Reflections on a Heart Seeking a Husband

A friend, who was preparing to give an address for some young adults, approached me a little bit ago about offering some ideas of what to look for in seeking a husband. A loaded request! Still, this one got me thinking. One could come up with quite a list if one were seeking the ideal. I could argue that a list like that would be impossible for any man short of the Word Made Flesh to live up to. A list of ideals can be dangerous. So, with that in mind, and confessing that I am ridiculously in love with my own beloved, I’m going to share what I came up with.

I think I can say that my husband and I both came to this marriage woefully underprepared and without a clue. I think I can say that our marriage is what it is today, and will be what it will be tomorrow, as a result of God’s generous supply of grace and our willingness to cooperate with that grace. While the qualities I’m going to describe are those that can be pondered in contemplating a spouse, I ask you to realize that these are qualities that can be grown into with God’s grace.

While a woman’s gifts come in her softness, her gentility, her ability to intuit, her eye for beauty in all its forms, a man’s gifts lie in his strength and his leadership, his providing for his family, and his sense of protection. This is really why there is such a complementarity of the roles within a marriage.

There is a certain *chemistry* I suppose that can’t really be summed up or written about, so I won’t even try. And, in looking with an eye towards a man who will be a good provider for his family it’s hard to nail down anything more than work ethic. Does he have one? Would he willingly go to work in a carpenter’s shop next to St. Joseph? That’s enough for me! I think I’ll look a bit deeper…

One of the underpinnings in marriage – in both roles – HAS to be a profound respect between the spouses – PROFOUND! Not co-dependency, that’s quite different, that’s…”I can’t exist without you.” And, sad to say, who knows what God has planned – you might have to exist without your spouse one day. Respect says, “I admire and value you so greatly. I value your gifts…I value and treasure all the little things about you that make you the person I fall in love with all over again every day.”

Why is this so very important…and in particular why is this important in the husband? Because marriage today is counter-cultural. Because when the wife finds herself minus the stylish clothes of her youth, minus the figure of her youth, minus relaxing lunch dates, and minus adult vocabulary for a large portion (ALL?) of the day, but rather finds herself drenched in spit-up, drowning in Cheerios, and singing “Jack Frost” for the 30th time this morning, it is his love and respect that anchors her to this worthy task – and it is worthy – it’s just hard to see its worth from the trenches sometimes.

His respect is conveyed in a gaze that can’t really be summed up but effectively says, “You’re more beautiful and exquisite than ever drenched in spit-up and singing to our children. You are a jewel. You are my queen.” This is the kind of treasure that sustains a wife through days which leave her somewhat confused with her purpose; for the noise and message of today’s culture is deafening, but his gaze is quiet and settling. Find this kind of man that sees and respects the good in you – that good which you can see, and the good which he alone knows is there – from this kind of man there is marriage material. Take him to the altar because he will be your knight on days that seem overwhelming and utterly bleak.

Entering the Sacrament of Marriage with eyes wide open also requires an acceptance that love undertaken sacramentally will yield suffering. It seems paradoxical, but it’s true. The more you open yourself to love, the closer you are to suffering – and the deeper the love, the deeper the suffering. You need only look to Our Lord to confirm the truth in this – He loved with a depth so profound and unspeakable and unknowable that He opened the gates of heaven. In following Him, there is no other way but through the Cross.

There is a mentality in some marriages that would propose that God rewards goodness with lack of suffering, that somehow suffering is not blessing, but that simply isn’t so. He is always drawing spouses closer – closer to Him and closer to one another – and He does so in a marriage in many ways and with great mystery. At times this is done gently and tenderly by offering us sufferings. Hand in hand with suffering He generously supplies graces that seem to spill over in their abundance. He never supplies these before a suffering, but they are always present in the moment – I say this because thinking of a potential spouse, one cannot imagine the graces that will meet the spouses in the moment, one can only say with certainty that they will be there.
Suffering undertaken is great mystery, and I fear that speaking too much more of suffering within marriage will strip some of the beauty and the mystery; for this is sacred ground. Suffice to say that suffering within marriage is reality; grace is abundant.

