Other Husband & Wife Articles

In Good Times and Bad

In Good Times and Bad
By Tim Drake

When Mary and I both said “I do,” to one another, I don’t think either one of us realized how early in our marriage the vows would be tested. Yet, within the first two years we experienced that disillusionment that nearly every marriage eventually faces. We faced the very real temptation to separate.

Tim Drake

Only two years into our marriage, we hit the bad times.

At the time, work was consuming me. Facing more than 200 8th-grade students each day at work left me little to give at the end of the day. I was teaching at a brand new school and was supposed to feel privileged to have the right to teach there. I was encouraged to take on extracurricular advising, which kept me longer at work, and I would bring home papers to correct nearly every evening.

Mary, meanwhile, was consumed by pursuing an advanced degree during the day and working at night. Through her program she was making new friends.

We were both heavily immersed in our individual careers, friendships, and interests – traveling not one path together, but two separate, parallel paths.

With work and school as the focus in our marriage, we were like two ships passing in the night as we headed to our separate jobs.

We had little time for communication. On top of that, we weren’t united in our faith – I was still a Protestant. Christ was not at the center of our marriage. We were supposed to be happy, but instead we were very distant.

Uncertain of our love for one another, we questioned whether the relationship was salvageable.

Genesis 2:24 doesn’t say that “the two remain two,” but that “…a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

One flesh.

That doesn’t mean separate activities or parallel lives.

He hunts on the weekends; she shops. He golfs; she quilts. Such an arrangement has the capacity to lead to a kind of auto-pilot, stereotypical marriage where each coasts along doing his or her own thing. Settling for a living together, semi-peaceful coexistence is hardly the pinnacle of the sacramental one-flesh union that Christ desires.

God desires that husband and wife have genuine unity. He wants more for your marriage. Christ wants your marriage to be whole and joyful, one in mind and heart.

In desperation, we eventually turned to Christian counseling and a Retrouvaille retreat for help. Slowly, rather than being consumed by separateness, we began traveling the same path, finding common activities and friends that we could enjoy together – and eventually we had children.

Largely, through the technique of dialogue learned through Retrouvaille, we began enjoying better and more regular communication. That turnaround meant salvation for our marriage.

There have been other times in our 20 years of marriage when we’ve again started drifting along separate paths, but the lessons we’ve learned have always brought us back together.

One of the most important things we’ve learned is that any activity – whether sports, hobbies, work, academics, or even church activity – can threaten anyone’s marriage if it becomes too consuming. Before any activity, we would be wise to consult, not only our spouse, but the Holy Spirit, for guidance. Ask yourself: Will this activity lead me closer to God and my spouse, or will this activity make my life so busy that I will not be able to carry out my daily duties?

Living in a culture which encourages busy-ness, we must safeguard our marriage and protect it as the precious jewel that it is.

Tim Drake, who lives in St. Joseph, Minnesota, serves as senior writer with the National Catholic Register and Faith and Family magazine. He is the author of Behind Bella: The Amazing Stories of Bella and the Lives it’s Changed (Ignatius Press).