Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm in the midst of watching "The War," Ken Burn's new documentary on World War II. Within these tales of soldiers facing harrowing experience, the central importance of family comes back again and again. A son writes home to his worried mother and promises to come home again to eat plates of her Italian cooking. "Keep the ovens roaring for me. When I get home I'm going to eat plate after plate." A POW survived almost five years in an awful Japanese Prison Camp. His simple & yet profound explanation of his survival: "There was this girl I met right before the war. I just had to get out to see if that girl was still alive." I wrote earlier about this family who sat down for dinner each night using their traditional tablecloth and china, even though they were in the midst of yet another Japanese prison camp & only have a few grains of rice to eat.

It seems that family can survive the onslaught of any outside force against it. Yet how can it survive the forces that threaten to rip it apart from the inside?

We live in an age of divorce. When I was in middle school, (I'm 32), divorce was so rare that my guidance counselor interrupted class to lead a discussion on the subject when one classmate's parents announced their separation. That act just couldn't happen today.

I'm working on a long divorce post based on my rather odd experiences. My parents are not divorced nor am I. But I went to law school with the intention of becoming a divorce attorney. I even wrote my senior college thesis on how to restructure child custody cases to get a more fair result. As a Legal Service Attorney, I handled about 10-20 divorces a year for four years. Because there was such a demand for our services, I only handled the divorces for domestic violence victims who wished to leave their abusers. These divorces were supposed to be "good moves" to help women live safer lives with their children. Leaving an abusive home and obtaining a domestic restraining order is a positive act. I always felt so grateful & hopeful after every civil protection order hearing. So it confused me when the later divorce trials with the same clients were so miserable. My experiences with woman after woman left me with a heavy heart.

I think living a "good" marriage, and building up the institution of marriage is the most important thing we can do as Catholic laity to help the church. The church needs more priests, and those in religious orders. It also needs a lot of ads in the Catholic paper congratulating couples on making their 50th wedding anniversary.

While I'm working on this next piece, I'm throwing open the discussion on marriage.

What is the best piece of marriage advice you've received or discovered?
What is the thing you love most about your spouse?
How are you encouraging your children to view the vocation of marriage?
Share the source of your perspective. Let us know if your single, engaged or married when you comment. I look forward to hearing from all of you!


  1. Great post.

    This sounds kind of generic, but I think that the best piece of advice I ever heard was to simply put Christ at the center of your marriage. I just came across this great link that pretty much sums up how I feel.

    I wish I could write more, but chaos calls!

  2. My mom always says that divorce can't ever be an option. Just putting it on the table wrecks a lot of trust. If it's not a possibility- then one is more motivated to work out problems because you both are going to be together- whether happy or miserable; you might as well try to make it as good as possible.

  3. The most important piece of advice I ever received was from my grandmother on choosing a mate. Your spouse is a person you need. When you are in crisis, they are the necessary salve, when they are away, you can't sleep.

    That was the criterion I used in selecting my husband six years ago.

  4. I meant to leave a comment days ago...but life happened. Anyway, I second the other suggestions, especially Joshie's since she's my mom, too. :)

    Anyway, Andrew and I give talks at the pre-cana retreates the diocese gives to engaged couples. There is this one pyschologist there that gives a great opening talk on how to build the foundation for a strong relationship (these ideas apply to any relationship not just marriage). The acronoym is LEGS, standing for loyalty, emphathy, generousity, and self-sacrafice.

    The most interesting one for me has been generousity. When he talks about generiousity, he says that the best thing you can give your spouse is the benefit of the doubt. Insteading of always assuming the worst about the motivations of your spouse, assume the best first. I have found this to be really helpful in avoid small arguments or bickering, and overall has given me a much more truer vision of my husband.

  5. Wow! These are really great comments. Thank you all!