We’ve all heard the adage, “marriage takes three.” Three of what is the question. Does it mean that some days in marriage we need three aspirin to survive? Is it a reminder of the most important three-word phrases in our relationship – “I love you” and “I am sorry”? Or does it imply that it will take three months of newlywed bliss before the honeymoon ends before we recognize what we actually signed up for?
After eighteen years of living with my loving husband, I can tell you the phrase means all of these definitions and more. Of course, the true meaning of “marriage takes three” is our relationship with each other as husband and wife bound in Christ – Christ being the third in a cord of three strands. This definition has been the defining factor in our marriage.
My husband and I have been through some extraordinarily difficult seasons of disillusion, languishing, resentment and detachment. We have also embraced glorious periods of contentment, understanding, selflessness, and deep spiritual connection. In all of these stages along the way, Christ has been the central force and figure. Like the invisible energy that draws the ocean tide in and out from the shore, Christ’s effect on our life ebbs and flows according to our lead. Gravitational pull is a constant that controls the seas – just like our emotions and feelings control our actions. The good news for us is that regardless of how we feel or whether or not our heart and state of mind is where it should be, Christ is invariably present in the deep and the shallow waters of our relationship. Our job is only to recognize His presence.
When we allow Christ to be the strengthening factor in the cord of our sacrament, our journey together is rewarding no matter the ups and downs. At the beach, we can either flail and panic in the surf or surrender our fears and float atop the ocean allowing the waves to push us in or take us out. In our marriage, if we feel hurt or rejected by our husband, we can either fight against the tide crashing in by putting up our defenses and get hammered by the rough sea, or we can put our back to the crest of the wave and ride in with God as our guide. We may not know exactly where that wave will place us on the shore, but we can be certain that with our surrender to Christ’s strengthening influence in our marital experience the journey in and landing place will be Divinely orchestrated every time.
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