Marriage has to be a cooperative union

Driving down Highway 41 on a beautiful fall day on my commute home, I noticed a hot air balloon drifting so peacefully in the sky. I imagined how romantic a setting that seemed to be and how the operator of the hot air balloon must be privy to hundreds of marriage proposals.

Later in the week, I had the very fortunate opportunity to speak with Jerry Teed, who operates Gentle Breezes, LLC, a ballooning company out of Sun Prairie. Jerry said that in his 28-plus years of experience, he has witnessed more marriage proposals than he can remember. He’s even had to coach some young men who found themselves in the moment with cold feet. Jerry, a Catholic himself who has been married more than 40 years to his bride Ellen, says he offers this piece of advice to young couples: “Marriage has to be a cooperative union.”

With fall weddings becoming more and more popular, the thought occurred to me: what marriage advice should newlyweds hear? Immediately, a waterfall of tips, ideas and advice come to mind. There is so much that can be said! Without doubt, the best advice any married couple can hear is that it takes “Three to Get Married.” (This is the title of a book by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen).

Christ is truly the source of the graces in the sacrament of matrimony and the more a couple develops their relationship with Christ — both personally and together — the more they will benefit from that grace. Ultimately, marriage is about a relationship, so it comes as no surprise that the better the relationship we have with Christ, the better our relationships with others will be, especially our spouse.

All relationships need time to grow and develop; this includes our faith life as well as our marriages. Newlyweds should be encouraged by friends and family to grow in their relationship, to have time alone to blend their lives together and to not be discouraged when it sometimes is more difficult than expected.

Expectations are a large stress on newlyweds. In our current social media culture, there is a growing tension between the pictures that are put out on profile pages and the realities of life. Specifically, newlywed couples frequently confess to being stressed by the images of perfection that are often posted. Our human nature on social media is to always show our best sides.

However, the effect of these great images leads one to believe that they need to keep up with their friends. Therefore, it is very helpful and encouraging if a trusted mentor couple could reach out to a newlywed and honestly share how they dealt with some of the realities of marriage and family life.

There are many other practical tips that can be shared. For instance, don’t keep track. This applies to many areas in a marriage: household responsibilities, apologizing, communicating, etc. It is very tempting when one of the spouses keeps track to use explosive generalities like “you always, or you never.”

Always counting responsibilities and striving for a 50/50 relationship can be exhausting. A better approach is to work toward being generous with each other. Another tip is become an expert at listening (and I would add, without interrupting) and also forgiving and forgetting. So many tensions come from not understanding what the other person is saying, or where they are coming from.

Forgiveness also helps each spouse to personally let go of any anger that may be building and move on quickly in an effort to repair the wrong-doing. There is a common toast that is given at weddings that says: “The first to apologize is the bravest; the first to forgive is the strongest; and the first to forget is the happiest.”

In July of 2016, Pope Francis addressed newlyweds from his balcony in Krakow, Poland, and said: “I tell them (newlyweds) that they are the ones who have courage, because it’s not easy to form a family.”

So take the advice of Jerry Teed, the balloon operator who has witnessed numerous marriage proposals, and remember that couples need to work together, daily, for the good of the other. And more importantly, that your relationship with Christ, both individually and together, will be what carries you through.

Tremblay is coordinator of the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family Life and Pro-Life.