me what asking for Mary’s simplicity of heart might mean. Everyone probably shared their mothering war stories, prepared her the same way we still prepare newlyweds today. She probably had dreamed about how to live for God her whole life, praying for chances to love Him. No one, nothing could have prepared her for what He would ask her to do. She could anticipate loving her son, but could she have known what that would mean? She was human so even though her soul was filled with grace, I’m almost sure maybe she would get a slight touch of anxiety, wondering if she was “doing it right”. I get overwhelmed thinking that God trusted me to be my husbands helpmeet – how much more overwhelming would it be to know that God trusted me to raise His only Son?

The thing is, we both said “I do”. Mary said her fiat and became the Mother of God. I stood in front of a church full of people and pledged my life to Ryan. I do. We do. But I can, we can only because we have to trust God to take care of us through the anxiety, to see us through the fog.

So far my only conclusion is that even though our direct circumstances are different, it’s likely we both feel the same anxiety. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never been a wife before. She was a new mom and a new wife too. I’m glad that I can look to her example of simple trust in God.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Kayla Peterson is a Catholic, a wife, and a secretary. On June 25, 2011 she married the love of her life. Together, they are working on building their marriage for the Lord. Though she is Catholic and her husband is not, they enjoy worshiping Christ together, finding common ground, and trying not to shout about their differences. Their hope is that their children will know, love, and honor God with all their hearts, minds, and souls. Kayla blogs about interfaith marriage and other topics that strike her fancy at The Alluring World.[/author_info] [/author]

About the Author:

Kayla Peterson is a Catholic, a wife, and a book addict. On June 25, 2011 she married the love of her life. Together, they are working on building their marriage for the Lord. Though she is Catholic and her husband is not, they enjoy worshiping Christ together, finding common ground, and trying not to shout about their differences. Their hope is that their children will know, love, and honor God with all their hearts, minds, and souls. Kayla blogs about interfaith marriage and other topics that strike her fancy at The Alluring World.

  • I understand most of what you are going through, though both my husband and myself are practicing Catholics. We were married in August 2011, and those first 6 months basically were so tough! I felt horrible because so many things were not as I had thought they were going to be, and it felt like something was terribly wrong because it certainly did not feel like a “honeymoon stage” like everyone was saying it would be at all! But, with a lot of tears, prayers, hard work, and acceptance, things are so much better now than in the beginning. I’m sure everything will work itself out for you as well. 🙂

  • *hugs* friend! We experienced almost everything you mentioned above during our first years of marriage. Then life moves on, some stresses alleviate or we become better at dealing with them, and others come to the surface and knock us on our butts. The very biggest thing that helped us over the years was to focus on the two of us being a team. No matter whether our marriage is great or terrifyingly hard, we are in this together. We don’t sweat the small stuff. If the food isn’t all hot when supper time rolls around throw it in the microwave. 🙂 I think even the most perfect looking mothers and wives *are* so because they know how to roll with the punches and keep on moving. We also believe in calling stress out for what it is and what it is doing to us. We have to recognize that if we are both super stressed out about an outside factor that it will effect our ability to joyfully care for one another…we still do our best but we also try very hard to cut one another some slack. Realizing that outside factors are sometimes effecting our relationship really help us to not “blame” ourselves (while still taking responsibility)and instead ground ourselves back in that “team” mentality.

    I think the beauty of Mary is that no matter what she will always bring us closer to her Son. I never feel closer and more connected to Christ then when I view Him through His mother’s eyes. And that is a place that always leads me closer to peace and confidence in my vocation and the struggles it brings.

