By: Deacon Marques Silva
Twenty years ago today, I married my beautiful bride Christine Lynn.
We dated for two and a half years, after which I proposed, and waited a year until we were married in Libertytown, Md., at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. We now have four children: Nicholas, 19, Hannah, 16, Victoria, 13, and Noah, 10, to whom we have committed to live long enough to spoil their children.
This morning, I found myself staring at the ceiling in the early morning hours (1 a.m. to 3 a.m.). I took some time to reflect on the last 20 years to discover what has made this marriage successful. For all those engaged couples, I thought I would share 20 insights for 20 years in no particular order except for the numero uno. And to all the married couples who are reading this: can I get an Amen!?
- Invite the Lord to play an active role in your marriage – Life is difficult enough and the blending of two lives needs all the grace it can get if there is a chance for the marriage to succeed. The family that prays together, stays together.
- Don’t expect to change your spouse – It doesn’t work and it only fills both hearts with bitterness and betrayal. What you see is what you get. And let’s be honest, who is crazier — the one who is crazy or the one who married the crazy spouse? Date to marry, but date long enough to know who you are marrying.
- Have kids early – There is never a right time or enough money
to prepare for children. With every baby comes a bread basket, as the saying goes. The virtue that you two see in each other will only deepen your love.
- Laugh together – A lot. Being able to laugh at ourselves and the crazy situations we find ourselves in is an important key to success.
- Fight fair – Yep, I said. Fights, or as we have always called them, “growth sessions,” happen when two totally different people occupy the same space (I feel like there is a law of physics that applies here). Just remember, there are rules to having a civil and productive “fight” – obey them.
- Say “I love you” daily – It has been my practice to at least say I love you to all of my kids and my wife daily as I am going to bed. If you two are having a growth session, gentlemen, man up and say it anyway.
- Never discuss finances in bed or when you are tired – It has been a rule of our marriage to never discuss finances in bed or after 9 p.m. It never ends well, and if you do discuss it, remember to refer back to number five.
- Remember you are married to each other – Sounds easy right? Well, when the kids come along and you invest all your time and energy in providing for them, raising them, etc., sometimes it’s easy to forget that they are an expression of your love and not your spouse. Always leave time for each other. Purposefully plan at the beginning of your day to set the time aside – the house will still be a mess tomorrow and the homeowners association will just have to deal with tall grass for another day.
- Share your marriage with your friends – Love always unifies and diversifies. While it draws the two of you together, it also makes room for others to experience that gift of love that the Lord has blessed you with.
- Never say “I’m sorry;” always ask for forgiveness – I’m sorry is a hit-and-run tactic. Forgiveness, on the other hand, must be extended and received. There must always be the possibility of rejection and the option of saying: “No, I need more time before I can receive you in forgiveness.”
- Celebrate your anniversary – We may not be able to afford extravagant gifts or to go on cruises (She hates boats and told me once that if I bought her a ticket, it would be clear I was having an affair), but we do go out every year for a really nice dinner. We always give an over-the-top tip so someone else may benefit from our celebration (No, I’m not telling you where we are going tonight).
- Eliminate the “d” word from your vocabulary – My wife and I once heard that there is an archaic word and practice from the past called divorce. The practice seems crazy so we chose never to learn how to say or spell it. Seriously, we understand that in rare circumstances that it may be necessary. But for the most part, it should not be a word we ever use in our marriage.
- Choose mentors – My wife and I are blessed to have Mr. and Mrs. Bob Chronowski as our mentors since the beginning of our marriage. Too often, my wife and I witness young couples receiving bad advice from their non-married friends or from friends whose marriage is still way too new to be the basis of advice. Pick a couple who loves the Lord, the Church, each other, and who have proven themselves over time to have a strong marriage and family. Thanks Mr. and Mrs. C, for laughing with us, crying with us, and giving me a swift kick in the rear when I need it (which is often).
- Dream together – One of our favorite scripture verses is from Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” Desires are placed in our hearts by the Lord. Remember though, his time and his way — but always dream together.
- Pray that your spouse becomes a saint – Let’s be honest: Two different personalities under the same roof with a brood of kids makes for so much potential for holiness. Pray for each other and you will find you are growing quickly, too.
- Trust your wife and your children’s discernment – I am a permanent deacon because I first heard the possibility of this vocational call through my wife and kids before I heard it from the Church. Remember, even if we disagree initially, the Lord tends to use our family. In fact, in the Benedictine tradition, they always let the youngest have the last word…that would be you, Noah!
- Learn to compromise – It is a lost art. We should always strive for a win/win in our decisions unless it involves sin.
- Buy two tubes of toothpaste – I know what I just said about compromise but seriously. She is one of those crazy people who squeeze the tube in the middle! Twenty years later, there is peace in our house due to his and her toothpaste.
- Make salsa, not babies – A phrase we love to use in our house with engaged couples. The person you are marrying is worth waiting for so when temptation strikes: “Make salsa not babies.” Additionally, we practice NFP to not only ensure open communication in our marriage (contraception is a lie we tell with our bodies), but to ensure each other’s health and well-being. When there are those times to abstain, you can always cook.
- Waste time with each other – Do you remember when you had to be around them so you took the long way home or ran to the hall corner as they came out of class just to bump into them? How about stealing a SMEC (Secret Moment Eye Contact) or a smile? Northern Virginia thrives on the necessity of always doing something or going somewhere to be somebody. We need to relearn how to waste time with each other. Your spouse loves you just the way you are. So, have a food fight (Yes, at my house – sometimes monthly). How about a water gun fight (My dad’s 60th birthday party – it was great)? Maybe just catch a sunbeam on a lazy Sunday afternoon together. Whatever you do, just waste time with each other doing nothing so you two have time to remember all the silly things you have done together…and smile.