Every girl in this world dreams of her wedding day; the dream guy, the dresses, the colors, the maids, the people, the smiles, the ooohs & aaahs and admiration from her friends and of course the happily ever after. Yes, the happily ever after; that which comes after you walk that door of the wedding day and walk into the garden of marriage. We dream of a beautiful garden, with flowers, fruits, grains and everything that fulfills that great desire to be ‘on the other side’. All this has a basis since naturally, since the genesis of human existence; Holy Scripture in Genesis 2, affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” For most people marriage is one of the most important decisions and realities of their life; in it they form a community of love. For Catholics, marriage is not merely a civil contract but is a covenant between a man and a woman before God. If both are baptized, the marriage is a sacrament, a symbol of the unity of Christ and the Church. A sacramental marriage is a means of grace, giving strength to the husband and wife to live out their commitment, and to help each on the path to holiness (Office of Marriage & Family Life, Arch Diocese of Denver).

Many a times, the couple prepares very well for their wedding day. Many a times though, we rarely prepare for marriage. In the olden days, each community had a way of preparing a boy and a girl to married life. They were taught how to cook a good meal lest they be returned to their mothers’ to be taught how to cook; the man was taught how to hunt to provide for his family. In other cultures, the woman was taught how to make a house for her family, she was taught how to nurture her kids, and they were even taught how to plan their family. For instance in my culture you could not get a another child until you could send the one preceding it to get you something and they bring you that which you have asked for, that is they could walk, and comprehend what you have asked for. The community even picked a spouse for you depending on the values of the family they wished to be associated with. In our recent times, we are taught to be intellectuals but no one ever, according to Dr. Phil McGraw (1999) in his book Life Strategies, “teaches one how to get married. We are not taught how to pick a mate, or why to pick a mate; we don’t know how to manage our emotions once we are in marriage; we do not know how to resolve marital conflict; nobody ever teaches us fundamentals.”

Yet, the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses. It is because God saw that it was good for man not to be alone that God instituted marriage. God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. This covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

During this sacrament, the mass matrimonial rites begins when the priest says the following words, “My dear friends, you have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church’s minister and this community. Christ abundantly blesses this love. He has already consecrated you in baptism and now he enriches and strengthens you by a special sacrament so that you may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity. And so, in the presence of the Church, I ask you to state your intentions.”

The priest then questions them about their freedom of choice, faithfulness to each other, and the acceptance and upbringing of children. He mentions the names of the couple and asks them following questions: – “1. Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? 2. Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives? 3. Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church? ” The answers to which each of the two individually will answer “yes”. If a “no” is an answer to any of the questions, then the marriage ceremony cannot proceed.

 After the couple finishes stating their intentions, the individual person, makes a personal vow to the other in the following words:- “I, (Name), take you, (Name), to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

The individual makes a commitmentI promise, as an individual, all the days of my lifeto a joint course, marriage. We don’t vow to love as long s we are loved. We just vow to love and honor all the days of our lives. And this is the path we definitely do not prepare for. To love, regardless of whether we are loved back in return, to honor, even though that honor is not appreciated, to give ourselves, even when our spouses do not give themselves back in return, to be faithful to our vows and our spouse, even if our spouses fail to honor their vows. It is my commitment to my husband. It is his commitment to me.

It is the irony of Jesus’ teaching when he taught about the greatest commandment; He says; Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Further in the Gospel of John, He teaches; A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. To love is an obligation; to be loved is a privilege. This forms the basis of all conflicts in any marriage.