    Oh and on a side note one of the best pieces of advice we got before getting married was to ignore that old saying about not going to bed angry. Seriously. When we are tired…we are not nice…we don’t fight fair…we don’t think clearly. In those moments agreeing to walk away and sleep is by far and above the best thing we could do for one another. Those late night arguments have never been a productive thing for us in any sense. Maybe you can pull them off and if so by all means! But don’t think that going to bed without resolving all issues is necessarily a bad thing or makes you less committed to your relationship etc. Sometimes we just need sleep. 🙂

  • Simcha Fisher

    Well, you figured out the Mary thing a lot faster than I did! I’ve often thought that it might have been hard for her to realize that she wouldn’t have a big family, or grandchildren! I also don’t think that being free from original sin meant that it was easier for her to live in this world – – if anything, it must have been harder, having to deal with people who, because of their fallenness, act so cruelly and irrationally. She must have felt like a stranger for much of her life.


    When people try to prepare you for the difficulties of married life (or adult life in general — you’d be facing all sorts of unexpected trials if you were single at your age, don’t forget!) is that they make it sound like some sort of glorious battle like in the movies, with montages to make the action go by faster, and a definitive victory or failure. Movies don’t show the part of being at war where (I’m told) there is a lot of dreadful waiting around, tension, boredom, and anxiety. Anybody can get through a crisis, if it’s short enough, but it’s harder to get through the hour by hour by hour, when you don’t know how long it’s going to go on that way.


    To put it another way: in the Screwtape Letters, the “patient” is afraid that he won’t be courageous enough to fight bravely when he finally goes to war — and it doesn’t occur to him that preparing for war, waiting to be tested, also requires tremendous courage. When you keep on trying and praying and forging ahead despite the “fog and anxiety,” you ARE doing it right. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing it right because . . . well, you’re still doing it. You’re not going to arrive at Marriage Done Right — it’s a lifelong process. But the struggles that you’re going through right now are teaching and training and forming you.


    This is not to say that things will always be this hard. Marriage goes through peaks and valleys, and if you and your husband love each other, there will be wonderful times ahead. But don’t doubt yourself, or think that you need to switch gears and change your strategy, just because things aren’t easy.


    I hope that is helpful, and doesn’t come across as condescending. Your marriage is very new, still budding. There are so many unforeseen things still to blossom and unfold, you will be amazed!

  • Jeff McLeod

    May I give you some advice? You’ll think I’m kidding but I’m not.

    The three most important words a spouse can say to the other:

    “I was wrong.”

  • Thanks everyone.

    J. Tatum – Only one of my married friends “fessed up” about the first year not actually being a honeymoon. Exactly how you described feeling is how I feel. Thank you for the encouragement!

    Kristin – Thanks! Yeah the whole “finish fighting before bed” thing has not worked well for us. I get more energized when I’m angry, but less thoughtful and kind. Not good at all.

    Simcha – Nope, not condescending. Yes, it’s easy to imagine getting through some horrible event and clinging together through it all, but getting through the tedium of bills and nutrition and stagnant work environments is harder to imagine. I forgot about that part of the Screwtape Letters. I think I’ll have to r-read them soon. Thank you!

    Jeff – The three most important and the three hardest!

  • Kayla – we are praying for you guys….just as we ask for your prayers for us! We were just laughing/crying about how crazy this past 6 months have been – from married in October to pregnant and now relocated outside of Philly and recovering from Fetal Surgery for our daughter who will inevitably have some sort of special needs as she grows up…’s CRAZY! BUT, it’s exactly how the Lord has planned for us….no matter how overwhelming it is…

    Here at the Ronald McDonald House during the recovery, we see TONS of families with children of all sorts of disabilities, diseases, etc…..and while we think to ourselves “and we thought that we have it bad”, it’s important to accept that each of our own struggles/frustrations are to us – as we are going through them – the worst/most difficult ever… know that we feel your pain (as newlyweds going through tough moments of a new marriage!)

    Cristina and I will be offering up the stressful situation we are in right now – with this slow and scary recovery after Fetal Surgery (with all of it’s crazy side effects and risks of pre-term labor)…….and know that His purpose for allowing this is ETERNAL….maybe to fortify your marriage…maybe to force you to a continual place of “abandonment” for the Holiness of your marriage…but it’s for something….and we will pray that you and your husband will be stronger for it!

