Learning Love: A Lesson a Year in Marriage

Just a little more than 10 years ago John and I stood before God and our family and friends and said our vows.

Now, with Valentine’s Day coming to a close, I’m joining Mary at Better Than Eden to share 10 lessons in honor of our 10 years of marriage.


We don’t have to make every decision together. When we were dating, it seemed to be important that we picked a restaurant or movie that worked for both of us. But as a married couple we approach many decisions separately. John and I both wanted to send our children to Catholic school, but I picked the school and filled him in on the details. If John sees a need for home improvement, he takes care of it. When we went to buy a new car last week, the salesman asked me whether I wanted to drive it. “No,” I said. “You need to sell my husband on the car and me on the price.”


My husband is better at laundry, cleaning, work on the house, and almost everything that really matters. I’m better at cooking, living with mess, completing adoption paperwork, arguing with customer service, and remembering extended family birthdays. Even though we both have similar professions and many of the same interests, somehow our differences help us balance each other in a way I never would have expected.


Parenthood doesn’t automatically come with marriage. I think I had a vague understanding that that might be the case, but I didn’t really appreciate that until we had been married a few years and still didn’t have a child. But wow, the journey to parenthood strengthened our marriage in the most extraordinary ways.


I knew our faith would be important to us, but I had no idea how much it would matter to our marriage. I am so blessed to be married to someone who shares my faith and who helps me grow spiritually. I am a better person because I am John’s wife. And because we share our faith, we have a common language to approach problems. At our most challenging moments, we have had that faith to turn to and to find strength, and I am profoundly grateful for that. I look back on our infertility struggles and our adoption journeys, and I can’t imagine going through those without our common faith.


Being a daughter-in-law doesn’t necessarily come naturally. I figured since I knew how to be a daughter and a sister and a sister-in-law and friend that being a daughter-in-law would be a cinch. But it is a very different kind of relationship and an important one. And it doesn’t matter that we are both from large Catholic, Irish/German families. Every family has its own distinct culture, and there is an adjustment. Just when you think you’ve mastered it, you become a mother and it’s new all over again.


If I am at a party with John, and I overhear him in a passionate conversation about Rottweilers, horse dressage, or some other topic I know he doesn’t care about at all, it’s time for me to make excuses, take his arm, and get us out the door. Don’t ask me how I know. Ask him. His versions of the stories are so much better.


Money doesn’t really matter. When we were first married, I stressed about every purchase. We had a box we put every receipt in. It was supposed to help our budgeting, but it added an astounding amount of stress. At some point we realized we had to stop obsessing about the money. I try to save where I can. But when John says we need to replace something in the house, I try not to ask whether we can afford it. What is money, anyway? And it really comes down to a matter of trust.


I have to decide what issues really matter to me and which matter more to John. Sometimes I catch myself voicing an opinion on something that really doesn’t matter to me—but which matters much more to him. I am so full of opinions. But how many day-to-day issues really matter that much to me? Actually, the lesson I’m trying to learn is to speak less and listen more. Maybe I’ll learn that in my eleventh year of marriage.


Our marriage is important to our children—and they know it. They love that we love each other. At Mass Daniel reaches over and puts my hand into John’s and beams. When I showed them the card I was giving to John for Valentine’s Day, I pointed out how one goldfish was jumping into a bowl to be with another. “Which one do you think is Baba?” I asked. “You’re the one who is jumping into the bowl,” Leo said, “because you’re bursting with your love for Baba.”


I am not the same person I was when we got married. Neither is my husband. Time changes people. Experiences change people. But our vows are the same. Our commitment to each other is the same—and maybe deeper and richer. And the sacrament that unites us is as beautiful and powerful as it ever was.

Oh, and if my husband calls me at 4:30 p.m. at the office and asks me whether I am too tired to cook dinner, the correct answer is always yes.

What lessons have you learned in your marriage? Share yours and then click over to Better Than Eden to read more!

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.