Last week, my daughter sent me a link to an article in the New York Times. The article upset her, and she knew I would have the same reaction. She was correct.
In Marriage Requires Amnesia, Heather Havrilesky presents a section from her new book (coming in February), Foreverland, On the Divine Tedium of Marriage. Unable to read the book as it hasn’t yet been published, I can only glean info about Heather and her marriage from this article. And the article makes me profoundly sad and even angry.
With passages like this: “Do I hate my husband? Oh for sure, yes, definitely. I don’t know anyone who’s been married more than seven years who flinches at this concept. A spouse is a blessing and a curse wrapped into one. How could it be otherwise? How is hatred not the natural outcome of sleeping so close to another human for years?”
How can one not take umbrage to the sentiment?
The writer goes on to list everything she hates about her husband from his daily habits–“He is exactly the same as a heap of laundry: smelly, inert, almost sentient but not quite”–to the way he sneezes and how he clears his throat. And though she says he is exactly the same person she met seventeen years ago, she can’t stand the man that he was and is. “This is just how it feels to be doomed to live and eat and sleep next to the same person until you’re dead. Because the resolution on your spouse becomes clearer and clearer by the year, you must find compensatory ways to blur and pixelate them back into a soft, muted, faintly fantastical fog.”
The article goes on to describe a vacation the family took to Australia and how Havrilesky had a complete meltdown, yelled at her husband and children, and went off to sulk alone. She writes that when she and her husband talk things out, her inner thought is, “During these talks, I encourage Bill to be more like me.” She laments that every time her husband opens his mouth, she must remind herself, “Forgive him, forgive yourself, let it go.”
She ends the article on what I assume she feels is a good note: “It’s harder than it sounds [forgiving him]. But during these conversations, Bill looks handsome to me again. He sounds like someone I’m still in love with. The feeling comes back. The camera zooms in, the focus sharpens, charming little details emerge. I remember why I chose him. In spite of everything, he’s still my favorite person. I can see why we’re together. We might stay this way forever.”
Oh good, they are okay. She still thinks he handsome. He’s still her favorite person. They’re going to be this way forever.
And I think, how sad, how truly, enormously sad.
When Ken and I got married, almost thirty years ago, my Godfather read the cliche wedding reading that so many couples choose for their reading:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 1-13
I’ve heard people say, “I’ll never choose that reading because everyone else does,” and I could look back and think, Darn, I wish I’d been more original. But the truth is, every time I hear or read this passage, I am renewed. It’s such a beautiful reminder of what love truly is.
After reading the article, I texted my daughter back, “Love is supposed to bear all things but not with resentment.” She texted me immediately, “Love is all of the other things, too, like patience and understanding and empathy.”
It isn’t enough to say, “he’s handsome” or that he’s her “favorite person.” A marriage should be built on patience, kindness, trust, respect, mutual giving, loving acceptance, forgiveness, empathy, understanding, endurance, hope, and belief in one another and belief that this is a sacrament blessed by God (though I have no idea whether Havrilesky’s wedding was in a church). A marriage isn’t willing the other person to “be like me” but to respect and accept who he is.
Marriage is hard. It can be a daily struggle to be all those things that St. Paul pointed out. Heather states, “Surviving a marriage requires self-care, time alone, time away, meditation, escape, selfishness.” While it’s true that a marriage needs self-care, time alone or away, and meditation, I shudder to think that marriage involves escape and selfishness. Love is “completely humble and gentle…patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). It’s putting up with the things that drive you crazy because you can see past them, not that you develop amnesia to forget them. You must see the person and not the ideal. Because, let’s face it, no person is ideal, not the husband or the wife.
Yes, I complain about my husband as much as the next wife does, but do I hate him? Never! Do I get angry and annoyed? Of course! Do I sometimes need time to myself to regroup. Absolutely! But never hate, never the absolute absence of love. “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12).
True love doesn’t need good looks to make one happy. It doesn’t “sound like someone I’m still in love with.” It’s loving a soul and everything that comes with it. It’s not trying to make someone into the other person or imagining that they sound like someone you’re in love with. It’s loving that person mind, body, and soul.
Love, according to Catholic teaching, is willing the good of the other. It’s that simple and that complex. It’s always wanting what’s best for each other even if it isn’t what’s best for you. It’s not something that can be sprouted in an instant but something that is nourished and cared for and encouraged to grow with kindness and patience and humility. There is no room for hatred.
“Love and hate are birds of a feather. I need you, therefore I hate you. I can never leave you, therefore you are my bunkmate in this prison we freely chose, back when we were younger and even stupider than we are now. No sooner are you saved than you start to resent your savior.”
Love is laying down one’s life for another. It’s a mutual relationship between the savior and the saved, though, to be honest, there shouldn’t be a savior when it comes to marriage. There should be equal love and respect for one another. If you’re looking for a savior, then you’re looking for the wrong kind of love. That love is unparalleled, unable to be matched by ordinary human beings unless they are truly far along on the road to sainthood (St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Gianna Beretta Molla come to mind).
When love becomes a prison, there is something desperately wrong. Love should be freeing, not binding. Love means you’re free to be yourself without reproach or judgment. Love means making mistakes and knowing that you will be forgiven, not chastened or imprisoned. Marriage is to “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
St. Paul says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
Instead of hating, despising, seeking escape, or hoping for amnesia, even in the worst moments in your marriage, heed the advice of St. Paul and say, “I thank my God every time I think of you” (Philippians 1:3).
Come see Amy on one of these dates:
March 9, 2022 – Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Wayne, PA 6:00PM – Lenten Reflection
April 9, 2022 – First Landing Wine and Arts Festival, St. Clement’s Island Museum, Clements, MD
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).