    We don’t know you….but we are more united than most people in this world for we share in the same Body and Blood of Our Lord!

    God bless you!

    Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella

  • SWP

    Marriage is hard work. I was told in my pre-marriage classes that the first year is the roughest. In a sense that’s true; but in another sense, it’s not true. The rough part doesn’t “go away”. It’s neither constant nor absent.

    The pre-marriage materials for our diocese refer to a cycle of “romance, disillusionment, and joy” and that you revisit the rough patches knowing you will also revisit the joyful patches.

    I’m inclined to see it as hard work every day. The joy and the pain are alongside each other. It’s true in our marriage and it’s true in our parenting. It’s true in all of life. We like to separate out and demarcate the Joyful and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary but the reality is that all of Jesus’s joyful moments anticipated his sorrowful moments (like the presentation when Mary happily names Jesus but also is told a sword will pierce her heart or the fact that the wise men gave gold for a King but also Myrrh for a tomb). At no point in the Life of Christ was there one without the other. He was dying on the Cross, yet his outpouring of blood allows us to be free of sin. His mother lost a Son, yet we all gained a Mother.

    Life is just plain hard this side of the grave, and there is no getting around that (of course people try to all the time, but eventually they get the picture). God gives us consolation WITHIN desolation, new life and springtime within salty tears. Resurrection within Good Friday, because of it, one WITH the other, not either/or.

    Unite your sorrow to the Cross, walk your Via Crucis on the way to that marriage feast in heaven, where your REAL Bridegroom (the one Ryan represents) awaits.

  • Anne

    Kayla, thank you for this post. I really, really needed to read it today (and Simcha Fischer’s reply too). Hang in there!

  • Andrew and Cristina – Thank you! You and your daughter have never been far from my thoughts. I don’t think anyone can be prepared for marriage – as soon as one issue is potentially resolved, another pops up! Thank goodness for God and the community of believers to prop us up at any time.

    SWP – Thanks for writing about consolation withing desolation. I’ve never heard it that way before and going back to reread with that thought in mind is going to be very eye-opening I’m sure. It’s hard to view marriage with eternal eyes, but that’s the point isn’t it? Thank you for the reminder.

    Anne – I’m glad the post and responses have been helpful to you – we’re all in this together! I’ll be praying for you!

  • SWP

    Consolation/Desolation are concepts introduced to me as part of Ignatian spirituality, which I learned at the Jesuit high school I attended and from my brother, who has professed vows in the Society of Jesus.

    Abbot Joseph wrote an excellent blogpost about these concepts, at this link:

    It could be argued that desolation results from sin, form turning away from God, and therefore consolation is not possible during that time, but I have always found God and my relationship with Him to grow stronger in moments when I knew I was furthest away in my mortal sin. God is always striving to meet us and runs all the more swiftly towards us when we repent in the midst of mortal sin.

    What you are describing is not being in sin, but feeling overwhelmed by life. What I am trying to convey is that God is always loving us magnanimously when we feel farthest from Him and most hurt by life. If we abandon ourselves to His will, then we can find consolation within desolation, we can unite ourselves to the Cross and be cajoled into loving submission to what is really a very tender mercy and intimacy with one who knows our cares.

    We need never proceed for a moment without this intimacy, but too often we blame God for our sorrow rather than seek to love Him more during our sorrow. Even when Jesus exclaimed from the Cross why God had abandoned Him, He still referred to God as MY God, MY= intimacy.

    On Holy Thursday, my family celebrated the Seder Meal, as we have done every Holy Thursday. On the Seder plate, there is Karpas, the Hebrew word for fresh greens; we use parsley. It represents New Life. During the meal, the parlsey is dipped into salt water, representing the tears and bitterness of slavery. Consuming the two together all these millennia after the Exodus from Egypt, we are reminded that even in the midst of tears, there is New Life. it has always been so for the People of God. I pray it will be so for you in your marriage.