Acknowledging that at some point in a marriage suffering will be gifted to you and your spouse, seek a man with strong shoulders. Look for the same kind of shoulders that bore the weight of the Cross some 2000 years ago. Prayerful shoulders. Shoulders that seek to follow the will of God, even when that path is uphill and full of scorn and mockery. When I speak of strong shoulders I’m thinking of shoulders that square in the face of adversity, but are still soft and yielding enough to hold your fears and your intense sorrow. I’m thinking of a man that is strong enough to pray, to seek his strength in the humility of making himself small before Our Lord. This man is a treasure beyond compare.

I shudder to think how rough a specimen I was on the day I entered marriage almost 17 years ago – how vain and silly and stupid. I was however, very much in love with a man of great worth. I can take credit for choosing HIM and that’s about it. God’s mercies and gifts are made evident in weakness though, and I suppose we gave Him much to work with in that respect. Over the years God has pruned and fashioned Rob and I, stripping away the silliness and the layers of uselessness we clung to so hard and so fast in our youth. At times it has been quite painful, but always He has been good and merciful and tender, and after almost 17 years of marriage I can see that all that was really needed – all that is still really needed on that list seeking after ideals – is an openness in marriage to God’s grace. Leaving that door open yields a flood of mercy and grace that elevates marriage to that of a Sacrament and assists a spouse in viewing the other with the eyes of the supernatural, with all tenderness, so that your entire being speaks, “You are my beloved.”

It’s just as simple and complex as that. Isn’t it my beloved?

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  1. WOW. Incredible post, Jen. Thank you so very much for this reminder of the beauty within the Sacrament of marriage. It's heartwarming and inspiring and so very encouraging. Thank you!

  2. WOW…I feel so unworthy of my own husband now! I am reminded that I picked a good one too (as I sit in the computer room and he gets all 3 kids ready for bed after working all day so I can have some peace & quiet). I think I will humbly and joyfully go help him and forget my own stresses of the day and week. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  3. I always tell people that the most important thing is commitment to love. There will be days that you don't get along – it is the commitment to love that keeps the marriage going.

  4. Beautiful and well put! I know I only have God to thank for putting my husband in my path at the right time in my life, so I would truly look at him and see the gift that I was getting. So many times in my very shallow youth, I would have overlooked him. God waited until I was ready to SEE him and then sent him to me. Even so, I think that marriage vows are almost wasted on the bride and groom. You're in such a blur, you can't truly appreciate what you are saying at the time. It takes years together, through the beauty and the suffering that you mentioned, to really understand and live those vows.

  5. This is so beautifully written! I never tire of hearing/reading about how beautiful this sacrament is. Especially in a culture that continually warps, attacks and devalues it! I, like you, have been married 17 years, and could so identify with “I shudder to think how rough a specimen I was on the day I entered marriage…” That was me too! It is beautiful to look back and see how God has worked His beauty in our marriage. What Grace! Thanks for writing this! Christine

  6. Well written! You have put into words so eloquently my own thoughts about marriage and the graces that we receive from it. I believe that I was truly unprepared for marriage as well. It is only through grace that my dh has learned to deal with me and all of my idiosyncracies. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  7. This is such a truly lovely post! I was reading it to my husband and he came over and tenderly kissed me on the neck. I think husbands should be reading this as well! It reminds us all what marriage truly is and that we need to strive everyday to keep it, enjoy it, and to be a good witness to others out there who are so against it. God bless you Jen!

  8. This is so beautifully written, and all so very true, and so very contrary to the world's perception of marriage! You've summed it up so well explaining how Holy Matrimony is centered on respect and gratitude and appreciation, mystery and suffering and Grace. 'Simple and complex indeed', and a beautiful testimony to the wisdom of the One who in His goodness and mercy created it.

  9. A wonderful reflection! You put a lot of thought into this, and it is beautiful. I think any young person discerning marriage would benefit in reading and reflecting upon this. And it is a lovely reminder for those of us already in the midst of this incredible Sacrament—to keep focusing on what (Who!) truly matters in this vocation that we live out every day. (My husband and I will celebrate 8 years on Tuesday!) Thank you. God bless you, Jen!

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