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I have to admit that I sometimes let the negative voices in my own mind drive me forward.  What if . . . If only . . . Worries, fears, and concerns can push me along.

Fortunately, my husband doesn’t function like that.  He’s my sounding board and has no issues when it comes to telling me I need to get out of my head.

The funny thing is that we are so different in many ways my girl friend’s in college tried to warn me away.  I was a super studious scholarship student.  My grades were my ticket to school.  A long-haired drummer who just happened to also be a business student.  “You don’t know what drummers are like,” warned my friends.

But I’d been praying to meet someone who would love me the way my dad loved my mom.  We had grown up miles apart.  I went to high school with his church friends.  He went to high school with my church friends but we didn’t meet until college.  I’m just glad I managed to ignore the fearful commentary.

Today is our 30th anniversary.  My friends saw a wild, partier.  I found someone whose faith is stronger than my own, who stays calm when I’m in panic mode and who knows when it is time to pull me out of my head.  God answers prayers. We just need to listen.



As a child, I imagined a world of eventualities for myself. I would be a famous writer (of course). I would probably live in New York, because that’s where writers lived (or so I believed). When I was terribly young, I accepted the fact that I might marry and have kids, because that’s what people do. By the time I was teenager, however, I’d changed my mind: I would never marry and never have kids. I was a product of the late ‘60s and ‘70s — a proto-feminist, cultural daughter of Ms. magazine and Free to Be, You and Me. I was woman!

The one thing I never expected became the thing I got — a love story of the grandest and rarest sort. I met my (now) husband shortly after my 20th birthday, and married him at 23. We have, in many ways, grown up together. After 31 years together, we are still ecstatically in love. My husband is my best friend, my “happily ever after.” He is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.

Until we were well into our 30s, strangers would ask if we were newlyweds; we still walk hand-in-hand everywhere we go. When I finish a slice of pizza, he cuts me another of the exact size and proportion that I am craving — sometimes comprising just the crust — and when I cut him a quizzical look, he says, “Well, duh!” or “Like I’m a separate person from you!” We engage in mental telepathy on a regular basis, crack each other up with inside jokes that bewilder outsiders. We don’t socialize. We don’t go to parties. We prefer each other’s company over any other in all the world.

I know this is a terrifyingly rare and fragile gift. The idea of losing him, ever, leaves me breathless. I’ve sworn him, on many occasions, to a pact in which I get to die first. Ideally, however, we would die within moments of each other, when we are quite elderly, having lived out one of the world’s greatest romances. You know, the kind of thing they used to write up in newspapers, the sort of phenomenon that still makes a splash on social media.

I can also honestly say that my husband has brought me into closer relationship with God. His decision to convert to Catholicism (having spent most of his life as an agnostic) reengaged me with my own faith, made me fall in love with the Church all over again. My husband encourages me to follow my heart — to give money to strangers, even if they turn out to be disingenuous, to serve a community of women religious despite their geographical distance from us, to pray for other people because he believes my prayers are strong ones. I once heard a priest remark that the primary function of a marriage is to make sure one’s spouse makes it into heaven. If I ever achieve such lofty heights, it is due at least in part to my husband. (Though my mother deserves a big shout-out here, too. Thanks, Mom.)

A former co-worker once dismissed my marriage as “boring,” as compared to her “rollercoaster” of a union (which ended shortly thereafter). I tried to explain it to her: How I married Owen because he is a good person, and, as Socrates once explained, true love can only be love of the good. Good is enduring. Good is of God. Can a marriage really be both sacred and sanctifying? Yes. Yes, it can.

Happy birthday, honey.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not ambitious, it is not selfish, it is not easily provoked to anger. It rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

I’m willing to bet that 1 Corinthians 13 (see above) sounds familiar to you, even if you’re not much of a church-goer. Probably because you heard it at a wedding. 1 Corinthians 13 is practically de rigeur at weddings. Heck, it was read at my wedding. But with so many marriages failing these days (Mr. and Mrs. Humphries, we hardly knew ye), perhaps it’s time someone took St. John to task for his writing. Because clearly, 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t telling us everything we need to know. To wit:

1. Love is weird. It doesn’t always make sense, so don’t expect it to.

2. Love can’t be judged. Just because you don’t understand it or condone it doesn’t mean it’s not love. Love is purer, and just plain better, than we human beings are. Anyone who claims that love is wrong is the wrongest person there could ever be.

3. Love changes. I am not the same person my husband married; neither is he. You’re going to do a lot of growing up over the years. Try to ignore the things that grow you apart and focus on the things that keep you together. At the very least, don’t rub these changes in your partner’s face.

4. Love does fail. But only because we do. Falling out of love doesn’t just “happen”; it’s a choice.

5. Love is bigger than you are. And it should be. In fact, it’s not about you at all. It’s about all of us. Love is the only thing that keeps humankind going. What’s the point, otherwise? And that means love is precious. It’s not like the weather, something that changes from one day to the next. I once had a colleague who told me, “My marriage is like a rollercoaster — it’s so exciting.”
“Well, mine isn’t. It’s a pretty steady road,” I replied.
“I feel sorry for you,” she said.
Guess which one of us is still married?

6. Love is hard work. Don’t doubt it for a minute.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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