It doesn’t take too long of being married before discovering some of your worst traits. 🙂
That might sound kind of odd, but think about it for a second…
Before you were married, you most likely lived alone, had a routine on your own in your home, and did things your way.
After you say, “I do,” those routines and certain ways of doing things — like the dishes, or grocery shopping — change.
And, of course, it’s all for the better! And those changes are so trivial compared to what else you will deal with throughout your life together. But there can be some serious growing pains because of these small changes, and there are certainly moments where you can discover (or re-discover) some of your biggest weaknesses.
Or needing to be in control.
Or how your anxiety is triggered because of all of the changes, and how you might take it out on your spouse.
These conflicts mostly happen in response to the small changes that are happening, but they don’t have small consequences — they can be disastrous for a marriage, and they can cause major marital stress.
But you’re not doomed if you’re struggling with any of these.
These may be great weaknesses, but they can become overcome with great self-awareness, with the practice of virtue and with the grace God gives each couple who enters into a sacramental marriage — especially if you seek Him out through the sacraments available to you and through prayer.
I once heard a homily about how we can overcome sin, and I think it can relate here to how we can overcome some of these weaknesses.
The priest explained to everyone how the idea of overcoming sin is so overwhelming that it’s easy to think about it and dismiss it altogether — how can we possibly overcome sin when we are so very sinful, after all? But he suggested breaking it down, and focusing in on one sin at a time — taking that sin to prayer, asking God for strength everyday to overcome it, asking for our Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession for our strength and for the virtue to grow and to change, and to transform.
Go to confession. Go to daily mass. Pray the rosary. Say a novena. Ask for your friends and family to pray for you and to support you in your efforts. We are all striving for holiness! And include your spouse in this — they’re going to benefit the most (besides yourself!) from your growing in your virtue, so talk about this with them and ask them to pray for you.
Letting your spouse know that you’re aware of where you’re weak, and that you’re committed to bettering yourself for your marriage, and for him, can be a huge moment of growth itself — the compassion, the love, the forgiveness that can flow from this alone is monumental!
If we go to prayer each day for a week with these intentions for one sin, it is possible to overcome that sin. It may not happen right away or during that week, but we need to be confident that our Father wants to help us, and that our Mother is asking our Father to help us. The graces will flow if we persevere. And we may fail and we will fall, but being a saint does not mean that we are not weak — it simply means we know when we are weak, and we decide to seek Him over and over again anyway. We repent, we accept His love (I know that’s so hard!), and we try again knowing He is rooting for us.
We can’t let ourselves get stuck — either by our sins or by our negative thinking that we can’t overcome them. Joshua Becker, over at Becoming Minimalist, writes:
“As I consider these negative personality traits in my own life (and the life of others), I am becoming more and more observant of a damaging thought process present alongside them: the belief that these negative predispositions are “just the way I am.” With an almost defeatist attitude, we attempt to excuse our negative behaviors by appealing to an internal force that makes decisions for us.
“If you listen closely, you’ll pick up on it. But don’t waste your time listening for others to say it. Listen for it in your own life—especially when the excuse keeps you from making the changes in your life you desperately desire.
“Your predisposition is not your future. Your future is what you choose to become.”
That choice is monumental, and we can choose to intentionally work on improving with the grace of God
So back to those weaknesses and bad habits…
It’s hard sometimes to know how to overcome a sin without knowing what we can do instead of that sin… I think it’s because once a sin becomes a habit, it’s hard to imagine it being gone — what do you do instead?
That’s where Rick Fitzgibbons, the director of the Institute for Marital Healing, comes in.
He writes about some good swaps here — about what to replace those weaknesses with, what to work towards, and how to make those changes. These are the swaps he mentions:
Forgiveness for Excessive Anger
Generosity for selfishness
Respect for controlling behaviors
Cheerful self-giving for emotionally distant behaviors
Trust for anxiety
Gratitude for weaknesses in confidence
Hope and love for sadness
He writes, “Healthy Catholic marriages and families are dependent upon spouses working to maintain healthy personalities. This can occur through a daily commitment to overcome weaknesses by growth in good habits, virtues and graces that can strengthen romantic love, the marital friendship, and the openness and oneness that is meant to image God.”
Marriage is for a lifetime, and we have to commit to doing the work to making it as good, as holy, and as true a testament of Christ’s love as possible.
It may be hard, but don’t forget that God is giving us the strength in this battle against our weaknesses.
Photo credit: John Hope Photography