On the day I got married, I did not expect or understand that the future happiness my new husband and I looked forward to would come from the very small things. Naively, I believed that it took the “big things” to keep us connected and make us happy: big things like frequently affirming out loud that we are 100% committed to being with each other forever, like making a it a point to discuss our major plans and life goals regularly, and, of course, also being willing to grin and bear it when I saw dirty clothes strewn higgledy-piggledy across the bedroom floor. Following principles like these ensured a happy and successful marriage, I believed, and because I knew them I was starting out ahead with this marriage endeavor. Well, now I know that my ideas were just on the list of prerequisites for Successful Marriage 101.
Now perhaps a Sophomore, and enrolled in Marriage 201, I have been married for a little over three years. I never realized there would be so much for me to learn! Although I have been very happy, things have come up here and there that have been excellent reminders for me that I am a work in progress, and that our marriage is, too. In my constant quest to be better at everything I do, I have read several books on marriage and making it good, including (most of) Archbishop Sheen’s Three to Get Married. Reading good books and talking to the long-married have been great ways for me to learn what to do and how to think in order to persevere.
One thing that the books have told me is that I must constantly do thoughtful little things, acts of kindness, if you will, in order to have a happy marriage. Acts of kindness? Ha ha ha! Isn’t that something that hippies do, randomly, for strangers? I dismissed this advice for a long while, until I finally had to recognize the truth: This really is what the day-to-day happiness of marriage depends on. And why was that such a surprising notion? We all know instinctively that actions speak louder than words.
This being married business is supposed to help us get to Heaven. By reminding us that it is the little things that are the big things, marriage itself reflects essential aspects of the Christian life. Our Lord says as much in the Gospel, with His parables–I just never thought they applied to something as mundane as day-to-day life with my husband. Well–this seemingly mundane cycle of tasks and responsibilities is my vocation, and my vocation is my personal testing ground to make me worthy of Heaven. Now I’m thinking this is all not so mundane after all!
As an example of what I mean, I will use the example of our towels. What I am about to describe is going to seem very silly, but I try to remember that, as St. Therese of Lisieux admonishes, I can grow in grace if I do small things with great love for God (and of course for my husband). You see, he and I each have our own ways that we hang towels in the bathroom. Personally, I think his way looks terrible on the back of the door and it really doesn’t make sense to even have a towel there, although he assures me that the way I hang towels on the rod by the sink doesn’t allow them to dry properly. Well, for a while now I have been hanging towels his way, on the door, knowing that he will not ever notice this small act or even think about it. I am doing this because it allows me to show God that I love my husband, and that I want to give up my own personal tastes to serve him. This, then, becomes a way that I am serving God. Hanging towels is a small thing to think about, but I remember that it has been said that “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater.” When each of us thinks about what our husbands or wives are like, what little things make them happy, and then focus on doing these things, it is a way to sanctity for us.
So I’m always in search of more ways now that I can stop my racing mind and pay attention to my dear husband and to find small ways to show my love, whether he notices or not. Hopefully this will make me a better person, a better spouse. And thinking back, the love we shared during our years of dating was very often carried out in affectionate, thoughtful actions–it was very silly of me indeed to think that somehow marriage would render such kind and thoughtful deeds irrelevant or superfluous!