When we get married, we expect a lot from our spouses. Examples cited in the web page, Expectations at compatibilitymode.com range from the following examples; “I expect that my husband will discuss and resolve disagreements in a systematic and logical manner.” “I expect my wife will be excited about making love with me every night.” “I expect a good deal of affection and a great deal of physical contact in our marriage.” “I expect that my wife will nurture and comfort me when I am ill.” “I expect that my husband will climb the corporate ladder and make ever increasing amounts of money.” “I expect that we will have daily devotions and prayer in our home.” “I expect that my wife will remain slim and shapely throughout our marriage.” “I expect that my husband   will take pleasure in sharing the events of the day when he gets home.” “I expect to have dinner waiting for me when I get home at 5:30.” “I expect that my husband will do his fair share of household maintenance.” “I expect to entertain a large army of family members at major holidays.” “I expect to have an open home in which people feel free to drop by at any time, I expect to be loved as me…” The list is endless. Men and women considering marriage yearn for certain things. They want to be accepted Unconditionally by each other. They want their marriage to be filled with love and happiness. They want a family. In short, they want their marriage to be a source of joy and fulfillment their whole life long. Conflict arises when the “situation as is” and “situation as expected” are not in sync. And since no one ever teaches who how to be a wife or husband and all you have are expectations, the situation worsens.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: So that the “I do” of the spouses may be a free and responsible act and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime. Getting married! What a blessed and hope-filled time. In the Catholic Church, preparation for marriage involves a process of discernment, which is meant to be an affirming experience as you become more aware of your readiness to enter Christian married life. This process is meant to help one assess their personal faith and relational readiness. The process begins when you sit down for an initial conversation with the priest or deacon who will be responsible for your marriage preparation, or some other person appointed for this by the pastor of your parish. One of the most important aspects of the discernment process is the assessment of your faith readiness. Because the marriage of two baptized Christians is a sacrament, it requires the presence of faith in those who receive it. No two people are at the same place in their journey of faith, however. Through the marriage preparation process, one should be able to better identify and deepen their faith, both as individuals and as a couple. Another aspect of the discernment process looks at ones readiness to marry. While there is no possible way to determine this definitively, there are clear indicators that can predict potential problems or even the eventual failure of the marriage. The formational process as part of the marriage preparation process is intended to help one understand better both the human and Christian aspects of marriage, and to introduce one to persons and resources that are available to help strengthen your marriage. The priest or deacon will work with you in selecting a formational program that best suits your needs according to the norms for marriage in the church. In the months of marriage preparation, one is not simply preparing for an hour long wedding, but for a lifetime together–a lifetime of joy and happiness, hopefully, but also of surprises and challenges. The best marriage preparation can never anticipate all that will happen in your life together, but it can help one to uncover some areas you’ll want to give thought to, and it can also point you to resources available for marriage enrichment and healing. It assists one to explore factors that lead to relationship longevity, strengthen communication skills, deepen intimacy, strengthen spiritual and emotional foundations, identify and manage major stressors, resolve conflict, develop a more balanced relationship, Explore family of origin issues, discuss financial planning and budgeting, establish personal, couple and family goals, understand and appreciate personality differences, God’s Plan for Marriage and Praying Together as a Couple, priorities in marriage along with forgiveness and healing, To Serve = To Love (discovering the needs of our spouse), healthy Communication, chastity in Marriage and  spirituality in marriage among other aspects.

Amid all this teaching I remember going through a little over 5 months ago, I only know of examples from the people who aided us in this journey I also remember a few words of wisdom my best maid told me the morning of the wedding day. This examples show you that in this journey, you are not alone and people have been there, traveled that path, some have excelled, some have faltered, but all in all they keep going on together. They work hard to stay true to those vows. But just like no one ever teaches you to live this life when you are born and they best they do is instill values that will assist you in the day to day living,no one really teaches you how to live married life. The church instills values that ought to be adhered to. They act as a guideline to living the life in faith, married life in faith. The examples one get allows a peep into the real success stories of people who have stayed true to the vows they made to each other. There is no formula, there is no ultimate, there is no manual to live life, married or otherwise. There is only a desire to an end.To remain faithful to those individually made vows.

The only thing I ought to remember is before God, and before a multitude of people gathered at my wedding, I made a commitment, individually, to love my husband against all the odds. All he has to remember that vow is a sign, the ring I gave him that day, a sign that reminds him of my intentions to be true to what I promised. He promised the same to me, I have a ring as a reminder of his promise of “Love and Fidelity”. We also have the Graces of God that came down as we partook the sacrament. Our cause to stay married, all the days of our lives, our daily prayer, God help us, but since it was my individual commitment, without coercion, out of free will, help me God to stay true to the vows I made, and the promises I uttered…