Examples of good marriages...


My parents divorced before I was even one year old, and they don't speak to each other unless they absolutely have to. How do I learn what marriage is supposed to be like if my parents aren't good examples?





Dear Cada,

As I am sure you are well aware that you are not alone in your situation. Today we are seeing approximately 50% of marriages ending up in divorce. Statistically, children from divorced families are more likely to become sexually active before marriage and once married they have a higher divorce rate than the regular population. Obviously this situation needs to be addressed.

The fact that you seek good examples of marriage shows that you are ahead of the game compared to many of your peers from similar backgrounds. So many young people have given up hope that they could someday enjoy a good, happy, lifelong marriage. But there is no need for despair. As Christians, we are a people of hope! I commend you in your effort to seek role models that would help you be able to enter into a good, healthy, happy and lifelong marriage someday.

There are not many good examples in modern literature or movies. So many of the examples of marriage presented to us through the media are not what we want to model as Christians. Unfortunately, so many people have bought into the lie that good marriages no longer exist and are impossible to achieve.

This was one reason I included a great deal about family life in my novel, Arms of Love. I know some people might find the Collin’s family from my book “idealistic” for today’s world. Yet, the truth is, I know many families just like this. They are striving to live out Gospel values in their home. They have committed themselves to the Church’s teachings on marriage and the sacraments. They enjoy a dynamic family life, enriched by the blessings of children. They are raising their children with a love for the Lord, His Church and His Holy Word.

Personally, I don’t find Joanie’s family to be idealistic. I find them to be what we all are capable of being if we commit ourselves to living according to God’s laws. In fact, they are much like what most families once were . . . at a time when society embraced Christian values and strived to live by God’s laws.

God’s laws are not impossible: if they were He would not have set them out for us. God’s laws are there to bring us life. While these laws may seem difficult at times, His grace is always sufficient if we open ourselves up to it.

So, if you have not yet read Arms of Love, I humbly recommend it to you as a realistic ideal of what marriage and family life can be. As one of my readers put it, “it’s like the beatitudes – they’re attainable but you have to work for them.” It takes faith! Other readers have told me that it was just so refreshing to see family and married life presented in such a wholesome, honest and attractive way. It is a reminder of what can be and a message of hope for us all!

As far as other literature goes, make the effort to seek out older novels at the library. Take time to watch some good old movies, with old-time values. You’d be surprised at how great they can be.

And I highly recommend the books, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship, both by Josh Harris. Also, I recommend Steve Wood’s ABCs of Finding a Good Husband and ABCs of Finding a Good Wife. There are also some excellent tape series that have been made on marriage. St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers and St. Joseph’s Communications both have excellent resources.

But, most importantly, if you want good examples of marriage you need to seek out married couples around you. Some places to look are: parents of friends, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and married couples at church. If you feel at a loss to find good marriages around you . . . pray! Ask God to send married couples into your life to be good role models for you.

If you know a family that is happy and healthy, make the effort to spend time with them. If you are comfortable enough, ask the parents questions about married life. Most married couples I know would be more than happy to share some of their insights on marriage to a young person seeking advice.

Remember that there is no perfect marriage. But there are many faithful and holy marriages! Here are some important things to consider. All married couples fight – what is important is to have good conflict resolution skills. All marriages go through difficult times – “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” – but the most important part to remember is “until death do we part”. Stick-with-it-ness is one of the most important ingredients in a marriage. Look for these qualities in marriages around you and then take notes.

If you are of an age to consider marriage for yourself, seek out at least one couple you know and trust, who has a good marriage, and ask them to help mentor you in preparing for marriage. I have made recommendations for couples courting when there is no family nearby.

Living according to the Church’s teachings on marriage is essential to a healthy, vital and happy married life. At times these teachings can seem impossible – which is why we need God’s grace to get us through. A strong spiritual life, nurtured through prayer and the sacraments, is absolutely necessary for a marriage to survive.

Knowing all these things before you get married will hopefully help you to make a good decision in choosing a spouse. But be advised: a fiancé who does not support you in your faith or the Church’s teachings on marriage will not likely change suddenly after marriage. Be sure that you have what you are desiring for a spouse in your fiancé, before you get married!

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Church’s teachings on marriage. Even Christians are experiencing a 50% divorce rate, statistically. But, couples who live according to the Catholic Church’s teaching (practicing Natural Family Planning) have a less than 5% divorce rate. That’s a ten-times better chance at marriage than those who practice contraception and sterilization in their marriages. There are reasons for that – God’s laws bring us life and happiness! When we live outside of His laws, we feel the consequences. I highly recommend Christopher West’s book entitled Good News about Sex and Marriage. He explains so well the why behind the Church’s what!

So many young people like you come from broken homes. This is a tragedy in our society. But hope springs eternal! You can make a better way for yourself and your future marriage. Pray for guidance. Seek out role models. Make the effort to educate yourself about the Church’s teachings on marriage. And commit yourself to live according to God’s laws.

Allow your present situation of coming from a broken home to open your heart with compassion for all those who have experienced a bad marriage and an unhappy home-life. Offer forgiveness to your parents and seek to be an instrument of peace in their lives.

Be assured that you are in our prayers. Please keep me, my family and this apostolate work of promoting courtship and marriage in your prayers as well.

In His Most Holy Name,