By Mikaela Pannell
Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Couples need support. We live in a time when, now more than ever, marriage is under attack. Whether it’s cyclic broken families, pornography, cohabitation, infidelity or even just plain old indifference, Satan has many ways to break down marriages.
That’s why it is so important for married couples to have friends who are also married. We aren’t in this fight alone! Being in a sacramental marriage puts a target on your back, and surrounding yourself with others who are also under fire makes the fight much more manageable.
We’ve got your back
Living out the sacrament of marriage isn’t as simple as signing a paper and then sharing a home and last name. It’s an entire way of living. The two spouses become one person and live every day with the goal to get each other to heaven. Unfortunately, that’s not how most of society views marriage.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries … The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life” (CCC 1603).
One reason couples should surround themselves with other like-minded couples is that there is a mutual understanding of what it takes to strive for a holy marriage. You just get it, because ultimately you’re all working toward the same thing. Marriage is a unique relationship, and it’s impossible to completely understand what it’s like unless you are married yourself.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another.” In this case, couples can sharpen each other. Married friends who hold similar values to you and your spouse are great accountability partners in a multitude of ways. They help you to nurture a strong faith life and provide a fresh perspective into living out your marriage vows in everyday life.
If both parties have children, your friendship can be a source of encouragement when you’re struggling with everything that comes along with being a parent. If hard times come up and you feel like throwing in the towel, they will be there to remind you of the promise you made to God and your spouse. Likewise, you can “sharpen” them when their marriage is feeling a little dull.
There is something to be said about individual friendships for women between fellow wives, and for men between fellow husbands. Both sexes have distinct, complementary roles within marriage. While each relationship is unique, the general role of a wife is to nurture/be the heart of the home, and the general role of the husband is to protect/be the head of the home.
In the catechism we read, “Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity” (CCC 2335).
It’s important for me to spend time with other wives, because it allows me to foster my feminine role as a spouse. Similarly, it is essential for my husband to spend time with other husbands for the purpose of strengthening his masculine role as a spouse. Being part of a small group where there is encouragement and support in your vocation can be incredibly beneficial in the journey toward holiness.
Wisdom and newness
It’s also a good idea to have friends in similar stages of marriage and different stages of marriage. My husband and I have couples friends with marriages of varying lengths. Some have been married for a much shorter time than we have, others for substantially longer, while most are in a similar stage as we are.
Our newlywed friends remind us of the excitement and fresh-facedness of first entering the sacrament. After being married for a while, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and let your marriage become less of a focus. Second to your relationship with the Lord, your relationship with your spouse should be right at the top of the list of priorities.
When we begin to lose focus in our marriage, remember the words of Jesus: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh … so they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:5-6).
Veteran couples are full of wisdom that can be shared for the benefit of younger couples. They’re familiar with typical challenges that arise within marriage and have insight for working through those issues successfully. Tragically, many couples nowadays come from broken families, so they don’t have an immediate marriage to look to as a model. If you and/or your spouse didn’t grow up seeing the sacrament lived out, find it now! Befriend an older couple at church, or get to know your friend’s parents if they’ve got a solid relationship.
Marriage is not an island
Having a core group of married couples in your life, especially ones who share faith and values, is a very important part of nurturing your own marriage. It’s been said that “no man is an island.” Well, neither are marriages. So seek out other married couples, and watch how your own marriage will grow.