1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?
We have been married 18 years and have two children - a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. I have a combination of envy, panic and gratitude when I look at pictures from our wedding day. Envy at the young couple whose future lay ahead of them, stretching out like a beautiful undiscovered road - a road ripe with possibilities. Panic-stricken at the thought of why anyone would allow two young, naïve, unprepared people embark on a life-long adventure of marriage and parenthood. And, finally, grateful for the many blessings, and even for the struggles that we have experienced together in this beautiful sacrament.
2. Name three things that have helped you stay married this long.
First and above all, the grace of God has sustained our marriage. Although we were married at a Nuptial Mass, both of us were far away from the Lord and our faith at the time of our wedding. It wasn't until we were married 3 years that we both experienced a major conversion experience on a trip to Rome in the Jubilee Year 2000. From that day forward we surrendered our lives and our marriage to the Lordship of Jesus. We both know it was the grace of God that led us to experience conversion together, and it has been that grace that has sustained us through difficulties such as the loss of my father-in-law to cancer, my own post-partum depression and my husband's job loss.
Second, a bedrock sense of commitment has been essential to sustaining our marriage. We both are committed to the wedding vows we made and that commitment has been extremely reassuring when we have struggled through difficult times. Both of us grew up with parents who took their marriage vows seriously and their example of fidelity to each other during all the ups and downs of life has been a great witness to us as to how married life is lived out in the trenches of every day life (my in-laws were married 51 years when my father-in-law passed away and my own parents are married for 48 years at present).
Third, the ability to know what says "I love you" the most to the other person is another key to helping us stay married this long. For example, I know that my husband experiences love when I cook for him - if he comes home after a long day at work to a home-cooked meal, or wakes up on a Sunday morning to a pot of marinara sauce simmering on the stove, he is a happy man indeed. For me, I experience love when my husband cleans the bathrooms (a job I detest) or takes the kids out all day Saturday for me to get a break and some schoolwork done. Knowing what makes each other tick and trying to show our love in those ways has been invaluable. I would love to say that on our Wedding day we instantly knew these things, but that is not true - getting to know each other has been an evolving process and one that I expect will continue to grow and change as time goes on. The key is to communicate and stay in touch with what the other person really needs.
3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?
After experiencing our conversion together, our faith became the centerpiece of our lives. We strive to live out our faith in our marriage and in the raising of our children, through active participation in the life of our parish and diocese. Our marriage has been nourished through participating in the sacraments, attending women's, men's and marriage retreats, serving the parish in various ministries both together and individually, and our own individual prayer lives. As our children grow, we try and involve them as much as we can in serving the church, and our family has been greatly blessed by the friendship and example of other Catholic families as well as priests who are striving for lives of holiness.
4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?
One of the biggest regrets we have as a married couple is that we were not walking with the Lord at the time of our marriage. We feel extremely grateful that the Lord drew both of us to himself at the same time, but we deeply wish that we had entered into the Sacrament of Marriage in a pure and prepared manner. I would urge couples who are dating or preparing for marriage to do so in a prayerful way - by praying together, by seeking Spiritual Direction, by frequenting the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession and by actively seeking as role models other faithful Catholic couples.
5. What advice would you give newlyweds?
Self-sacrifice is so much more attractive and sustaining than romance. While I loved the long-romantic candle-lit evenings my husband and I enjoyed as newleyweds, they pale in comparison to all the times my husband took late-night feedings, nursed me when I was sick, reassured me when I was anxious and listened and supported me in my dreams and hopes for the future. An act of sacrificial love is one of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse - give them often and without counting the cost.
6. What advice would you give to parents or couples who are trying to have children?
Start praying and don't stop. My husband and I struggled to conceive our first child. After nine months of trying to get pregnant, I poured out my heart to our parish priest one day about our struggles. He point-blank asked me if we had prayed together and asked the Lord for a child. I said no - it had not even occurred to us to do so, and more than that, I had fallen into the trap of "Blessed are those who ask for nothing for they shall not be disappointed." When I returned home that day,my husband and I held hands and asked the Lord for the blessing of a baby. Three weeks later I found out I was pregnant.
We learned a very valuable lesson that day - prayer is an essential component of parenthood. There is so much to being a parent that is out of your control as an individual or a couple. Learning to entrust your children and your own role as a parent into the Lord's hands is the only way to experience the "peace that passes all understanding" in the challenging, often-times tumultuous ride of parenthood.