By Lorraine & Leon Bent –
World Marriage Day is an observance sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which is observed on the second Sunday of February each year. Its purpose: “World Marriage Day honours husband and wife as the foundation of the family; the basic unit of society. It salutes the beauty of spousal faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily married life.” This piece of writing flows meanderingly, and with subtlety, from our own lived experience.
“A Journey of a thousand miles,” says an old Chinese proverb “begins with a single step.” And that all-important first step is the Wedding Mass and the accompanying Vows. However, a Wedding is for a day, but marriage is for a lifetime. It is the solemn commitment on the part of a couple to ongoing growth that makes a matrimonial relationship resonate with deep, committed, irrevocable, lifelong fidelity.
Also read Fr Antic Santosh‘s article on Worldwide Marriage Encounter: One Weekend Can Change Everything!
Until husband and wife have looked in one another’s eyes and solemnly declared they will work together, to the best of their ability, to create a rich relationship of intimacy, one cannot expect a marriage to develop out of a wedding. Unfortunately, the Vows say little or nothing about the ongoing, daily struggle for enrichment. They are all about duty: to stay together for better or worse.
Make Marriage your No.1 Priority
Generally marriage is overrated. All a modern couple seeks is seeing brilliant stars in the other’s eyes, tinsel and twinkling lights at the Reception, the unending trill of romance on Cloud 9, and a lifelong “Fairy Tale” wedded relationship. But, soon the bubble of ecstatic moments and peak experiences begin to fade away, sometimes, nay often, never to return again.
However, Tom and Jenny had a “gut feeling” that they could enjoy a rewarding relationship; they chose to make this possible. Despite this firm, mutual decision they were constantly frustrated. It all looked like a hopeless task against impossible odds. Yet, they were convinced time alone as a couple was what they desperately needed. Both decided to give their marriage top priority.
Daily Dialogue Nurtures and Sustains a Marriage
The vowed twosome opened their inner selves progressively to one another, on the feeling level. They shunned criticism and blaming the other partner, like the plague. This process was sometimes exhilarating, often painful, but always healing. Intimate sharing sheds light on the realms of mundane, bumpy daily life. It is no mere psychological exercise, because divine inspiration and human will, concur. Daily Dialogue is an exchange of sensitive vulnerabilities, verbalizing of feelings, wordless touches, awed awareness, the height of belonging, and exquisite delight. This is the critically important “Dialogue/10 and 10”, that Worldwide Marriage Encounter proposes strongly. Do a Marriage Encounter Weekend to find out how it is done. You will never ever regret the “forty-four hours” spent lavishly on your alliance. Your marriage will come tinglingly alive! Your family will be radiantly happy too! Incidentally, we practised Dialogue for a full year in preparation for our Silver Wedding in 2004. We shall try to do the same for our Ruby Anniversary in 2019. Why did we do this and propose to do the exercise again?
Tom and Jenny made the Marriage Encounter Weekend, which makes a good marriage better and a better marriage great! They, in turn, received an unsought reward. The couple in question could not keep their new-found richness to themselves. They were empowered to work for better marriages, beginning with their own.
Tom and Jenny poured their hearts into many “Love Letters” that comprises Dialogue. It helps consecrated lovers to live in the urgency of the moment. It involves Self-Disclosure, Listening with the Third Ear or the Heart, and offering life-giving Feedback. The still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaks in their hearts. This leads the Dialoguing partners to melt into the softness of communion. For Socrates, Dialogue was the simplest and most elegant means for making peace. Nuptial pairs are no longer strangers in the night, talking different languages. “The partners do not sleep single in a double-bed.” This crucial exercise makes a secure person surrender to the partner in love. “Books are men’s hearts in other men’s hands.” Through the written word, enlightened spouses keep their relationship alive, and communicate to one another their fierce faith, unshakeable trust and imperishable hope. The twenty minutes shared in tender-loving-care every day, between “Lovers,” not only makes a world of difference to a love-relationship, but also transforms the world. Couple love is couple power. It can change the world! What a miracle!
The Ugly Face of the Family Tree Cries for Healing
Dialogue allows us to confront our “Shadow World” and the “Bizarre” imagery of the unconscious; its “ugly roots”. It helps bring to the surface the passions that bubble up from the deep, and overwhelm reason and “will”. No longer will satyrs (half-human, half-bestial) leer at you from wild places; rather, the repressed emotions will begin to show their ugly faces that cry for healing. We begin to listen to our elders whose voices are still within us. Freud’s genius lay in his discovery that, the healing wounds of adulthood involve remembering our fathers and mothers, and their ancestry, and recollecting the family drama within which our childhood was set: Parental message are imprinted upon a child’s psyche. It enables us to “unmask” ourselves and rewrite our personal “Script.” Marriage is the best hospital for our childhood scars, our past wounds and ancient, dormant torment. The voice from the innermost recesses of the human heart says: “I deserve to be loved unconditionally!” (Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly).
We can, indeed, have better marriages if we really want this prized possession. All we need do is devote time, effort and perseverance to the effort, or seek professional help. We will soon move from silent hostility, buried resentment and covert low-intensity warfare, to open conflict. Often what looks like a fight is only the fierceness of love which leads to honest struggle. Fierceness is an expression of inner strength and intense love.
Shared Activities are Mandatory
Shared activities are vital, in that, they make a couple more aware of one another. Another reason is that they force a couple to interact pleasantly. This will turn positive perception into superlative behaviour.
For most couples “really knowing” the other, means having heart-to-heart conversations about feelings – preferably by candlelight or besides an open fire with soft music playing in the background. This is more than sharing of feelings. We reveal ourselves by what we do. Shared activities result in a reciprocal sense of accomplishment, a mutual satisfaction – one of the strongest affirmative perceptions. Achieving a goal or dream in tandem with the other, no matter how miniscule it may seem, can work wonders.
Lorraine and Leon Bent have been an integral part of Marriage Encounter, India, for the past 36 years. They have been “Team Couple,” Unit-Coordinators for Mumbai and “Editor Couple” for ME’s Newsletter (India) for 10 years.